So is an abaciscus anyway . . . other than a great word to have in your head when playing Scrabble or solving a crossword-puzzle? Or how about a rincleau? An abamurus? The adytum? If these questions leave you scratching your head in wonder and confusion, you are not alone! Few people outside the confines of an architect’s office have a working knowledge of architectural terminology. For you, that’s about to change! After studying this following list of words you’ll be able to amaze your friends as you walk through the streets of your hometown pointing out arcades, architrave or astylar. There are the architectural terms beginning with A. I do hope that this list will be completed in future with other letters of the alphabet.
abaciscus is a tile or square of a tessellated pavement.
abaculus is a small tile of glass, marble, or other substance, of various colours, used in making ornamental patterns in mosaic pavements.
abacus refers to the flat square slab of masonry that forms the uppermost member or division of the capital of a column, immediately under the architrave.
the term abacus is also used to describe a tablet, panel, or compartment in ornamented or mosaic work.
abamurus is a second wall added to strengthen another wall.
the term abat-jour is applied to an aperture in a wall, such as a window for example, whose sides and or bottom have been cut back and sloped away from the interior in order to allow more light in. The resulting aperture is larger inside the building, than it is outside.
abat-jour is also applied to a skylight.
abreuvoir is a joint or interstice between stones, to be filled with mortar or cement.
absorption bed is a large pit, filled with loose, coarse stones, and a distribution system of pipes, and used to absorb the effluent contents from a septic tank.
the term abutment refers to the solid part of a pier or wall, etc., which receives the thrust or lateral pressure of an arch, vault, or strut.
acanthus is an ornament resembling the foliage or leaves of the acanthus plant. They were used in the capitals of the Corinthian and Composite orders.
acanthus leaf is a motif in classical architecture found on Corinthian columns.
аccelerated weathering is something that hastens the natural process by which an item decomposes. Paint manufacturers use accelerated weathering to test paints used for decorating buildings. These tests typically involve applying the paint to be tested to a small panel which is then placed in a revolving drum and subjected to alternating ultra-violet light - to simulate the effects of sun light - and soaking with jets of cold water - to simulate the effect of rain. In such a test several month's normal outdoor exposure can be simulated in a few days.
acoustic board is perforated, sound-proof board used on walls and ceilings, notably in courts, to provide sound insulation.
acrolith is a statue whose extremities are made of stone, and the trunk generally made of wood.
acropolis was the fortified citadel of ancient Greek cities. The Athenian citadel was destroyed by the invading Persians in 480 BC, but Pericles instituted a rebuilding programme. The Parthenon, built between 447 and 432 BC, was a Doric temple containing a gold and ivory statue of Athena. This was followed by the gateway or Propylaea, the temple of Athena Nike (commemorating victory over the Persians), and the Erectheum, which housed the shrines of various cults. Many of the sculptures on the Parthenon were removed by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1803 and purchased by the British government in 1816.
acroterium (or acroterion) is a ornamental small pedestal or block, used for statues or other ornaments, and placed on the apex and at the basal angles of a pediment. Acroteria are also sometimes placed upon the gables in Gothic architecture.
adobe is a Mexican house made of clay bricks.
advancing colours - in painting and decorating, the term advancing colours is applied to colours on the yellow to red range, which when used on a particular surface make that surface appear more prominent, so that it 'advances'.
adytum was the innermost, and most sacred room, of a Greek temple into which only priests were allowed to enter. From this place the oracles were given. The Holy of Holies or Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple at Jerusalem was of a similar character.
aedicule (aedicula) is a small, temple-like structure comprised of columns supporting a pedimented structure over a niche or window and usually used to shelter a shrine.
aegicrania are sculptured ornaments, generally used in classical architecture, representing rams' heads or skulls.
air brick is a perforated brick used to provide ventilation.
aisle is a lateral division of a building, separated from the middle part, called the nave, by a row of columns or piers, which support the roof or an upper wall containing windows, called the clerestory wall.
ajimez is applied to a characteristic form of Arabic window with twin arched lights separated by a column. Ajimeces also occur in Mozarabic and Mudejar architecture in Spain and Portugal.
albanegra is the space between the rectangular frame of the alfiz and the arch it contains.
the Albert Memorial is a memorial in Hyde Park, London. It was erected in memory of Prince Albert. It is an Eleanor cross, 45 meters high, embellished with statues and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. It was completed in 1872 and contains a gilt statue of Prince Albert by Foley. It was unveiled on March the 9th 1876.
alcazar is a Spanish palace or fortress. The term originates from the Arabic term for a palace, al-qasr, and entered into architectural terminology following the Christian conquest of Moorish Spain.
alcove is a recessed portion of a room, or a small room opening into a larger one. The term is especially used to describe a recess to contain a bed or seats, separated from the rest of the room by columns, a balustrade, or by curtains.
