Painting above by Leonid Afremov
Below is a database of keywords related to architecture that you can reference when you're looking for more information about architecture supplies, phrases, terms, acronyms, etc. Please note that this is a working list and more terms will be added gradually. Please check back frequently for updates.
Click on the text below to jump to that section or use CTRL+F/CMD+F to search for keywords.
Aisle - A path of circulation between objects.
American Institute of Architects - or AIA is an organization that connects registered architects for networking opportunities and offers public outreach programs. There is also an AIA for students. Joining the AIA and participating in their programs can be a great way to meet new people and find job opportunities. The AIA can also be a great resource when you're studying for your ARE's (Architecture Registration Exams) as they may be able to provide reference materials for you or your firm.
Apron - Built up trim below a window or for example the connective piece between concrete and asphalt joining a driveway to the street or the driveway to garage slab.
Arcade - Covered walkway with a succession of arches supported by columns or piers.
Architectural Scale - a tool used to determine the actual dimensions of a scaled drawing. For example, drawings of a building will have to be shown as much smaller than the size of the actual building. To do this, we scale the drawings down to a smaller, more reasonable size to work with. The triangular architectural scale is the most common and is a 3-sided ruler typically with 10 different scales as well as a full scale 12” ruler. Some scales are used to decrease the size of an object representation while others are used to make it larger.
Scales are identified as their relation to full scale and are written in the format of, for example: 1/8” = 1’ - 0”
1/16” - architectural plans, building elevations and building sections for larger buildings
1/4” or 1/8” - Architectural plans, building elevations and building sections for houses and smaller buildings
3/4” or 1/2” - wall sections, enlarged plans, interior elevations
1-1/2” or 3” - detail drawings
Architecture Registration Exams - or ARE’s are a series of tests that you'll have to take to become a licensed architect. NCARB is currently switching over from the 4.0 system to the new 5.0 system, switching from 7 tests to now 6 tests. Under the 4.0 system, the exams were separated into silos of information with vignettes. In the 5.0 system, NCARB has done away with the vignettes and now organizes the tests in a similar way to how a real project unfolds. Both 4.0 and 5.0 are in effect although the 4.0 system will expire June, 30 2018. NCARB also allows test takers to transition from 4.0 to 5.0 after taking CDS, PPP, and SPD then transferring to 5.0 to take PPD and PDD so you could potentially get away with taking only 5 tests!
Bond - A brickwork pattern where layers of bricks are turned 90 degrees to form a “bond” or connection between the exterior masonry to the backing masonry.
Bracket - Can be decorative or structural. Brackets are architectural elements that support (or appear to support) overhanging structures.
Building Footprint - Sometimes the building footprint refers to the area of the perimeter of the building at ground level. Other times it refers to the total area of the perimeter of the building from the roof down, including overhangs, porches, decks, etc. The building footprint excludes landscaping elements, parking lots, patios, etc.
Catenary - A rope, chain, or cable that’s supported at each end, hanging under its own weight, will create a catenary curve. The hanging form is in tension and is an idealized shape for structural efficiency under the load of its own weight. Think: hanging chain between bollards, suspension bridge cables, etc.
There is also an inverted catenary which takes the form of the hanging catenary and mirrors it so the curve is at the top instead of the bottom. In this orientation, the structure is in compression and this idealized form is can support a load without buckling. Think: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Charrette - also known as a 'design charrette' is where, for a predetermined period of time, teams of people will work together to develop a solution to solve a design problem. At the end of the design process, teams will present their solutions to a group of critics who will then collectively decide which team composed the most successful and convincing solution to the design problem. Watch to see a clip from a very informal design charrette between two members from a group project I was in.
Circulation - Flow or movement of people throughout a building, both horizontally and vertically.
Column - A vertical structural element that supports an entablature, arch, truss, beam, etc. Columns are compressive structural members and often taper outward toward the top and base to disperse the bearing loads.
Column Base - This is the widened portion at the bottom of a column. Classical column bases are comprised of the cincture, torus, and the plinth. The build up of the column base is both decorative and purposeful in that it helps to disperse the bearing load above to increase the supporting surface area.
Critique - also known as a 'crit' or 'pin-up' is where you pin up or display your work for others to observe and learn about your project and ideally give you constructive feedback. A critique is usually more casual than a review. This is a great opportunity to see if you are successfully explaining your project and your intentions to solve the design problem. This is also an opportunity for you to physically stand back from your project and view your design more holistically. Constructive feedback from your critics should help you to strengthen your project's parti, give you direction to move forward and progress your design, and help you understand how to portray your project most effectively.
Desk Critique - also known as 'desk crit' is where you meet with your professor(s), typically at your desk, and discuss your project. Here you will get feedback on your designs, have an opportunity to ask questions specific to your work, and ideally get more direction on how to improve and progress your designs.
Diagram - this is a drawing that clearly explains one aspect of your building. This could be circulation or movement through your building, points of entry, light flow during different seasons, sequence of spaces, hierarchy, etc.
Drafting Brush - a tool used to gently brush dust, eraser bits, crumbs from your lunch, and pencil shavings off your desk or drawings. The softness of the brush prevents smudging but be careful when using mediums such as charcoal as it will smudge when brushed away and potentially ruin your drawings.
