Reflection

Reflection

Monday, February 1, 2016

Architectural ABC's - Part Three

Part Three:
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 'Q' through 'W'.  Any help on X, Y and Z would be appreciated.

Quoins – are the expressive corner pieces in masonry wall.  They are often ‘faked’ in contemporary architecture using coated foam shapes.  Originally they were a legitimate reinforcing technique to support corners of walls that were spanned between with thinner stones.  In the Renaissance, quoins became exaggerated in order to impress upon the onlooker a feeling of strength.  Its origin is the same as the English word ‘coin’, both coming from the Latin ‘cuneus’ for wedge, or wedge shaped stone.  I guess you can say one is the cornerstone of an edifice, the other is the cornerstone of a free democracy.

Quoins on both corners at this intersection in Rome.
Reglet – is a linear architectural trim piece.  The term is often used when it involves flashing, or shedding of water from one surface to another.  The word is derived from the Latin ‘regula’ meaning straight edge.

The reglet here is along the rake, transitioning between stucco and metal flashing.

Scaffold – is a raised platform often seen used in the present participle of “scaffolding”.  Prior to its common use as a work surface for people and building materials working on architectural endeavors, it was commonly used to refer to the raised platform for the execution of criminals.  Earlier origins may be in the Italian word catafalco, which was the wooden framework supporting the coffin or body of a person during a funeral.  Maybe that is why erecting scaffolding is so darn expensive, because in the past, it was literally your last stop.
Scaffolding used to lay up masonry in a stair tower.
Terrazzo – is a flooring material made from chips of marble and granite set in a binder that is polished to give it a very smooth finish.  Many schools and public buildings have these floors because they last nearly forever and are abuse resistant.  The word terrazzo literally means “terrace” and the latin root terra means “earth”.  Invented by Italians to be a low cost alternative to stone slab floors, it is now a very high end material in terms of cost.

Used in schools because of its bullet proof nature, this is the school I went to 30 years ago, exactly the same today.

Urn – this form is found in Federal and Georgian Revival styles of architecture in decorative treatments in wood fa├žade features as well as other decorative carvings in buildings.  The urn was very popular in furniture making in the 16th and 17th centuries, and as the two fields shared woodworking crafters, it may have migrated.  Urns symbolize immortality and the word comes from the Latin ‘urna’ for earthen vessel for ashes or water.

The urn often makes its way into the pediment, as in this example from downtown Lancaster.
And another here.
Vinyl – what architectural materials cannot be made of this stuff?  Most commonly, building materials are made from PVC, or polyvinyl chloride.  But who knew that the word origin of vinyl comes from the Latin ‘vinum’ which means wine because of ethyl alcohol’s role in the chemistry of it.  The word as we know it originated with German Chemist Hermann Kolbe in 1851.

Vinyl can do a lot of things - here is is shown on the inside and outside of the building at the same time.  It can look pretty convincing and also meet fire ratings and smoke spread requirements. 

Wainscot – or ‘wainscoting’ is the paneling on an interior wall, typically on the lower portion and today for aesthetic purposes only.  The term in its current use has been around from the 1500’s, but the term may come from the Low German ‘wagenschot’ in the 1300’s – having to do with wagon and coach building from boards used for paneling.  I’ve come to realize that almost everyone has their own pronunciation for this word.
Some of the nicest I've ever seen in a skilled nursing facility, wainscot can really set off a room.
Resources:
Dictionary.com
myEtymology.com
Wikipedia.org

Next:  Part 4, X Y and Z

4 comments:

  1. You asked what architectural terms start with X, Y and Z. X-bracing and Ziggurat. Y ?

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  2. Thanks, Andrew! My intent was to continue with word origins - Ziggurat is a good 'Z' - I will see if that has any kind of origin story. X-bracing probably will be pretty self explanatory.

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  3. Would you please share the link for Parts One and Two? Thank you.

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  4. Hey, sure. The way blogspot does it to count hits, I send out the single article to see the interest. But if you want to see all three together, just type in www.yeomanarchitect.com and you will see the third one first, but if you continue scrolling down, each of the previous two follow.
    Probably easier than:
    http://yeomanarchitect.blogspot.com/2016/01/architectural-abcs-part-two.html
    and
    http://yeomanarchitect.blogspot.com/2015/12/architectural-abcs-part-one.html
    but maybe not...

    ReplyDelete