Melgrand Architectural Terms

See below for an explanation of fine art terminology used in Architecture, history and practice.

Abacus

A flat slab forming the uppermost member or division of the capital of a column.

Aisle

Subsidiary space alongside the body of a building, separated from it by columns, piers, or posts.

Apse

Vaulted semicircular or polygonal end of a chancel or chapel. That portion of a church, usually Christian, beyond the "crossing" and opposite the nave. In some churches, the choir is seated in this space.

Arcade

Passage or walkway covered over by a succession of arches or vaults supported by columns. Blind arcade or arcading: the same applied to the wall surface.

Arch

A curved structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight.

Architrave

Formalized lintel, the lowest member of the classical entablature.

Arris

Sharp edge where two surfaces meet at an angle such as the corner of a square column or shaft.

Articulation

Articulation is the manner of describing parts such that each part is clear and distinct in relation to the others.

Ashlar

Masonry of large blocks cut with even faces and square edges.

Attic

Small top story within a roof above the uppermost ceiling.

Baluster

A small moulded shaft, square or circular, supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase.

Balustrade

A series of balusters supporting a handrail or coping is called a balustrade.

Bargeboard

A board fastened to the projecting gables of a roof.

Barrel vault

An architectural ceiling element formed by the extrusion of a single curve along a given distance.

Basement

Lowest, subordinate storey of building often either entirely or partially below ground level.

Basilica

Originally a Roman, large roofed hall erected for transacting business and legal matters.

Bays

Internal compartments of a building, divided by columns or vault design.

Bay window

Window of one or more storeys projecting from the face of a building.

Bond brickwork

Brickwork with overlapping bricks. Types of bond include stretcher, English, header, Flemish.

Boss

An ornamental projection, a carved keystone of a ribbed vault at the intersection of the ogives.

Bracket

Weight-bearing member made of wood, stone, or metal that overhangs a wall.

Buttress

Vertical member projecting from a wall to stabilize it or to resist the lateral thrust of an arch, roof, or vault.

Cantilever

An unsupported overhang acting as a lever, like a flagpole sticking out of the side of a wall.

Capital

The topmost member of a column (or pilaster).

Casement window

Window hung vertically, hinged one side, so that it swings inward or outward.

Chimney

A structure which provides ventilation.

Clerestory

Upper part of the nave of a large church, containing a series of windows.

Coffer

A coffer, in architecture, is a sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon, usually in a ceiling or vault.

Column

A structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below.

Coping

The capping or covering of a wall.

Corbel

A structural piece of stone, wood or metal jutting from a wall to carry a superincumbent weight.

Corinthian order

One of the three orders of classical architecture characterised by columns, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a capital decorated with acanthus leaves.

Cornice

Upper section of an entablature, a projecting shelf along the top of a wall often supported by brackets or corbels.

Cupola

A small, most often dome-like, structure on top of a building.

Dentil

A small block used as a repeating ornament in the bedmould of a cornice.

Doric order

One of the three orders classical architecture characterised by columns, their vertical shafts fluted with parallel concave grooves topped by a smooth capital.

Dormer

A structural element of a building that protrudes from the plane of a sloping roof surface.

Dutch gable

A gable whose sides have a shape made up of one or more curves and has a pediment at the top.

Eaves
The underside of a roof projection over building walls.

Entablature
A superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals.

Entasis

The application of a subtle convex curve to a surface for aesthetic purposes.

Facade

An exterior side of a building, usually the front.

Fanlight

Window, semicircular or semi-elliptical in shape, with glazing bars or tracery sets radiating out like an open fan.

Fascia

Horizontal board attached to the lower end of rafters at the eaves.

Flying buttress

A type of buttress that transmits the thrust to a heavy abutment by means of a half-arch.

Foil

An architectural device based on a symmetrical rendering of leaf shapes, defined by overlapping circles.

Gable

A triangular portion of an end wall between the edges of a sloping roof.

Gauged brickwork

Brickwork constructed of soft bricks rubbed to achieve a fine smooth finish with narrow joints between courses.

