Glossary of Architectural Terms
Arch — A curved structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight, including but not limited to the following types:
Balustrade — A series of short vertical posts, often ornamental, used to support a rail at a stairway, porch or roof.
Bargeboard — also called vergeboards or fly rafters – decorative boards located at the end of a gable. Bargeboards are often elaborately carved and ornamented (in Victorian and Gothic architecture).
Barrel vault — an architectural element formed by the extrusion of an arch along a given distance.
Bay — A regularly repeating division of a facade, marked by fenestration.
Bay window — A projecting form containing windows that forms an extension to the interior floor space.
Basement — Lowest, subordinate story of building often either entirely or partially below ground level.
Belt course — Narrow horizontal band projecting from exterior walls, usually defining interior floor levels.
Board and batten — A form of wood siding for exterior walls, consisting of long vertical boards and thin strips, or battens, which extend over adjacent boards or joints (the spaces between adjacent surfaces).
Bracket — A projecting angled or curved form used as a support, found in conjunction with balconies, lintels, pediments, cornices, etc.
Brickwork — masonry set by a bricklayer, using bricks and mortar to build up brick structures such as walls.
Broken pediment — a pediment over a door, window or on a gable with cornices ending before they meet at the top; a finial is often placed in the center.
Bullseye window — small oval window, set horizontally.
Buttress — vertical member projecting from a wall to stabilize it or to resist the lateral thrust of an arch, roof, or vault.
Cabana — A temporary or permanent free standing shade structure with traversing curtains, decorative drapes and/or solid walls.
Cantilever — A beam or other structure projecting from a wall and supporting an extension to a building, as on a cantilevered balcony or upper story.
Casement Window — window hung vertically, hinged one side, so that it swings inward or outward.
Cast iron — A hard, brittle, nonmalleable iron-based alloy containing 2.0% to 4.5% carbon and 0.5% to 3% silicon, cast in a sand mold and machined to make many building products.
Cast stone — a refined architectural concrete building unit manufactured to simulate natural cut stone, used in unit masonry applications.
Chimney pot — a decorative unit used to extend the length of the chimney and to improve the chimney's draft. A chimney with more than one pot on it usually indicates that there is more than one fireplace on different floors sharing the chimney.
Clapboard — horizontal or vertical siding that overlaps.
Circulation — describes the flow of people throughout a building.
Coffer — a sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon that serves as a decorative device, usually in a ceiling or vault.
Colonnade – A long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing.
Column — A vertical, usually circular pillar, generally used as a support for a beam or other structure, such as an entablature.
- Roman Doric
Corbel — a block of stone, elaborately carved, projecting from a wall and sometimes supporting a load like the beams of a roof, floor or vault, or sometimes used for decorative effect only. Also: a projecting block supporting a beam or other horizontal element. A vault or arch can be constructed from a series of corbels each projecting from the one below it.
Cornice — A continuous projection (usually composed of boards and/or moldings) that crowns a wall or other structure.
Cresting — A decorative fence-like ornament on the ridge of a roof.
Cupola — A small dome, a rounded roof on a circular or polygonal base crowning a roof or turret. Also, a small, often squarish tower on a roof.
Dentil molding — Greek classical feature of a row of small rectangular shapes placed closely together beneath the cornice. Teeth-like in appearance.
Dome — a convex covering over a circular, square, or polygonal space. Domes may be hemispherical, semi-elliptical, pointed or onion-shaped.
Dormer — a structural element of a building that protrudes from the plane of a sloping roof surface.Dormers are used, either in original construction or as later additions, to create usable space in the roof of a building by adding headroom and usually also by enabling addition of windows.
The following are types of dormers:
- Eyebrow — roof windows that look like eyebrows.
- Façade — a dormer that is featured in the center roofline of the facade. Usually has a lancet window and vergeboard scroll sawn decor. (used in Gothic domestic architecture).
- Gabled or hipped — roof windows that are gabled or hipped.
- Shed — a dormer with a flat roof that slopes down from the roof attachment to the front.
Double hung windows — Windows with two sashes sliding up and down.
Eave — The overhanging edge of a roof.
Entablature — Horizontal detailing above a classical column and below a pediment, consisting of cornice, frieze and architrave.
Façade — the front face or elevation of a building. (All buildings have a facade though some are decorated more than the rest of the building).
Fanlight — window, semicircular or semi-elliptical in shape, with glazing bars or tracery sets radiating out like an open fan.
Fascia – The horizontal piece covering the end of rafters.
Fenestration — The organization and design of windows in a building.
Finial — Formal ornament at the top of a newel or gable.
Flashing — Strips of sheet metal or other impervious material bent to fit the angle between any two building surfaces to prevent the passage of water.
Fluting — Narrow vertical grooves on shafts of columns and pilasters.
Frieze — 1. The middle horizontal member of a classical entablature, above the architrave and below the cornice. 2. A similar decorative band in a stringcourse, or near the top of an interior wall below the cornice.
