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Category Archive:   architect's glossary


“Soffit” is a word that we architects and builders use so frequently that we forget that many clients have no idea what we are talking about.  A bit more about that below. A soffit is a section of ceiling that is dropped well below the underside of the roof or floor above.  What it creates […]

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A scupper, in architectural terms, is not some name for a lowly pirate, but rather a device to get water off a roof and away from a building.  Most typically found on flat roof buildings, scuppers project out from the sidewall of a building at roof level and allow rainwater and snow melt to flow […]

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There are a lot of terms that we have to describe various kinds of exterior domestic spaces.  As “outdoor living” is becoming increasing popular in Colorado if not around the county, I find that my clients are often using different terms for same space.  Is that place where the picnic table is going to go […]

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In the US, a hallmark of colonial architecture was the Palladian window: This is basically a larger, arched center window with flanking rectangular windows separated by pilasters or at least trim.  In Europe this is most commonly known as a serliana, a name derived from Sebastiano Serlio whose architectural treatise describes its origins from ancient […]

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“Plasticity” is not about plastics.  However, it is about what plastics in a sense can do.  As used by architects, plasticity is a term used to describe a rich, three-dimensional or sculptural presence of a building.  When the form of a building exhibits a sculptural presence, even if that may be strictly made up of […]

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This distinction is often confusing for architects, not to mention contractors and homeowners. A muntin is a small bar that separates two pieces of glass, aka “glazing bar” or “sash bar”: A mullion is a bar or post that separates two window units: To add some confustion and a bit more complication, an astragel is […]

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Pronounced with an exaggerated accent on the final “e”, “poche’” is a French architectural term for the all the stuff that is inside the walls between spaces.  In architectural drawings, it is the stuff blackened in on the plans. John Soane’s House Museum in London For typical construction where all the walls are about the […]

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A clerestory is a series of windows high up in a space.  These can be a formal row, like in a cathedral, or a single, simple opening in the wall.  Clerestories are often confused with transoms.  Transoms are smaller windows stacked on top of other windows or doors.  In traditional buildings, transoms were operable allowing […]

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