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Architectural terms, their definitions in English and their translations

There are 321 entries in this glossary.
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Term Definition
Cable molding
  1. A twisted or spiral molding

  2. Any ornamentalornamental twist


Mercury's winged staff with two intertwined snakes, symbol of rebirth. Used today as the symbol of the medical profession

Found in "Classical architecture": the architecture of Hellenic Greece and Imperial Rome and derivatives, including Beaux Arts Classicism, Classical Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Greek Revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance Revival


Coffer: a sunken panel in a ceiling, dome, soffit or vault

Caisson: an alternative name for a coffer

Found in Classical Greek and Roman architecture and derivatives, including Beaux Arts Classicism, Classical Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance Revival, Second Empire


The art of writing letters and words with decorative strokes; a hand lettering style that relies heavily on contrasting weights in the horizontal and vertical strokes. Generally done with a brush or quill pen

Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering.

From Greek kallos "beauty" + graphẽ "writing."

Calligraphic works range from functional inscriptions and hand lettering to fine art pieces where the artistic manifestation may take precedence over the legibility of the letters.


A slender rod of cast lead, with or without grooves, used in casements and stained-glass windows to hold the panes or pieces of glass together


A bell tower, generally detached from the main building

From the Italian ""campana" which means "bell"


(plural: Cancelli) Barriers which correspond to the modern balustrade or railing, especially the screen dividing the body of a church from the part occupied by the ministers hence chancel. The Romans employed cancelli to partition off portions of the courts of law.


A metal frame clad with fabric that projects from a building entrance over the sidewalk to the curb where it’s supported on vertical posts.



The edge of a corner of wood, stone, etc., that is beveled or angled off, usually at a 45 degree angle


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

Cap flashing

A waterproof sheet that seals the tops of cornices and walls


The topmost member, usually decorated, of a column or pilaster.

Captain's walk

A walkway or narrow platform on a roof, esp. on early New England homes with a view of the sea

Carrara glass panels


In 1900, the Marietta Manufacturing Company claimed to be the first producer of pigmented structural glass, rolling the first sheet of a "substitute for marble," Sani Onyx. The company advertised "Sani-Onyx" as an easy-to-clean, germ-free surface.

Penn-American Plate Glass Company quickly joined its ranks, manufacturing white and black Carrara Glass around 1906. Penn- American Plate Glass no doubt selected the name "Carrara" for the white glass's close resemblance to the white marble of the Carrara quarries of Italy. Later, new colors were added. It was popularly used in the 1920's to 1940's for exterior cladding on storefronts, service stations, movie theaters, and automobile dealerships. Carrara® was also used for interior clean surface areas such as hospital operating rooms, hotel lobbies, restaurants, kitchens, and bathrooms.

During the early 1930's, Libby-Owens-Ford Glass purchased the Vitrolite Company and in 1935 sponsored a "Modernize Main Street Competition" with $11,000 in cash prizes that drew over 3,000 entries for a wide variety of storefronts. By the end of the decade, Vitrolite was as much a storefront fixture as awnings.

Although Vitrolite and Carrara Glass eventually became synonymous with vivid color, structural glass originally came only as black or white.

Although as many as ten companies eventually produced structural glass, its manufacture required major investment. The Vitrolite plant, for example, covered eighteen acres outside Parkersburg, West Virginia. The manufacturing process involved superheating pigment and glass ingredients to 3,000 degrees F, adding fluorides to the molten mix, and then rolling the vitrified glass into sheets of the desired thickness. As the sheets cooled for as many as five days, the fluorides crystallized throughout the glass and rendered it opaque. The final luminous finish was achieved by flame polishing or additional rolling with fine sand.

The glass could be curved and colored to fit the streamlined look of these twentieth century styles and was often applied to older buildings in an attempt to update them. It was generally 11/32" or 7/16" thick and was applied over masonry or plastered walls with an adhesive masti. Besides the easy maintenance of Carrara Glass, it was favored for its brilliant color and durability. Exterior commercial facades were the most common surfaces for the glass, but interior walls and counters were also covered with it.

Structural glass received a major boost in 1913 when architect Cass Gilbert clad the restrooms of the Woolworth Building, then the world's tallest structure, in Carrara Glass. But into the 1920s, Vitrolite and its sisters were promoted as utilitarian surfaces for bathrooms, laundries, and kitchens. Furniture makers recommended Sani-Onyx table tops doused with cool water for rolling pastry, while Maytag used Vitrolite-lined tubs as a selling point for its washers.


An oval shaped ornamental design element usually containing an inscription or date. Label or information surrounded by a border. Often decorative.


An oval which was drawn to contain the hieroglyphs that spelt out a king's or queen's name.

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oblong enclosure with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name

Sign representing an oval loop of rope with the ends bound together, within which the birth and coronation names of the king are inscribed. Found on obelisks, temples and other monuments. The loops signified the king's universal dominion and magically protected the royal name on monuments.

Found in derivatives of Classical Greek and Roman architecture, including Beaux Arts Classicism, Classical Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Greek Revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance Revival, Second Empire, Second Empire

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