Architecture / Design / Planning

  • blind alley: A narrow passage whose end is closed; a cul de sac.
  • covered alley: A primitive stone structure of a kind abounding in Great Britain and Brittany, as well as in other parts of the world. It is composed of two rows of flat stones set vertically and sustaining a roof of rough lintels, the whole 20 or 30 yards long. In most cases it is the entrance passage to a cistvaen.
  • block: The space, and buildings, contained within an unintersected perimeter of streets in the gridiron plan; it may contain alleys or cul-de-sacs.
  • insula: In Roman town planning, a block of buildings surrounded by streets.
  • air rights: Rights to fill additional airspace with building volume under zoning laws.
  • code: Legal restrictions of a given locality governing the building of various types of structure.
  • Code of Hammurabi: A Babylonian legal code instituted by Hammurabi in the mid-18th century B.C., based on principles absorbed from Sumerian culture.
  • easing: Same as easement.
  • ramesseum: A group of buildings in Egypt, among the ruins of Thebes, believed to serve as a memorial to Ramses II, and including an enormous gateway with pylons, two great courts surrounded by colonnades, and one large hypostyle hall, with many smaller though still important rooms.
  • U.L.U.R.P.: Uniform Land Use Review Process, wherein variations in the zoning laws, or large-scale development, are reviewed by the local Community Planning Board, before a final review by the City Planning Commission and Board of Estimate. A lengthy process.
  • zoning: Legal restrictions to regulate the height of buildings, separate locations for buildings of different uses, etc.
  • Zoning regulations: Legal restrictions which were intended in the first place to relieve street congestion by regulating the height of buildings. The New York Zoning Act of 1916, the first American act of the kind and the model for most later ones, determined the permissible height of walls next to the street by two factors, the type of district or zone and the width of the street. Additional stories above this had to be set back behind a line drawn from the center of the street through a point at the top of the front plane of the street wall, except that upon one quarter of the total lot area the building could rise to any height.
  • aedility: The government or the care of a city considered with reference to the public buildings, streets, squares, water supply, and other similar functions and duties.
  • cite: A city, or a town, with its environs.
  • city: A city, or a town, with its environs.
  • hamlet: In Great Britain, a village of little consequence, especially a village which does not in itself constitute a parish, and has therefore no parish church. 2. In some of the U.S., the official designation of certain villages…
  • Ideal City: An important idea in Renaissance architecture. The belief that well-ordered and harmonious architecture could reflect the good-ordering and harmony of the cosmos, and the divinely ordained structure of human society.
  • kiryah: In ancient Israel, a city.
  • madina: An Arabic word for city. 2. In North Africa, the native quarter of a city.
  • metropolis: A capital or major city.
  • nagara: A town or city laid out according to strict rules; an architectural style in northern India (literally “city-dweller style”).
  • polis: An ancient Greek city-state.
  • pyramid city: A city built near a pyramid to house its workers, servants, and priests.
  • town: In ancient times, a collection of houses enclosed by a wall of defense, with mural towers and fortified gates. In modern times any collection of houses larger than a village…
  • batardeau: Also see coffer dam.
  • molo: In Italian, a seawall, dam, or quay…
  • spillway: A channel for superfluous water, as from an overflow of a dammed and walled lake, reservoir, or tank. In some instances this takes the shape of an aqueduct of architectural character.
  • ring-work: Circular earthwork of bank and ditch.
  • fondamenta: In Italian, an embankment or quay constructed along the side of a water channel. In English usage, the term applies especially to those in Venice, which from stone-paved thoroughfares along many of the canali, the term being used in the names of such streets.
  • terre pleine: An earth embankment, flattened at the top.
  • grid organization: Spaces organized with reference to a rectangular system of lines and coordinates.
  • orthogonal grid: A pattern composed of aligned rectangular blocks used for laying out city streets; used worldwide since antiquity and in U.S. communities since the turn of the 19th century.
  • accumulation: Collection of features derived from different periods used to suggest a chronological sequence of building even though construction may have taken place at the one time.
  • adaptive reuse: A process that adapts buildings for new uses while retaining their historic features.
  • alteration: Any project involving change of, or addition to, an existing building.
  • anastylosis: Term for rebuilding a structure with its original materials and structural system, employing new materials only when absolutely necessary, and ensuring they cannot be confused with original fabric.
  • blight: In a city or community, an existing area in which the property has deteriorated below acceptable standards.
  • conservation: Retention of existing buildings or groups of buildings, landscapes, etc., taking care not to alter or destroy character or detail, even though repairs or changes may be necessary…
  • demolition: The systematic razing of a building.
  • gentrification: Migration of middle classes into former working-class areas, with a resulting change of character, e.g. modernization/repair of old property.
