Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Architectural ABC's - Part Two

Part Two:
Although architects may know these terms and even use them often, the history and source of these terms in relation to their modern usage was in fact an interesting journey for me while researching them.  Aside from their alphabetical first letter, there was neither rhyme nor reason as to their selection, other than the etymological ancestry.  Here are 'I' through 'P'.

Incandescent – As in the light bulbs quickly receding into obscurity; incandescent comes from the Latin incadescere, to glow white.  Electrical current runs through a wire filament at a high temperature in order to produce visible light.  Over 20 inventors of incandescent lamps are recognized prior to Thomas Edison, however, he included his lamp in a viable system able to provide electric lighting to towns.  The term can also be used as an adjective to describe many architects.
Edison's patent for the light bulb.

Jalousie – A type of window or shade that is made from overlapping, angled slats of wood or even glass.  Pronounced Jal-oh-SEE.  The word literally means ‘jealousy’ in French.  Seems to be a reference to the ability to look outside without being seen, in order to guard your possessions.  It won't meet any energy conservation awards, however.
A Jalousie window we used to have in our house.  Jealous?  No.

Knob – as in door.  Probably from Low German ‘knobbe’ for a knot in wood or perhaps a knoll, or isolated, round hill.  I try to avoid grassy knolls myself.  And book depositories. Dead as a door knob takes on another meaning in architecture, because door levers are the standard for accessibility, and knobs are more rarely used in commercial buildings.  Kentuck Knob, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Western PA, is an example of the round hill definition.
A nice door knob in Murano, Italy.
Kentuck Knob is built just to the side of the hill, rather than on the hill, in typical Wright fashion.

Lintel – a load bearing member across an opening in a wall, regularly seen in a door or window.  This word derives from the Latin ‘limen’, which means threshold.  This is very nearly the opposite of a lintel in architectural terms, one above a door and the other below – curious.
You can see concrete lintels over three openings in this CMU wall.  Often the structure is hidden.
Exposed lintels can be extremely decorative, such as this example from Duke Street in Lancaster. 

Mortar – the mixture of cement and lime that binds bricks and other masonry units together.  This seems to derive from the Latin ‘mortarium’ or a bowl for mixing or pounding.  Interesting that the product was named after the vessel in which it is mixed.  And that thing on your head at graduation? A mortar board.
Bags of Type S Mortar on site.  The mixing vessel can be a wheelbarrow or a specialized mixer, seen in the background.

Nogging - This is not binge drinking too much of the yule-tide beverage.  This is the infill of brick or sometimes other building materials in half-timber construction.  Sometimes it was intended that this be plastered over, other times it remains exposed.  A 'nog' in old English is a wooden block or similar that is of the same size as a brick, unassumingly used as infill.  Also, in naval architecture, nogging is the act of maintaining the shape of the hull of the ship while it is being built, similar to shoring.
Brick nogging in half-timber framework.

Oculus - this means 'eye' in Latin.  It is an architectural opening most commonly thought of at the top of a dome, but can also be in a wall.  The Romans, unsurprisingly, used this feature often, and it was used heavily in Renaissance churches.  The plural is oculi.
One of the more famous oculi - in the roof of the Pantheon.

Portland Cement - is not named for either of the Portlands in the United States, but is actually named for a type of stone, Portland, quarried in England.  Modern cement was developed at the end of the 1700's and is a critical ingredient in concrete, but of course the Romans had it figured out in the B.C.'s or else the Pantheon would not still be here.  Portland cement reacts with water to harden, it does not 'dry out'.  It is a chemical reaction that will take far longer than the 7 or 28 day strength tests often used in construction.  Most Portland Cement was imported from England to the US until companies in Michigan and Pennsylvania began producing it in the late 1800's.
Mercer Castle, or Fonthill, was built in the early 1900's for the tile maker in Doylestown, Pa.  
Walls, roofs. window frames & mullions, and stairs are all made of concrete, possible because of Portland Cement.
Coming soon:  "P through W"  Should be interesting.