Architecture Dictionary 01

I keep hearing that a lot of the architecture stuff on here goes over peoples’ heads, so here’s the start of a dictionary that probably won’t help. There’s obviously much more to be defined, but I think this is a solid start. I’m going to add a page where updates to this dictionary can live. I’ll post significant updates to the blog when I add a bunch of words, but I may include a picture here and tweak a definition there without fanfare. If you hear a word or phrase that you don’t understand or think should be in the dictionary, let me know in a comment or an email, especially if it’s an adjective or a verb; it’s a festival of nouns up in here.

Beam (n): Horizontal primary structural member; supports secondary structural members such as joists.

Bulkhead (n): 1: A finished cover to hide a duct or plumbing. 2: Any of a bunch of other definitions, usually nautical in nature.

Casework (n): Cabinets. A casework contractor might also build other similar things, like window seats.

Column (n): Vertical primary structural member; supports primary horizontal structural members such as beams and girders.

Concept (n): An idea used to organize and guide the design process and unify disparate aspects of a design. Cannot be described in one sentence.

Eave (n): The part of a roof that overhangs the outside wall.

Fenestration (n): The pattern of openings in a wall, usually exterior. Also the root of “defenestrate”, which is to throw someone out a window.

Girder (n): Horizontal primary structural member; supports other beams.

Glazing (n): A fancy word for glass. Glazing can also refer to a storefront or curtain wall system as a whole.

Header (n): Horizontal structural member supporting the wall above an opening such as a window or door, usually concealed. See also “lintel”.

Hierarchy (n): The relative importance of different elements in a design.

Joist (n): Horizontal secondary structural member; supports floor sheathing.

Lintel (n): Horizontal structural member supporting the wall above an opening such as a window or door, usually exposed. See also “header”.

Millwork (n): 1: Trim pieces, such as base (skirting, if you’re British), the bits surrounding a door, or the chair rail at the top of a wainscot. 2: Synonym for “casework”

Parapet (n): Low wall at a roof or terrace. Traditionally used to rest your elbows as you gazed wistfully at the horizon, now used to hide HVAC equipment.

Parti (n): Simple diagram of a concept.

Rafter (n): Sloping secondary structural member; supports roof sheathing.

Soffit (n): 1: The finished portion of the underside of an eave, often ventilated. 2: Occasionally used interchangeably with “bulkhead”.

Stud (n): Vertical secondary structural member; supports the substrates such as drywall, cement board and plywood.

Valence (n): A finished panel used to hide gaps, fasteners or lighting from view. A valence might make up the difference between the top of a cabinet and the ceiling, or extend down to hide the undercabinet lights.

Wainscot (n): The lower portion of a wall, when finished differently than the upper portion. Usually 30″ to 48″ high, made of a durable material such as hardwood or tile, and topped with a chair rail.


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