Meaning of the 10 Main Terms in Architecture

Written by Lucas Oliveira

ArqBahia team of authors.

Architecture is a multidisciplinary art that combines creativity, history, science, mathematics and more. To familiarize yourself with this vast discipline, it is essential to understand some of its main terms. In this article, we will explore the meaning of the top ten architectural terms.

  • Architecture: Starting with term itself, architecture refers to the practice of designing and building physical structures. It can also refer to the structure itself or the process and outcome of planning, design and construction.
  • Facade: This term is used to refer to the external part of a building, usually the front or the one with the main orientation. Facades are often the main architectural elements that give a building its identity.
  • Blue print: It is the drawing of a structure seen from above, as if we were looking at it from a horizontally “cut” point of view, generally at a height of about one meter from the floor. It allows you to visualize the layout of different spaces and the relationship between them.
  • Scale: In architecture, scale refers to the perceived size of an object or building in relation to other objects or its environment. It is an important consideration to ensure that a structure is in harmony with its surroundings.
  • Aesthetics: This term refers to the appreciation of the beauty or “meaning” of a work of art or design. In architecture, aesthetics can encompass the choice of materials, the shape of the structure, the way it integrates into its environment and the sensation it causes in people.
  • Go free: It is the distance between two supports of a structure, such as columns or walls. The term is often used to refer to an open space in a building that has no obstructions.
  • Sustainability: This is a design principle that seeks to minimize a building's environmental impact through the efficient use of materials, energy and development space. Sustainable architecture considers the complete life cycle of a building, from design and construction to demolition and recycling.
  • Needs Program: This term refers to the list of requirements that a building must meet to achieve its objective. It can include details such as the number and type of rooms, the amount of natural light needed, accessibility, and many others.
  • Model: It is a miniature replica of a structure that allows architects, clients and other interested parties to visualize the final project. Models can be physical or digital.
  • Ergonomics: In architecture, ergonomics is the study of how a building's design adapts to the people who use it. This may include considerations such as accessibility, comfort, ease of use and security.

These are just some of the many terms used in architecture. Understanding its meaning is essential for a better appreciation of this fascinating discipline. Architecture is ultimately about creating spaces that inspire and serve people, and each of these terms offers insight into how this is achieved.

Understanding Architectural Styles

Understanding the style of a building is a fundamental part of studying and appreciating architecture. Each style has its own set of characteristics, techniques and materials that make it distinctly unique. Here are some brief definitions of some of the most well-known architectural styles.

  1. Modernism: This style emerged at the beginning of the 20th century as a rejection of historical and traditional styles. Modernism focuses on simplistic forms, functionality, minimalism, and the idea that “form follows function.” Modernist buildings often use concrete, glass and steel.
  2. Neoclassical: The neoclassical style emerged in the middle of the 18th century and was inspired by the principles and styles of classical Greek and Roman architecture. Characteristics of neoclassicism include symmetry, imposing columns, triangular pediments, and rich ornamentation.
  3. Gothic: The Gothic style, which had its heyday in Medieval Europe, is known for its ornate and complex features, including pointed arches, stained glass windows, tall towers, and sculptural details. Gothic cathedrals, such as Notre-Dame in Paris, are iconic examples of this style.
  4. Baroque: The Baroque style, which originated in the 17th century, is characterized by extravagance, drama and rich detail. Baroque buildings are often grandiose and feature an abundance of ornament, contrasts of light and shadow, and curved shapes.
  5. Brutalism: This style originated in the 20th century and is known for its raw, unadorned aesthetic. Brutalist buildings are generally made of concrete, feature angular shapes and large monolithic blocks.

Architectural styles are more than just how a building looks. They reflect the culture, era, values and technological innovations of their time. The diversity of styles is what makes architecture a fascinating and ever-evolving discipline.

Exploring Architectural Concepts

To dive even deeper into the world of architecture, it is essential to understand some of the concepts that guide the design and construction of buildings. Here are some definitions of key architectural concepts.

  1. Space: In architecture, space refers to the three-dimensional environment in which human beings move and live. It is defined and limited by architectural elements such as walls, floors and ceilings. The arrangement of these elements creates different types of spaces, which can be closed or open, public or private, large or small, and so on.
  2. Form: The form of a building is its physical form, which can be perceived through sight and touch. Form can be influenced by a number of factors, including the function of the building, the materials used, local climatic conditions, cultural traditions and architectural style.
  3. Light: Light, both natural and artificial, plays a crucial role in architecture. It can highlight or subtract architectural elements, create different atmospheres, influence colors and even affect the well-being of building users.
  4. Context: The context of a building includes its physical and social surroundings, local culture, climate and history. Good architectural design considers the context to ensure that the building integrates harmoniously into its environment and responds appropriately to the needs and expectations of the community.
  5. Function: The function of a building is the purpose for which it is designed and constructed. It can be a home, an office, a museum, a school, and so on. A building's function strongly influences its design, including its shape, layout, materials and technologies used.

Each of these concepts is a fundamental piece in the complex puzzle of architecture. Together, they help define how buildings are designed and constructed, and how they influence our experience of the built environment.

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