Drafting brush I use: Alvin*
Drafting Dots - Drafting dots are round shaped pieces of light adhesive tape that wont tear your drawings. They're convenient to use and more gentle on your drawings than masking tape.
Eave - The part of a roof that overhangs or meets the wall. Eaves usually overhang past the building to protect the walls from precipitation.
Eraser Shield - this is a tool used to protect your drawing while erasing. The eraser shield I use is aluminum and has a variety of voided shapes and forms to guide the eraser. You can use any type of eraser when you use the eraser shield without having to worry about accidentally erasing or smudging other parts of your drawing.
Eraser shield I use: Westcott*
Keystone - a wedge shaped central stone at the peak of an arch that holds all the stones in the arch in position allowing it to bear weight.
Kneaded Eraser - these are rubber erasers used to remove or highlight graphite, pastel, charcoal, or chalk. These can be useful when hand drafting to control lineweights and clean up drawings with precision. They are also useful when sketching for highlighting areas in a drawing. It can be used by rubbing or dabbing (press and lift) and can be molded to a point to accommodate for precision work or flattened to allow for more broad erasing. Kneaded erasers don't shed, so to clean them, stretch and fold until it returns to a light grey color, then pinch and mold to continue use.
Kneaded eraser I use: Prismacolor*
Lead Holder - this is essentially a fancier mechanical pencil. It is used to hold and store the lead you're drawing with. I suggest getting a few different colored lead holders so you can seamlessly switch between using leads with different hardnesses.
NAAB - the National Architecture Accrediting Board is the board that decides whether or not schools have accredited programs for architecture. NAAB establishes the standards for the appropriate education of architects to ensure that graduates have the technical and critical thinking skills required by the profession. You will need to attend a NAAB accredited school to be eligible to take your licensing exams through NCARB.
NCARB - the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards is an organization that was established in 1919 to standardize the requirements for becoming an architect. NCARB recommends laws, regulations, and guidelines for the practice of architecture for adaptation by different jurisdictions, though each jurisdiction is able to make their own laws and regulations.
Through NCARB is where you will log your IDP (intern development program) hours, which now called AXP (architectural experience program) hours, as well as take your ARE's (architecture registration exams).
Parallel Rolling Ruler - this tool seeks to achieve the same goal of the standard sliding parallel ruler but does so by rolling rather than sliding. The rolling ruler is a portable option to get straight, parallel lines quickly but tends to be less accurate than the secured sliding parallel ruler. It has other features too in that, in addition to working as a parallel ruler, it’s also a ruler and protractor. The allure of the rolling ruler is being able to quickly draw parallel lines in any direction with makes it great for creating hatches.
Parallel Ruler - this is a straightedge attached to a drafting desk that slides up and down the drawing board to draw straight parallel lines. Triangles are also used to draw perpendicular lines and lines at different angles by resting the triangle against the parallel ruler to ensure it’s straight. This is a fundamental tool for hand drafting.
Parti - this is the overall organizing principle of your building. Sometimes your parti is best described in section, other times it's more clear in plan, axon, or model form. A parti diagram or a diagrammatic model are common ways to explain your scheme. BIG is well-known for their clear parti diagrams.
Reflected Ceiling Plan - aka RCP is an architectural drawing that shows lighting, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical elements. It’s called a reflected ceiling plan because it’s a mirror image view of the floor plan. If it’s confusing to think of it as a mirror, you can think about it as if you’re looking down rather than looking up at the ceiling as when looking up at the ceiling everything would be in reverse.
Review - this is very similar to a critique (and sometimes they are used interchangeably) but a review is typically more formal and sometimes called a presentation. Like a critique, you will present your project to a group of critics and your classmates who will analyze and, well, critique your work. Your critics are usually practicing architects near your school, former students, or friends of your professor working in related fields. Most often, your critics will have an architecture degree but I've had critics from all different backgrounds like landscape architecture, photography, art history, engineering, etc. Reviews can be a great opportunity to network and make connections with local architects for future job or internship opportunities. Since these are more formal and you may be networking, it's a good idea to dress professionally, be well rested, and set up your presentation boards clearly and cleanly. The purpose of a review is to present your work explaining your solution to the design problem and get feedback from people of all different backgrounds to gain a new perspective.
Soffit - The underside of a structure like a balcony, overhanging eave, or the drop down structure between the ceiling and the top of cabinets, etc. Roof soffits can be ventilated or non-ventilated to prevent condensation.
T-Square - this tool functions similarly to a parallel ruler in that it’s used to draw horizontal parallel lines and produce architectural drawings. The difference is that it’s not stationary or tied down to a drafting board or table. The T-square is used by aligning the top of the T along the edge of a desk or table which allows it to slide up and down and prevents it from moving side to side. It takes more care to keep the T-square straight than it does with a parallel ruler but the benefit is that it’s portable and drafting can happen on any flat surface with an exposed edge.
The Flat - On a piece of lumber “the flat” is the wider side. This helps when referring to the orientation of the member.
Trace Paper - this is thin, translucent paper that is used frequently for sketching. The translucent nature of the paper allows for layers of trace to be laid on top of another so you can trace the drawing below. This method of drawing is often used when making modifications to drawings so if you can test out different ideas by working off an existing drawing. It is also useful when developing multiple floor plans so you can make sure walls, bathrooms, etc. can be aligned vertically on each floor.
Trace paper I use: Alvin