Architecture For Dummies Cheat Sheet
To hone your basic knowledge of architecture, get to know the terms used to describe various features, the features that make for good architecture, and some of the great architectural domes around the planet. You can draw inspiration from notable architects and from Pritzker Prize winners.
How to Judge Good Architecture
How can you tell if a work of architecture is any good? It’s simple. You know a work of architecture is good if you can answer “yes” to the following questions:
Does it express its function in a visually intriguing way?
Does it complement or contrast with its surroundings?
Is it well built?
Does it continue to age well?
Does it have the ability to surprise, inspire, delight, or disturb you?
Is it simply unforgettable?
You’re standing in front of the Parthenon or some other great work of architecture. The tour guide next to you starts talking about “orders.” You’re ready to put in your lunch request until you realize that she’s referring to the architecture. The terms in the following list can help you understand architectural lingo — and even speak it if you’re so inclined.
|arch: a structure spanning an opening that is supported
from the sides.
|minaret: a slim tower that is part of a mosque and is
used to call the faithful to prayers.
|buttress: a support on the outside of a wall that helps
to stabilize a vault or roof.
|orders: styles of classical architecture developed by
the ancient Greeks and Romans; they include the Doric, Ionic, and
|column: a vertical post divided into a base, a shaft,
and a capital at the top.
|portico: a porch with a roof supported by a row of
|dome: a curved, semispherical roof structure that is
circular in plan.
|quoin: a large stone at the corner of an exterior
|entasis: a slight, outward curvature in a column that
corrects an optical illusion and gives the appearance of being
|rustication: roughly surfaced stonework on exterior
walls; popular during the Renaissance.
|façade: the face or exterior architectural
treatment of a building.
|shaft: the section of a column between the base and the
|gable: the triangular portion of a wall under the end of
a pitched roof.
|tracery: curvy ornament in the upper part of a Gothic
|hypar: short for hyperbolic paraboloid, a type of shell
structure with downwardly and upwardly curved surfaces.
|uplift: raising of a structure in response to structural
|Ionic: a type of classical architecture with scroll-like
decorations, called volutes, on the column capital.
|vault: an arched ceiling or roof.|
|jamb: the vertical side of a doorway or window.||wythe: a continuous band of brick or stone that is one
unit in thickness.
|keystone: a wedge-shaped unit at the top of an
|ziggurat: a type of stepped pyramid used as a temple in
|lintel: a horizontal beam spanning the top of a door or
Notable Architects through History
To understand architecture’s evolution, it’s important to become acquainted with some of the stars who pushed design in new directions. The men in the following list definitely left a mark, and many of their marks are still standing today!
|Imhotep: The first architect known by name, this ancient
Egyptian created the world’s first stone monument, a tomb for
|Christopher Wren: This English classical architect is
more famous for rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral than for the
51 new churches he designed in London.
|Ictinus and Callicrates: This team of Greek architects
spent more than a decade perfecting the Parthenon, the most
influential building of all time.
|Karl Friedrich Schinkel: Versatile in classical and
Romantic styles, this German master designed one of the
world’s first museums.
|Hadrian: A Roman emperor and architecture buff, Hadrian
propelled design and engineering to new heights with the
|Louis Sullivan: A skyscraper pioneer, Chicago architect
Louis Sullivan decorated his modern structures in leafy
|Abbot Suger: This French monk was influential in
developing the soaring architecture of Gothic cathedrals.
|Frank Lloyd Wright: The most famous American architect
of the twentieth century rooted his organic architecture in the
|Filippo Brunelleschi: One of the first architects of the
Italian Renaissance, Brunelleschi designed the dome of Florence
|Le Corbusier: Born Charles Edouard Jeanneret, this
Swiss-French genius used glass, steel, and concrete to invent a
modern language for buildings and cities.
Pritzker Prize-winning Architects
Of all the awards related to architecture, the most prestigious is the Pritzker Prize. Established in 1979 by Jay and Cindy Pritzker, the cash ($100,000) prize is funded by the Pritzkers’ Hyatt Hotel Foundation and given annually to honor a body of work by a living architect. Candidates are selected through a process modeled after the Nobel Prize, with secret voting by an international panel of judges. The awards ceremony is held at architecturally significant sites around the world. Following is the list of the Pritzker Prize winners:
|1979: Philip Johnson, United States||1990: Aldo Rossi, Italy||2001: Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron, Switzerland|
|1980: Luis Barragan, Mexico||1991: Robert Venturi, United States||2002: Glenn Murcutt, Australia|
|1981: James Stirling, Great Britain||1992: Alvaro Siza, Portugal||2003: Jern Utzon, Denmark|
|1982: Kevin Roche, United States||1993: Fumihiko Maki, Japan||2004: Zaha Hadid, Iraq / Great Britain|
|1983: I.M. Pei, United States||1994: Christian de Portzamparc, France||2005: Thom Mayne, United States|
|1984: Richard Meier, United States||1995: Tadao Ando, Japan||2006: Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Brazil|
|1985: Hans Hollein, Austria||1996: Rafael Moneo, Spain||2007: Richard Rogers, United Kingdom|
|1986: Gottfried Boehm, Germany||1997: Sverre Fehn, Norway||2008: Jean Nouvel, France|
|1987: Kenzo Tange, Japan||1998: Renzo Piano, Italy||2009: Peter Zumthor, Switzerland|
|1988: Gordon Bunshaft, United States, and Oscar Neimeyer, Brazil||1999: Norman Foster, Great Britain||2010: Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, Japan|
|1989: Frank Gehry, United States||2000: Rem Koolhaas, Netherlands|
Great Architectural Domes
Architecture often goes for the dramatic and a dome is often the most notable architectural feature of a building — or the shape of the building itself. Some of the great domes around the world are shown in the following list:
|The Pantheon: Rome, Italy||St. Peter’s Basilica: Rome, Italy|
|Hagia Sophia: Istanbul, Turkey||St. Paul’s Cathedral: London, England|
|Dome of the Rock: Jerusalem, Israel||Taj Mahal: Agra, India|
|Florence Cathedral: Florence, Italy||U.S. Capitol: Washington, D.C.|