  • heritage asset: Denotes structures, features, and objects of historic interest and value that are potentially viable as attractions.
  • historic character: Used in planning parlance to describe structures and features of architectural and historic interest. The term might be extended to a whole street, block, or area.
  • historic districts: A specially designated area by a unit of government, recognized for a concentration of building, structures, or sites with special historic, artistic, architectural, cultural, or social significance.
  • historical monument: A building so important from its architectural character or historical associations as to be registered, cared for, and partly controlled by the state or municipality…
  • landmark: Any building, structure, or place which has a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of a city, state, or nation. 2. A monument, fixed object, or marker used to designate the location of a land boundary on the ground.
  • monumental: Enduring and impressive in character and appearance.
  • moving: In the technical sense, the process of shifting a building from one site to another.
  • New Georgians: Pejorative term for those who restore run-down 19th c. houses in inner cities. 2. Anti-Modernists who sought a revival of Georgian Classicism.
  • preservation: In building, the protection of building materials from such sources as would tend to destroy them, as wood from rotting, stone from disintegration, plaster from separating from the key and crumbling or falling in larger pieces, and iron from rust
  • preservation districts: A specially designated area by a unit of government, recognized for a concentration of building, structures, or sites with a purpose to preserve the same.
  • regeneration: Securing of the repair and conservation of older structures to ensure their future viability.
  • rehabilitation: Repair or alteration that enables buildings, structures or improvements to be efficiently utilized while preserving those features of buildings, structures or improvements that are significant to their historic, architectural and cultural values.
  • renovation: The act of improving by repairing or remodeling, often to restore to an earlier condition.
  • rescue: Project aimed at salvaging historic structures in gross disrepair.
  • restoration: Rebuilding to attempt to put a structure back into its prior or original condition.
  • retrieval: Process of re-creating historic features, objects, and particularly landscapes to achieve a former condition and appearance.
  • right for period: Repaired in a way that reflects the design, techniques, and materials current when the building, etc., was first erected.
  • transformation: The process of changing in form or structure through a series of discrete permutations and manipulations in response to a specific context or set of conditions without a loss of identity or concept.
  • wrecking: Dismantling or razing a building or other structure.
  • cluster housing: A group of buildings and especially houses built close together to form relatively compact units on a sizable tract in order to preserve open spaces larger than the individual yard for common recreation.
  • housing authority: A group of elected or appointed individuals in whom a municipality vests the responsibility and power of directing its public housing.
  • subsidized housing: Housing for low-income groups, the construction costs or rental charges of which are at least partly borne by government or other authority.
  • compartiment: Bed, patterned with designs formed with, e.g. box. The word tended to replace the English plat, plot, quarter, or square, yet was not really equivalent to any of these…
  • lot: A measured portion of land, usually a building site.
  • made land: Land brought to a higher level by earth fill, sometimes brought out of water.
  • mark: Land held in common by, e.g., a village community. 2. Proper name of certain principalities, e.g. Mark of Brandenburg. 3. Indicator of a boundary, e.g. a post or stone marker. 4. Masonry monument. 5. Sign or token. 6. Device or incised character indicating ownership or origin, e.g. mason’s mark, used to identify work done, as in medieval buildings. 7. In Freemasonry, a designation of a grade, degree, or rank of a mark-mason: a mark-lodge is therefore a lodge of mark-masons. 8. Denomination of weight (mostly for gold or silver), therefore a monetary value which, in the Middle Ages, was about two-thirds of a Pound Sterling.
  • railroad lot: Narrow lots laid out by a railroad or near major railroad lines, often suitable for only a single-family house.
  • real estate: Land and what is built upon it.
  • ribbon development: Extension of urban growth along radial highways.
  • SLOAP: For Space Left Over After Planning. Useless bits of ground left between streets and rigidly rectilinear International-Modernist buildings (which rarely followed traditional street- or urban-patterns).
  • subdivision: A plot of ground divided into building lots.
  • drive: Route originally laid out for horse-drawn carriages within a park, an important component of English 18th c. landscape-design, intended to provide changing views of the scenery, especially in work by Repton: it entered American usage in the second quarter of the 19th c., although Downing distinguished it from an approach which led from a public road to the house, and a drive was a way along which visitors could be conveyed around an estate.
  • parkway: Scenic road pioneered in America, laid out in an area of preserved forest or a swathe of enhanced landscape. A precedent was Olmsted’s series of connected suburban public parks linked by road at Boston, MA…
  • Advocacy planning: Coined by the American planner Paul Davidoff, meaning architectural design and planning for powerless, inarticulate inner-city groups, notably when resisting destructive schemes by planning authorities, government agencies, etc. Among its early practitioners were ARCH (Architects; Renewal Committee in Harlem), founded by C. Richard Hatch.
