Describing the World around You: Architectural Terms

Dewey-Danforth House

Oh, right.  A left at that Italiante house. (Photo credit: jimmywayne)

Words describing how things look compose probably one of the most voluminous, and least accessible, of vocabularies.  My earlier post on the shapes of leaves is a good example of this, but perhaps architecture words are even better.  This nomenclature must express not only shapes, finishes, and structural techniques, but also the accumulated weight of thousands of years of culture and art—making it pretty opaque to the average reader.

This plain-but-useful illustrated dictionary provides pronunciations, definitions, and photographs explaining a wide range of terms.  This more accessible but less comprehensive article from the magazine Country Life contains some terrific, playful illustrations focusing on British residential architecture.

If you’re like me, you only encounter architectural terms in novels, and usually your eyes just slide right by.  But it’s worth pursuing the full mental picture the author meant to you have . . . and it’s also fun to befuddle your friends with directions like “take a left at the Italianate house on the corner.”



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