aldersgate was a gateway that stood on the north side of the City of London, at the southern end of Aldersgate Street. The gate was supposedly built by the Saxon, Aldrich. It was rebuilt in 1618, damaged during the Great Fire of London and was demolished in 1761.
aldgate was the gateway at the extreme east of the City of London. In 1606 the gate was taken down and rebuilt, before being demolished in 1761. The gateway was also home to a water pump, known as 'Aldgate Pump' which was dried up for many years until water was re-supplied to it in 1908.
alfarje is an interior timber framework supporting the roof of Islamic Moorish buildings
alfiz is a moulding in the form of a rectangular frame containing a horseshoe arch. Alfiz were also widely used in the Mozarabic and Mudejar buildings of Spain and Portugal.
alicatado is a mosaic formed of polygonal pieces of coloured, glazed tile fitted into a geometric pattern. Alicatados were widely used for the patios of houses by the Moors in Islamic and Spanish architecture.
almourolis a former Knights Templar's castle on an island in the Tagus River, Portugal.
altar-tomb is a raised monument resembling an altar.
altarpiece is a picture, carved decoration, or decorated screen behind and above an altar in Christian church architecture. The term reredos is also sometimes used to describe an altarpiece.
altham pot is a clay chimney pot, about 60 cm tall with a base of 33 cm. They are usually either a terracotta or black colour.
alto-rilievo is an architectural term for a high relief sculptured work in which the figures project more than half their true proportions, without being entirely detached. In mezzo-rilievo, or middle relief, the projection is one-half, and in basso-rilievo, or bas-relief, less than one-half. Alto-rilievo is further distinguished from mezzo-relievo by some portion of the figures standing usually quite free from the surface on which they are carved, while in the latter the figures, though rounded, are not detached in any part.
in the early Christian and mediaeval Church, an ambo was a stone reading desk or pulpit from which the lessons were read or the sermon preached. Sometimes there were two ambones, one for reading the Gospel and the other for reading the epistle, these were positioned facing each other on either side of the choir, but in most cases one sufficed.
ambulatory is any part of a building intended for walking around a central space or shrine, such as the aisles of a cathedral or church. The term is used for the lateral or flanking porticos of an ancient Greek temple, and for the cloister of a monastery.
amphiprostyle is structures that are doubly prostyle, having columns at each end, but not at the sides.
amphitheatre was an ancient Roman edifice of an oval form without a roof, having a central area (called the arena) encompassed with rows of seats, rising higher as they receded from the centre, on which people used to sit to view the combats of gladiators and of wild beasts, and other sports.
anaglypta is an embossed decorating wall paper made from good quality rags giving the appearance of modelled plaster. The paper is typically hung on the walls and then painted.
angle bead is a bead worked on or fixed to the angle of any architectural work, usually for protecting an angle of a wall.
angle leaf is a detail in the form of a leaf, more or less conventionalised, used to decorate and sometimes to strengthen an angle.
annulet is a small, flat fillet, encircling a column, etc., used by itself, or with other mouldings. It is used, several times repeated, under the Doric capital.
anta is a species of pier produced by the thickening of a wall at its termination, treated architecturally as a pilaster, with capital and base. Porches, when columns stand between two antae are called in Latin in antis.
antechoir is a space enclosed or reserved at the entrance to the choir, for the clergy and choristers. The term is also used to describe the place where a choir is divided, as in some Spanish churches, that division of it which is the farther from the sanctuary.
antefix is an ornament, often of terracotta, placed at the eaves or along the cornice of classical buildings to mask the end of each ridge of tiling.
antepagment is the name given to the ornamental architrave of a doorway.
anthemion is a term given to palmette and honeysuckle ornamentation found in classical architecture.
apartment house is a house built to accommodate a number of families each in its own
set of rooms, which form a separate dwelling with an entrance of its own.
apophyge or scape is a small hollow curvature given to the top or bottom of the shaft of a column where it expands to meet the edge of the fillet.
apothesis is a place on the south side of the chancel in the primitive churches, furnished with shelves, for books, vestments, etc. The term also describes a dressing room connected with a public bath.
apron-piece is a small piece of timber projecting from a wall to support the ends of the joists underlying the landing place in a staircase.
apse is a projecting part of a building, especially of a church, having in the plan a polygonal or semicircular termination, and, most often, projecting from the east end. In early churches the Eastern apse was occupied by seats for the bishop and clergy.
apsidal is something pertaining to the apse of a church; for example the apsidal termination of the chancel.
apteral means without lateral columns. The term is applied to buildings which have no series of columns along their sides, but are either prostyle or amphiprostyle, and opposed to peripteral.
aqueduct is an artificial channel or conduit for the conveyance of water from one place to another: more particularly the term is applied to structures for conveying water from distant sources for the supply of large cities.