  • Broadacre City: A utopian vision of Frank Lloyd Wright where all dwell in single-family freestanding houses on generous lots; an antiurban idea served by automobile and television, where public transportation and face-to-face meetings are thought unnecessary.
  • Bürolandschaft: Type of office-planning (literally ‘office-landscape’) evolved in Germany by Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnelle, based on open-plan offices developed in the USA in the 1940s. Freed from partitions, large spaces could be designed that were decently lit and serviced: informal layouts suggested a landscape, enhanced by fashionable placing of plants in pots.
  • land use: In urban planning, a division of available land into categories such as residential, industrial, commercial, recreational, public, etc.
  • linear planning: Urban development laid out on either side of a central transport-spine consisting of roads, railways, and services (with variants consisting of additions of canals, etc.)…
  • master plan: A plan, usually of a community or city, made to guide or restrict future development.
  • policy: Improvement or embellishment of an estate or town. 2. Buildings, gardens, etc. on an estate. 3. Enclosed park or demesne land around a country house.
  • Radburn: Planning principle developed at Radburn, New Jersey, on lines suggested originally by Ebeneezer Howard and promoted by Mumford, Clarence Stein, et al. The proposed town (which was later transmogrified as a commuter-suburb) was designed (1929) to segregate pedestrians and traffic by having cul-de-sac feeder-roads and paths on bridges or in underpasses. This principle of segregation, known as Radburn planning, was also used in various New Towns created in Britain and on the Content after the 1939-45 war.
  • Radburn planning: Town planning which involves the complete separation of traffic from pedestrians.
  • condemn: To seize by public authority and for public benefit, property of an individual making due recompense. 2. To declare unfit for use.
  • improvement: An 18th century term for land rendered more productive by enclosure, cultivation, etc., later applied to landscaping, carefully considered planting, erection of buildings, etc.
  • sick-building syndrome: Building having disagreeable or unacceptable environmental characteristics.
  • urban renewal: Fashionable 1950s American euphemism for large-scale destructive redevelopment, often in association with central or municipal government, offering rich pickings for commercial architects…
  • ambivium: An ancient Roman road or street that went around a site rather than through it.
  • avenue: A wide street, usually planted with trees; generally straight. 2. A way of approach or access.
  • bivium: The junction of two ancient roads which met at an angle. 2. A plot of ground at the junction of two roads, which at Pompeii was always furnished with a fountain.
  • border stone: Same as curb stone.
  • boulevard: An important thoroughfare, often with a center divider planted with trees and grass, or similarly planted dividers between curbings and sidewalks.
  • carrefour: An open place from which a number of streets or avenues radiate. 2. By extension, any crossroad or junction. 3. A public square or plaza.
  • compitum: A place where two or more ancient Roman roads met, as opposed to a trivium which is more applicable to the streets of a town. It was customary to erect altars, shrines and small temples at these places, at which religious rites in honor of the lares compitales (the deities who presided over the crossroads) were performed by the country people.
  • cul-de-sac: A dead-end street, alley, or road.
  • curbstone: A stone forming a curb or part of a curb, or intended for that purpose.
  • gomphi: In ancient Roman construction, curbstones of greater size than usual; placed at regular intervals in a line of umbones.
  • kerb: British equivalent of curb.
  • trivium: The place where three ancient Roman streets or roads met.
  • underpass: One road or path crossing another at a lower level.
  • via: A paved Roman road (said to be an invention of the Carthaginians) for horses, carriages, and foot passengers, both in town and country; especially such roads as formed a main channel of communication from one district to another. Roman roads were constructed with the greatest regard for durability and convenience; they consisted of a carriageway paved with polygonal blocks of lava, imbedded in a substratum formed by three layers of different materials (the lowest of small stones or gravel, the next of rubble, and the upper one a bed of fragments of brick and pottery mixed with cement); there was a raised footway on each side flanked with curbstones.
  • skyline: Arrangement of roofs, chimney-stacks, spires, and other architectural accessories, creating a pattern against the sky, often Picturesque.
  • townscape: Portion of the urban fabric that can be viewed at once. It was a term much used from the 1940s, analogous to landscape… Many historic towns have pleasing townscapes revealed as the pedestrian moves through sequences of spaces, and the AR’s campaign proposed that the study of townscape (pioneered by Geddes, Parker, Sitte, and Unwin) would provide precedents for urban redevelopment as well as for the New Towns that were planned in Britain after the 1939-45 war. However, Modernists rejected the concept as Picturesque, leading to abandonment of its application since 1945, with obvious results.
