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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

There are several varieties, of which the white oak, the red oak, and the live oak are the most important. The first is most used. Oak takes long to season, and is worse than most woods if used green. It is very hard to work. Its appearance improves with age. On account of its tendency to warp, a great deal of so-called oak work is paneled with chestnut.

Oak was the wood of choice for the Gothic furniture made in the Middle Ages. It remained popular throughout the seventeenth century. Quarter cut oak boards known as wainscot were brought to Northern Europe as early as the fourteenth century. Traditionally, oak has been used for styles that require only a moderate amount of carving.

Oak was favored for its resistance to rot and woodworm, until it was superseded by walnut in the early 18th century


The obelisk is symbolic of the first land - the primordial mound - spotted by the benu bird at the act of creation. The obelisk tip is sometimes gold tipped - where the sun's rays first touched land.

The cap, or pyramidion, was sometimes sheathed with copper or other metal.

The obelisk represented rays of sun; obelisks could be made of pink granite, for example, and have a pyramid-shaped top often covered with a gold and silver alloy to scatter the sun's rays.


Noun Oblique: View in which a three-dimensional object is represented by a drawing (oblique drawing) in which the face, usually parallel to the picture plane, is represented in accurate or exact proportion, and all other faces are shown at any convenient angle other than 90°.

Occupiable space

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

Octagon House

Octagonal shaped structures have been built for centuries. The oldest octagonal or eight-sided building known is the Tower of the Winds built by the Romans about 300 BC. Centuries ago, octagon shaped buildings were popular in Italy.

There were many octagonal buildings, especially churches, in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was natural then that the Dutch who settled New York State should build churches, homes and schools in their style. The Hudson River Valley had many such buildings. There were twenty Dutch Reformed churches in the Valley. Toll houses in that style were built in Pennsylvania, and barns, carriage houses, schools, and even a blacksmith shop were found in eastern states. The cupolas found in most houses were useful on the sea coast where wives could watch for the return of their husband's fishing boats.


An Oculus, circular window, or rain-hole is a feature of Classical architecture since the 16th century. They are often denoted by their French name, oeil de boeuf, or "bull's-eye".

Circular windows set in dormers have been a feature of French Classical architecture since the beginning of the seventeenth century. For structural reasons, they are also found as the portholes of ships.

Office Synergies

Noun Ways in which two firms’ services can compliment each other if working together, usually suggested by the weaker party in an attempt to gain access to the other’s client list.


A molding formed by two curves, the upper concave and the lower convex, so forming an S-shaped curve


Noun Oillets – arrow slits in the walls of medieval fortifications, but more strictly applied to the round hole or circle with which the openings terminate. The same term is applied to the small circles inserted in the tracery-head of the windows of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods, sometimes varied with trefoils and quatrefoils.

Olmsted Park

The Olmsted Park and Parkway System is listed on the National Register of Historic Properties and is a designated Local Historic District. See Historic Districts (below) for more information

By contract with the City of Buffalo, maintenance of the Buffalo Olmsted Park System is undertaken by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (Web site). See also the Conservancy's Buffalo Olmsted Park System: Plan for the 21st Century

Onion dome

Bulbous, domelike roof ending in a sharp point, characteristically used in Russian Orthodox church architecture to cover cupolas or towers. Predominant form for church domes in Russia (mostly on Russian Orthodox churches) and Bavaria, Germany (mostly on catholic churches), but can also be found regularly across Austria, Eastern Europe, Mughal India, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Such domes are often larger in diameter than the drum upon which they are set, and their height usually exceeds their width.

It has been posited that onion domes first appeared during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. It seems logical that elongated, or onion, domes were part of the same proto-Gothic trend aimed at achieving pyramidal, vertical emphasis

Onion domes are popularly believed to symbolize burning candles.

Similar dome shapes: helmet-shaped, pear-shaped.

Numbers: Onion domes often appear in groups of three, representing the Holy Trinity, or five, representing Jesus Christ and the Four Evangelists. Domes standing alone represent Jesus.

Colors: Green, blue, and gold domes are sometimes held to represent the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, respectively.

The inner surface of the onion domes are often vividly painted with frescoes and murals.

Opalescent Stained Glass

A milky glass of mixed streaky colors.

Open Source

Open Source – Open source describes practices in production and development of free access to the source material (the source) of the final product. Before the term open source was in general use, there was a wide variety of expressions to describe the concept. It owes its current popularity partly to the increasing use of the Internet, enabling diverse production models, ways of communication companies and interactive communities. The best known form is open source. The open source model allows simultaneous use of different agendas and production approaches, in contrast to more centralized models of development such as those typically used by commercial software developers. Collaborate often follows principles such as peer-to-peer. There is a commitment to high degree of independence between the members together. And little central control. These are final products and as to underlying materials (eg design, descriptive documentation and the like), freely available to the public domain.


Noun Operation: The manner in which a window unit opens, closes, locks, or functions; e.g., casement, double-hung, etc. If non-operable, a window unit (such as a side light) is identified as “fixed.”


Order. Architectural style defined by the type of column and entablature. The column is divided into three main elements: the base, shaft and capital. The entablature consists of architrave, frieze and cornice. Three classical Greek orders developed (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) and two Roman orders (Tuscan and Composite).

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