Fretwork – Decorative trim with a repeating pattern, typically found under eaves, in porches and within railings.
Gable — A triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof.
Gambrel roof — a symmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side.
Gingerbread — Fanciful, delicate trimwork.
Groin vault — also known as square vault, made by intersecting two barrel vaults at right angles. The spaces created by this vault were called bay areas.
Half-timbered —in late medieval architecture, a type of construction in which the heavy timber framework is exposed, and the spaces between the studs filled with wattle-and-daub, plaster or brickwork. The effect of half-timbering was imitated by the Stick, Queen Anne, Tudor and Jacobethan architectural styles fashionable in the 19th-20th century.
Herringbone — A decorative pattern of stone, brick or tile that looks like the spine of a herring with the ribs extended from opposite sides in rows of parallel, slanting lines.
Hipped roof — A type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls.
Keystone — the architectural piece at the crown of a vault or arch and marks its apex, locking the other pieces into position.
Lancet window — A Gothic pointed window.
Lantern — An upright structure on a roof or dome for letting in light and air or for decoration.
Latticework — An ornamental, lattice framework consisting of a criss-crossed pattern.
Leaded window — A window composed of small panes, usually diamond-shaped or rectangular, held in place by narrow strips of cast lead.
Lintel — A horizontal beam over an opening in a wall that carries the weight of the structure above.
Loggia — a gallery formed by a colonnade open on one or more sides. The space is often located on an upper floor of a building overlooking an open court or garden.
Mansard Roof — A hip roof in which each face has two slopes, the lower one steeper than the upper.
Modillion – A small ornamental bracket, usually scroll-shaped at an eave.
Mullion – A vertical bar of wood, metal or stone which divides a window into two or more parts.
Muntin – A window pane divider.
Newel Post — The post that terminates a balustrade.
Oriel window — A bay window that projects from the building above ground level. In medieval architecture, a bay window is corbeled out from the wall of an upper story.
Palladian Window — A window divide into three parts: a large, arched central window, flanked by two smaller rectangular windows. It is sometimes called Venetian window.
Pediment — 1. In classical architecture, the triangular space forming the gable end of a roof above the horizontal cornice. 2. An ornamental gable, usually triangular, above a door or window.>
Pendant — a decorative piece (made of masonry or turned wood) suspended from a roof or vergeboard: used especially in Gothic architecture.
Pergola – Covered walk in a garden.
Plinth — The square that comes below the base of a column.
Pilaster — A rectangular column projecting slightly from a wall.
Porte cochere — Porch roof projecting over a driveway.
Portico — A small porch composed of a roof supported by columns, often found in front of a doorway.
Quatrefoil — Four-lobed motif; usually in block shape.
Quoin — A structural form, usually of masonry, used at the corners of a building for the purpose of reinforcement, frequently imitated for decorative purposes.
Rafter — An inclined timber which forms the side of a roof, to which the roof covering is attached.
Rake – Top edge of a gable end.
Return — Receding edge of a flat face.
Rosette — A round floral ornament, usually carved or painted.
Rustication — masonry characterized by smooth or roughly textures block faces, and strongly emphasized recessed joint.
Sash — The secondary part of a window which holds the glazing in place; may be operable or fixed; usually constructed of horizontal and vertical members; sash may be subdivided with muntins.
Scalloped, fish scale, or circle siding — siding shaped like the round overlapping scales of a fish. The siding may be rounded or segmentally-shaped.
Shingle — A unit composed of wood, cement, asphalt compound, slate, tile or the like, employed in an overlapping series to cover roofs and walls.
Sidelight — A vertically framed area of fixed glass, often subdivided into panes, flanking a door.
Sill — The horizontal member at the bottom of a window or door.
Soffit — The exposed underside of any architectural element, especially a roof.
Spandrel — 1. A panel between the top of one window and the sill of another window on the story directly above it. 2. An irregular, triangular wall segment adjacent to an arched opening.
Stick work — the decorative stick-like pieces of wood placed in diagonal, vertical, and horizontal patterns of the outside of a wood-frame building; usually found in gable ends and around windows.
Stoop — The steps which lead to the front door.
Stucco — A coating for exterior walls made from Portland cement, lime, sand, and water.
Surround — The ornamental frame of a door or window.
Swag — A carved ornament in the form of a draped cloth or a festoon of fruit or flowers.
Terra cotta — Hard fired clay, either glazed or unglazed, molded into ornamental elements, wall cladding and roof tiles.
Tracery — An ornamental configuration of curved mullions in a Gothic sash.
Transom — 1. A horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window. 2.The cross-bar separating a door from the window, panel, or fanlight above it. 3. The window above the transom bar of a door.
Turret — A small tower, usually supported by corbels.
Veranda – also called a Lanai, a porch that runs along front or side of a building; supported by pillars or columns.
Watertable – a horizontal projecting stringcourse, molding, or ledge placed so as to divert rainwater from a building.
Wrought iron — Iron that is worked by being forged or hammered.