Architectural terms

  • Acanthus: the leaf pattern decorating the top of a Corinthian column
  • Architrave: 1) the lowest part of the entablature immediately above a door or a set of columns. 2) any moulded frame around a door or window.
  • Art Deco: rectilinear style of the 1920s and 30s based on notions of modernity and efficiency.
  • Art Nouveau: the name given by the French to the decorative style developed in the late 19th century by – among others – Alfons Mucha, characterized by undulating lines and floral motifs.
  • Balustrade: a set of small moulded shafts (balusters) designed to support a handrail on stairs or balcony, or used simply as decoration.
  • Baroque: highly elaborate style of architecture prevalent in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
  • Bas-relief: a sculpted or moulded figure that slightly projects from a wall, giving the impression of three dimensions.
  • Bay: wall space bounded on either side by columns or pilasters; may contain a window.
  • Broken pediment: popular in classical revivals, a pediment whose top section is broken at the apex, the gap sometimes filled with an ornamental feature.
  • Capital: the top of a column.
  • Cartouche: a decorative ornamental frame, containing a painting or bas-relief, or ‘blind’ i.e.empty
  • Caryatid: a supporting column usually in female shape.
  • Casement: a traditional window, opening inward or outwards on vertical hinges.
  • Chronogram: in inscriptions, a method of encoding the date by highlighting the relevant Roman numerals.
  • Classical: style of the ancient Greeks and Romans characterized by proportion and order, summarized by the first-century Vitruvius as ‘that which is solid, functional and beautiful.’
  • Colonnade: a series of evenly-spaced columns or arches
  • Column:  a vertical shaft used to support the lintel of a doorway, or standing alone as a monument.
  • Corbel: a supporting bracket which juts out perpendicular to a wall.
  • Corinthian: the third order of classical architecture: slender, fluted columns, surmounted by a highly elaborate acanthus.
  • Cornice: 1) decorated junction of the wall and the ceiling 2) the top, projecting part of the entablature.
  • Cubism: artistic movement of the early 20th century exemplified by strong geometrical forms and prismatic surfaces
  • Cupola: a dome
  • Doric: the first, and most robust, order of classical archiecture: a massive, slightly tapering column.
  • Entablature: in classical architecture, the three-part structure supporting the roof of a temple, above the columns and below the pediment.
  • Fluting: shallow grooves running the length of a column.
  • Fresco: an image painted directly on to the plaster of a wall or ceiling.
  • Frieze: 1) central part of the entablature, often decorated with symbolic or narrative stories, painted or in bas-relief. 2) a sequence of painted or sculpted images.
  • Gothic: style of architecture characterized by tall pointed arches, spires and turrets, popular in mediaeval Europe.
  • Ionic: the second order of classical architecture: slender, fluted, non-tapering columns surmounted by a scrolled capital.
  • Léta Páně (L.P.) in date inscriptions, the Czech for Anno Domini, ‘in the year of our Lord’
  • Loggia: an arcaded gallery, at ground level or higher, facing outwards from the facade of a building.
  • Lunette: Half-moon shaped space above a door or in an arch, often painted
  • Medallion: a round decorative plaque with a design either painted or in bas-relief
  • Mural: artwork applied in paint or tiles to a wall or other surface
  • Neo-baroque: the revival of Baroque style in the later 19th century, particularly in public buildings
  • Neo-classical: the classical style revived from the 18th century onwards
  • Neo-gothic: the gothic style revived in the 19th century, also known as ‘Gothic Revival’
  • Order: one of the three decorative styles of classical architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian
  • Oriel: a bay window projecting above ground level and supported by a wide, often fan-shaped, corbel
  • Pediment: the triangular section that forms the top of a temple, or a decorative element above a door or window.
  • Pilaster: decorative mock column, often flat, sometimes half-rounded
  • Rococo, or ‘Late Baroque’: development of the baroque into a highly extravagant and ornate style based on intricate natural forms.
  • Romanesque: Early pre-Gothic style, characterized by sturdy pillars and walls and rounded arches
  • Sgraffito (sometimes ‘scraffito’) Technique of wall decoration involving scratching a pattern into painted plaster
  • Spandrel: the space between two arches or between the corner of an arch and the space above, sometimes filled with a decorative element