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Architecture Photography - Glossary of Architectural Terminology

From the point of initial client contact to the confirmation of work and signing of agreement and even during the course of the shoot there will be a lot of interaction happening between the client, the architect, interior design firms etc and the photographer. A basic understanding of the terminology used in architecture will go a long way in improving your communication skills with them. Here's a glossary of the most commonly used architectural terminology to help you get started in architecture photography.

Architecture Photography
Architecture Photography Photo by: Jijo John

Alcove: a vaulted recess in wall of room.

Architrave: the moulded frame surrounding a door or window.

Atrium: an inner court open to the sky, these days usually glass-covered.

Axis: an imaginary straight line passing centrally through a building to give an impression of balance.

Axonometric projection: geometrical drawing to show bird’s eye view of a building in three dimensions. The plan retains its true angles and dimensions, but is set at a convenient angle (typically 60° and 30°) with verticals drawn vertically to scale.

Bay: A regularly repeating division of a façade, marked by fenestration.

Bay Window: A projecting form containing windows that rises from the ground or from some other support, such as a porch roof; see also oriel.

Block Plan: A drawing of a building’s foot print within an entire block in simplified, non-detailed form.

Canopy: a roof-like projection over a door or window.

Capital: the head of a column.

Cladding: an external covering applied to a building for aesthetic or protective purposes.

Classicism: a revival of the principles of Greek or Roman architecture.

Colonnade: A row of regularly spaced columns supporting an entablature.

Colonnette: A diminutive column which is usually either short or slender.

Color: The sensible perception of hue, value and saturation characteristics of surfaces of window components.

Cornice: the projecting ornamental moulding along the top of a building or internal wall.

Course: a continuous layer of bricks in a wall.

Cupola: a small dome on a roof.

Decorative Masonry: Terra cotta, cast-stone or natural stone (such as limestone, marble, brownstone or granite) facade areas and/or any ornamental feature which is a component of the facade such as, belt courses, banding, water tables, cornices, corbelled brick work, medallions, enframements, and surrounds, and ornamental bonding patterns, e.g. tapestry brick or diaper patterns.

Demolition: Dismantling or razing of all or part of an existing improvement.

Dentil: A small, square, tooth-like block in a series beneath a cornice.

Details: The dimensions and contours of both the stationary and moveable portions of a window, and moldings.

Elevation: the external face of a building.

Enframement: A general term referring to any elements surrounding a window or door.

Façade: the front face of a building.

Facing: the finishing applied to the outer surface of a building.

Fenestration: the arrangement of windows in a building.

Finish: The visual characteristics including color, texture and reflectivity of all exterior materials.

Fixture: An appliance or device attached to the facade (e.g., awning, sign, lighting fixture, conduit, or security gate).

French Doors: Two adjacent doors that share the same door frame, and between which there is no separating vertical member. French doors are often referred to as “double doors.”

Fresco: A painting on plaster, Frescoes once featured extensively in medieval churches and buildings.

Gable: the triangular piece of wall at the end of a pitched roof.

Gargoyle: Like corbels and bosses, gargoyles are projecting features in Gothic architecture.

Gazebo: a summerhouse with a wide-open view.

Grille: A decorative, openwork grating, usually of iron, used to protect a window, door, or other opening.

Gutter: A shallow channel of metal or wood set immediately below and along the eaves of a building to catch and carry off rainwater.

Head : The upper horizontal part of a window frame or window opening.

Header: A masonry wall unit of brick which is laid so that its short end is exposed.

Hi tech: an approach to architecture based on construction technology and its visual expression. Developed in the 1970s by English architects (notably Norman Foster and Richard Rogers), their buildings are characterized by their exposed structures and services.

Hood: A projection that shelters an element such as a door or window.

Isometric projection: a geometrical drawing showing a building in its three dimensions to give the illusion of perspective, but with all vertical and horizontal dimensions accurately scaled. The angles of the building are set at 30° to the horizontal.

Jetty: The overhanging or projecting part of a timber-framed building.

Latticework: Thin strips of wood arranged in a netlike grid pattern, often set diagonally.

Light: A pane of glass; a window, or a compartment of a window.

Lintel: the horizontal beam or stone spanning the opening of a door or window.

Location plan: a map showing the location of a building within the local area.

Mature tree: Any tree with a trunk diameter of 12" or greater.

Mezzanine: an intermediate storey.

Moulding: a slender, ornamental continuous projection.

Mullion: A vertical primary framing member that separates paired or multiple windows within a single opening.

Muntin: A tertiary framing member that subdivides the sash into individual panes, lights or panels. Note: Grids placed between two sheets of glass are not considered muntins.

Newel: The main post at the foot of a stairway or stoop.

Niche: A small opening or recess in a wall, usually built to accommodate a statue, but sometimes included just to add greater relief to a building, introducing shadow to a façade.

Occupiable space: A room, or enclosure and accessory installations thereof, which are intended for human occupancy or habitation.

Panning: An applied material, usually metal, that covers the front (exterior) surface of an existing window frame or mullion.

Parapet: a low protective wall along a house top, balcony, bridge, etc.

Pedestal: the base supporting a column.

Perspective: the effect of things getting smaller as they recede into the distance. A perspective drawing is simply a visual impression of how a completed building is likely to look.

Plan: a map of a building showing a horizontal plane cut through a building just above ground level in order to show the position of doors, windows, internal walls, etc.

Portico: covered colonnade at the entrance to a building.

Precast concrete: concrete components that have been cast in a factory before being placed in position on site.

Profile: the contour or outline of a building.

Proportion: the ratio of different parts of a building to the whole.

Quoins: Large, prominent masonry units outlining windows, doorways, segments, and corners of buildings.

Reinforced concrete: concrete reinforced with steel to take the tensile stresses of a beam.

Rendering: the plastering of an external wall.

Roof Ridge: The horizontal intersection of two roof slopes at the top of a roof.

Rosette: A round floral ornament, usually carved or painted.

Scale: a comparison of relative size. With architecture, this size can be relative either to ourselves or to other buildings.

Section: a diagrammatic drawing of a vertical plane cut through a building.

Sidelight: A vertically framed area of fixed glass, often subdivided into panes, flanking a door.

Site plan: a map showing the layout of a building on its plot of land.

Shutters: Pairs of solid or slatted window coverings, traditionally hinged to the exterior of a building to either side of a window, used to block light or wind from the interior of a building.

Side Light: A fixed window positioned to the side of a doorway or window.

Story: A habitable floor level, including a basement but not including a cellar.

Stretcher: A masonry unit or brick laid horizontally with its length parallel to the wall.

Street furniture: benches, bollards, lampposts, letterboxes, telephone kiosks, etc.

Terrace: a row of attached houses, flat-faced and flush with those on either side.

Trim: the framing of features on a façade.

Truss: A rigid framework, as of wooden beams or metal bars, which supports a structure, such as a roof.

Veranda: An open, roofed porch, usually enclosed on the outside by a railing or balustrade, and often wrapping around two or more (or all of the) sides of a building.

Vernacular Architecture: Architecture created from mostly local materials, by and for the use of local people.

Vault: an arched ceiling or roof of stone, brick or concrete Vernacular architecture: traditional buildings in indigenous styles constructed from locally available materials and not architect designed.

Window Sash: The movable frames in a window in which window panes are set.

Working drawing: one specifically drawn up for the builders, plumbers, electricians, etc., with accurate details for their particular jobs.

The list is not a comprehensive one, but as architecture photographers we only need to understand the basic terminology to pursue a decent conversation with the architect or interior designer and for that purpose this is more than sufficient.

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