Hip roof

A type of roof where all sides slope downwards from the ridge to the eaves.

Ionic order

One of the three orders of classical architecture characterised by columns, their vertical shafts fluted topped by a capital with volutes.

Keystone

The architectural piece at the crown of a vault or arch and marks its apex, locking the other pieces into position.

Latticework

An ornamental, lattice framework consisting of small strips in a criss-crossed pattern.

Lights

The openings in a window between mullions and muntins through which light enters an interior space.

Lintel

A horizontal block that spans the space between two supports usually over an opening such as a window or door.

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.

Lucarne

A small window or opening into unoccupied attic or spire space.

Mansard roof

A hip roof in which each face has two slopes, the lower one steeper than the upper.

Modillion

Enriched block or horizontal bracket generally found under the cornice of the Corinthian entablature.

Moulding

Decorative finishing strip.

Mullion

Vertical bar of wood, metal or stone which separates two or more windows in a series.

Muntin

A vertical or horizontal piece that divides a pane of glass into two or more panes or lights in a window.

Mutule

Rectangular block under the soffit of the cornice of the Greek Doric temple, which is studded with guttae.

Narthex

An enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.

Nave

The main body of a church where the congregants are usually seated. It provides the central approach to the high altar.

Newel

The central supporting pillar of a spiral staircase

Niche

In classical architecture is an exedra or an apse that has been reduced in size, retaining the half-dome heading usual for an apse.

Oculus

A circular opening in the center of a dome such as the one in the roof of the Pantheon in Rome or in a wall.

Order

A term for a standard arrangement of architectural features.

Panelling

Is a wall covering constructed from rigid or semi-rigid components.

Parapet

A low wall built up above the level of a roof, to hide the roof.

Patera, Paterae

Small circular or oval ornamental disc.

Pavilion

A free standing structure near the main building or an ending structure on building wings.

Pedestal (also Plinth)

The base or support on which a statue, obelisk, or column is mounted.

Pediment

In classic architecture the triangular-shaped portion of the wall above the cornice which formed the termination of the roof behind it.

Pendentive

Three-dimensional spandrels supporting the weight of a dome over a square or rectangular base.

Piano nobile

The principal floor of a large house, built in the style of renaissance architecture.

Pier

An upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge.

Pilaster

A slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall.

Plinth

The base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument or structure rests.

Porte-cochère

A porch-like structure at a main or secondary entrance to a building through which a motor vehicle can pass.

Portico

A series of columns or arches in front of a building, generally as a covered walkway.

Quoin

The cornerstones of brick or stone walls. Quoins are also common in some brickwork corners that are alternately recessed and expressed.

Return

Receding edge of a flat face. On a flat signboard, for example, the return is the edge which makes up the board's depth.

 

Rib vault

Vault built around several structural ribs.

Rotunda

A large and high circular hall or room in a building, usually but not always, surmounted by a dome.

Sash

The horizontal and vertical frame that encloses the glazing of a window. A sash may be fixed or operable and may be of several different types depending on operation (i.e. casement, single or double hung, awning, hopper or sliding).

Scroll

Ornamental element featuring a sequence of spiraled, circled or heart shaped motifs.

Spire

A tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building.

Springer

The lowest voussoir on each side of an arch.

Trabeated arch

A simple construction method using a lintel, or architrave as the horizontal member supported by two vertical columns.

Tracery

The stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window.

Transom

Window or element, fixed or operable, above a door but within its vertical frame.

Truss

A structural component made of straight wood or metal members, usually in a triangular pattern.

Tympanum

Triangular space enclosed between the horizontal cornice of the entablature and the sloping cornice of the pediment.

Volute

A spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order.

Voussoir

A wedge-shaped or tapered stone between the springer and the keystone used to construct an arch.

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At Melgrand we believe in the cultural value of traditional and modern architecture. On this website certain historical images have been used to support this outlook. We do not claim that they represent projects which have used  Melgrand products.

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