Glossary

Glossary of Terms

Ionic columns at the State Capitol Understanding the terminology used for architecture, art, history, and legislation can be the fundamental key to understanding their unique relationship and significance to California, the Capitol Building, and citizens today and in the decades to come. So is it the abacus that’s found between the triglyphs in the frieze section of the entablature of classical Greek Doric temples, or is that the metope? Answers to this type of question can be found within this handy glossary of architectural terms associated with the State Capitol. (Answer: It’s the metope. The abacus is found between the architrave and the aechinus in the capital of a column.)

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Glossary

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  • W-Z

Annex

An expansion or supplementary structure of a building.

Apse

A domed or vaulted recess or projection on a building.

Arch

Curved structure spanning an opening that supports the surrounding walls.

Architrave

The lowest section of the entablature that rests directly on the column.

Art Deco

A design style popularized in the 1920s and 1930s during the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, an exposition of modern decorative and industrial arts held in Paris, France, in 1925. Bold outlines, geometric and zigzag forms, and the use of modern materials, such as plastic, characterize the style.

Art Moderne

Similar to Art Deco, with its stripped-down forms and geometric-based ornamentation, the moderne style is sleek and unornamented, while the slightly earlier deco style can be quite decorative.

Balustrade

A row of upright, often vase-shaped supports topped by a rail that prevents people from falling over the edge of a staircase.

Capital

The head of a column or pillar.

Classical Orders

The main architectural types based on the style of capital, column, and entablature.

Colonnade

A series of columns set at regular intervals and usually supporting the base of a roof structure.

Column

A supporting pillar consisting of a usually round shaft, a capital, and a base.

Cornice

The molded and projecting horizontal member that crowns an architectural composition.

Corinthian

The lightest and most ornate of the three ancient Greek architectural orders distinguished especially by its large capitals decorated with carved acanthus leaves.

Cupola

A small rounded structure resting on a circular base built on top of a roof.

Dome

A large hemispherical roof or ceiling.

Doric

The oldest and simplest Greek architectural order.

Drum

The cylindrical base on which a dome rests.

Eaves

The lower border of a roof that overhangs the wall.

Entablature

The upper section of the classical order consisting of three horizontal elements ─cornice, frieze, and architrave.

Façade

The front of a building; any face of a building given special architectural treatment.

Federal Style

Architectural style popular in the United States between 1780 and 1830. An interpretation of Ancient Roman architecture fashionable after the unearthing of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The American eagle was a common symbol used in this style, with the ellipse a frequent architectural motif.

Fleur-de-lis

A conventionalized iris in artistic design and heraldry.

Frieze

A sculptured or richly ornamented band, as on a building or piece of furniture.

Fresco

The art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments.

Gable

The vertical triangular end of a building from cornice or eaves to ridge.

Gothic

A style of architecture developed in northern France and spreading through western Europe from the middle of the 12th century to the early 16th century characterized by converging weights and strains at isolated points upon slender vertical piers and counterbalancing buttresses and by pointed arches and vaulting.

Greek Revival

A style of architecture in the first half of the 19th century marked by the use or imitation of Greek orders.

Ionic

The ancient Greek architectural order especially distinguished by fluted columns on bases and scroll volutes in its capitals.

Keystone

Wedge-shaped central point of an arch.

Lantern

Small superstructure on top of a dome.

Marquetry

Decorative work in which elaborate patterns are formed by the insertion of pieces of material (such as wood, shell, or ivory) into a wood veneer that is then applied to a surface (such as a piece of furniture).

Mezzanine

A low-ceilinged story between two main stories of a building; also, an intermediate story that projects in the form of a balcony.

Neoclassical

Constituting a revival or adaptation of the classical especially in literature, music, art, or architecture.

Parget

Plasterwork, especially in raised ornamental figures on walls.

Pediment

In classical architecture, a triangular space that forms the gable of a low-pitched roof usually filled with relief sculpture.

Pier

A vertical structural support such as the wall between two openings; a vertical member that supports the end of an arch or lintel, or an auxiliary mass of masonry used to stiffen a wall.

Pilaster

An upright architectural member that is rectangular in plan and is structurally a pier but architecturally treated as a column. It usually projects a third of its width or less from the wall.

Portico

In classical architecture, a colonnade or covered ambulatory often at the entrance of a building.

Renaissance Revival

An architectural style introduced to the United States in the mid-19th century, and derived from the classically ordered architecture and sculptural ornamentation of ancient Rome. It is characterized by its use of pediments, entablatures, volutes, and finials.

Roman Corinthian

Combination of Ionic and Corinthian orders.

Rondos

A painted or sculpted circular surface or roundel with inlay.

Rotunda

A round building; especially one covered by a dome.

Truss

An assemblage of beams forming a rigid framework of support.

Tympanum

The recessed face of a pediment within the frame above an arched entrance.

Victorian

A large and ornate house built during the Victorian Age, typically defined as the years of Queen Victoria's reign of the British Empire (1837-1901) and the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Wing

A part or feature usually projecting from and subordinate to the main or central part of a building.

W-Z

Wing

A part or feature usually projecting from and subordinate to the main or central part of a building.

S-V

Truss

An assemblage of beams forming a rigid framework of support.

Tympanum

The recessed face of a pediment within the frame above an arched entrance.

Victorian

A large and ornate house built during the Victorian Age, typically defined as the years of Queen Victoria's reign of the British Empire (1837-1901) and the height of the Industrial Revolution.

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