Five technical terms every architect should know

There are many technical words and phrases associated with architecture. However, for anyone who is thinking of embarking of a building project and employing the services of an architect, or for those who are simply interested in the field, here are a few of the more commonly used terms:

1. Arcade

An arcade is a structure that consists of a series of arches. The arches can be freestanding or joined to a wall and they are usually supported by columns.

One place where arcades can be seen is in the beautiful Parisian square known as the Place Des Vosges. The seventeenth century square, which was constructed at the command of King Henry IV, is symmetrical in design and surrounded by striking red-and-white brick and stone buildings, built over arcades. An area of greenery is nestled in its centre.

It is thought that the buildings and their arcades came about because the King first had a pavilion built, complete with arcades, and then insisted that the rest of the buildings around the square should follow the same design.

2. Vault

Vaults are arched structures that form a roof or ceiling over a space that is either wholly or partly enclosed. They can be constructed from brick, stone or even reinforced concrete.

What is known as a barrel vault is a roof or ceiling that forms a continuous pointed or semi-circular arch, which is alternatively called a tunnel vault. The railway station known as Grand Central Terminal in New York has an amazing vaulted ceiling, which soars to 150 feet in height over its main concourse. The ceiling is decorated with painted constellations showing the signs of the zodiac.

3. Dome

Domes are shaped so that they resemble a cut-off portion of a sphere. They are vaulted and, as part of a building, they serve to distribute forces of thrust evenly in every direction. Domes are generally supported by drums, which are walls built in either a circular or a polygonal shape.

One famous dome can be found on the largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The dome was designed by Michelangelo in 1547, but was not completed until 1590. Seen from inside, the vaulting of the dome is colourful and there are sixteen ribs in all, which are supported by four pillars. Decorative mosaics fill the triangular spaces where the pillars join on to the dome.

4. Pediment

A pediment is a wide-pitched, low gable (the triangular sections of a wall on either end of a roof), which is often found atop a long series of columns, or colonnade.

An impressive pediment can be seen on the Pantheon in Rome, which was originally constructed as a temple for pagan gods. The Pantheon’s pediment is supported by sixteen enormous columns, each weighing around sixty tons.

5. Portico

Porticoes are roofed porches that generally form the entrances to buildings. They tend to be supported by columns, as is the case in one very famous example, the White House in Washington.

With the exception of George Washington, the White House has functioned as the official residence for every US President.

Posted by Matt Hughes
June 3, 2014

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