arabesque describes an Arabic style of ornamentation (hence the name meaning Arab-like) in which are represented men, animals (mythical and actual), plants, with leaves, flowers and fruit; mathematical figures etc. the whole put together in a whimsical way, so that, for instance, the animals not merely rest upon the plants, but grow out of them like blossoms.
arbalestena (also known as balistraria) are cruciform apertures in the walls of ancient fortifications through which arrows were discharged by the defenders against attacking armies.
arcade is a series of arches with the columns or piers which support them, the spandrels above, and other necessary appurtenances; sometimes open, serving as an entrance or to give light; sometimes closed at the back (as in the cut) and forming a decorative feature then known as a 'blind arcade' or 'wall arcade'. The term is also applied to a long, arched building or gallery and to an arched or covered passageway or avenue.
arcboutant is a flying buttress.
arch is a usually curved member made up of separate wedge-shaped solids, with the joints between them disposed in the direction of the radii of the curve; they are used to support the wall or other weight above an opening. In this sense arches are segmental, round (i.e. semicircular), or pointed. A flat arch is a member constructed of stones cut into wedges or other shapes so as to support each other without rising in a curve. Scientifically considered, arch is a means of spanning an opening by resolving vertical pressure into horizontal or diagonal thrust. The simplest form of an arch is two almost vertical supports lent inwards against one another.
Architects Registration Council of the UK is a council established under the Architects (Registration) Act (1931) to maintain a register of persons entitled to practise as architects; to recognize the qualifying examinations for registration; to provide scholarships and maintenance grants for students of architecture; and to act as a disciplinary body for the profession.
architecture is the art or science of designing and building structures (houses, bridges etc) for human use.
architrave is the lower division of an entablature, or that part which rests immediately on the column, especially in classical architecture
archivolt is the architectural member surrounding the curved opening of an arch, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a square opening. The term is also used to describe the moulding or other ornaments with which the wall face of the voussoirs of an arch is charged
armature is the iron bars or framing employed for the consolidation of a building, as in sustaining slender columns, holding up canopies, etc.
arris is the sharp edge or salient angle formed by two surfaces meeting each other, whether plane or curved. The term is applied particularly to the edges in mouldings, and to the raised edges which separate the flutings in a Doric column. An arris presents a particular challenge to decorators as paint tends to recede from a sharp angle.
arris fillet is a triangular piece of wood used to raise the slates of a roof against a chimney or wall, to throw off the rain
arris gutter is a gutter of a V form fixed to the eaves of a building
artesonado is a type of panelled timber ceiling of Moorish origin that were a feature of the Mudejar style and were continued to be used in Spanish and American buildings until the 17th century
asbestos cement is a mix of 15% asbestos and 85% cement, formerly much used to make prefabricated building units
asbestos wood is a mix of half asbestos and half cement formerly used to make sheets for making fire-resistant walls and ceilings in buildings. Asbestos wood was designed to be cut to shape and have holes bored in it, while the related asbestos cement units were designed to be used as supplied
ashlar is hewn or squared stone, as distinguished from that which is rough, as when it came from the quarry. The term also extends to masonry made of squared or hewn stone and masonry consisting of stones squared and smoothed in front and built in regular courses
Asturian style is a style of architecture dating from the 8th and 9th centuries from the small kingdom of Asturias in north-west Spain which remained unconquered by the Moors
astylar means a façade without columns or pilasters
ataurique is a plasterwork or stucco wall facing decorated with leaf and flower motifs. Atauriques are common in Spanish Moorish architecture.
atlantes are figures or half figures of men, used as columns to support an entablature. The term is the plural of Atlas, and originates from the giant in Greek mythology who had to support the heavens upon his shoulders.
atrium is a square hall lighted from above, into which rooms open at one or more levels. Originally, the entrance hall to a Roman house, the concept was adopted as an open court with a porch or gallery around three or more sides at the entrance of a basilica or other church. The name was extended in the Middle Ages to the open churchyard or cemetery.
attached column means a column engaged in a wall, so that only a part of its circumference projects from it.
attic is a low story above the main order or orders of a facade, in the classical styles. The term was introduced in the 17th century and describes a room or rooms behind that part of the exterior and all the rooms immediately below the roof.
attic base is a peculiar form of moulded base for a column or pilaster, described by Vitruvius, applied under the Roman Empire to the Ionic and Corinthian and Roman Doric orders, and imitated by the architects of the Renaissance.
attic order is a square column of any of the five orders.
axis of the Ionic capital is a line passing perpendicularly through the middle of the eye of the volute.
azulejo is a Spanish and Portuguese glazed polychrome tile, about 56 cm square used in Islamic architecture for facing walls and paving floors. Ataurique originated with the Persians, and were adopted by the Arabs who introduced them to Spain.