  • Bidonville: Shanty town built of oil-drums, petrol-tins, etc. (from bidon, meaning an oil-drum or petrol-tin): by association, any collection of houses or shelters constructed of scrap-metal.
  • clachan: Small Gaelic settlement of dwellings informally arranged.
  • Company-town: Planned development to house factory workers…
  • conurbation: A group of towns that have grown into each other creating undisciplined urban sprawl.
  • ghetto: In ancient cities of Europe, especially in Italy, the Jewish quarter; a district to which the Jews were confined…
  • grouping: The act of arranging buildings or parts of buildings in a definite way, and for architectural effect. 2. The state of being grouped or arranged. 3. A group with reference to the nature of the assemblage or the greater or less merit of the artistic effect produced…
  • habitable: Fit for occupancy.
  • hameau: Hamlet, but applied to a cluster of purpose-made intentionally ‘rural’ buildings erected in a French landscape-garden to enable the upper echelons of society to engage in ‘pastoral’ play-acting…
  • kibbutz: Communally-owned collective rural settlement in Palestine (later Israel) established by Jewish immigrants from early 20th c. Some were designed by European-born architects.
  • megalopolis: Very large urban region formed of a metropolis that has far outgrown itself and swallowed many towns and villages, or a series of metropolis that have joined up (e.g. the urban sprawl between Washington, DC and NYC).
  • Milesian plan: Town laid out on a regular gridiron plan, derived from the Greek colonial city of Miletus, and promoted by Hippodamus, who only publicized rather than invented it.
  • New Towns: Thirty-two totally new urban environments created in Britain since 1946 with a population of over 2 million. English examples are Harlow and Milton Keynes. Most are interesting as experiments in sociology and urban planning than as essays in architectural excellence.
  • oppidum: An ancient Roman town. 2. The mass of buildings occupying the straight end of an ancient Roman circus; these included the stalls for the horses and chariots, the gates through which the Circensian procession entered the course, and the towers which flanked the whole on each side, all of which together presented the appearance of a town.
  • siedlungen: Also see siedlungen.
  • slum: A section of a city or town in which many of the habitations have deteriorated to such an extent that they menace the health and security of the whole community.
  • slurb: Combination of ‘slum’ and ‘suburb’, the USA equivalent of subtopia.
  • Subtopia: Pejorative term derived from ‘suburb’ and ‘utopia’, meaning an area that is neither urban nor rural. See slurb. 2. An idealization of suburban urban fringes and everything they stand for and represent.
  • block square: An entire block within a regular rectangular grid that is not built upon (i.e., it is open) and usually serves as a public park.
  • circle in square town plan: Sometimes called Harrisonburg or Philadelphia style plan.) A town plan in which a circular parcel of land is located centrally through the removal of a corner of four adjacent or contiguous blocks.
  • Lancaster Square: A square block that is placed at the intersection of two major perpendicular streets, containing a central county courthouse.
  • open square: Any block that is not built up, and usually serving as a public open space.
  • Philadelphia Square: A square block that is placed at the intersection of two perpendicular streets, and is open, that is, contains no public building or courthouse.
  • public square: A rectangular or square block, usually but not always open, and often centrally located in a community.
  • Shelbyville Square: One of the regular rectangular or square blocks of a community that is built up, and serves as the location of a central county courthouse.
  • agger viae: The central part of an ancient Roman highway which was paved with stones imbedded in cement laid upon several strata of broken rubble, and slightly raised in the center.
  • alley: A subordinate street; sometimes a narrow passageway.
  • angiportus: In ancient Rome, a narrow road passing between two houses or a row of houses, or an alley leading to a single house.
  • Appian way: See via appia.
  • approach: The avenue leading up to a building, especially from the park gates to the front of a manor house or country-seat.
  • bollard: A short, fat, round concrete masonry, metal pier, set freestanding into the street, that constrains wheeled traffic but allows pedestrians to pass.
  • calle: In Italian, a street; especially in Venice, where the streets, having no carriage way and being paved from house to house with smooth blocks of stone, have no need of width and are what would be called in English alleys. The few wider thoroughfares in Venice take different names, as via, and on the waterfronts, fondamenta, riva.
  • catband: In the North of England a chain for closing a street, or a bar for securing a door on the outside.
  • causeway: A paved road or passage raised above surrounding low ground. 2. Such a passage ceremonially connecting the valley temple with the pyramid in Egyptian architecture.
  • circular highway: Also see concentric rings, circumferential street, circular highway.
  • circumferential street: Also see ring road.
  • concentric rings: Also see concentric rings, circumferential street, circular highway.
  • culs-de-sac: A dead-end street, alley, or road.
  • curb: The change in level between sidewalk and street. 2. A low guard wall around an opening, as the curb of a well. The English spelling is kerb. 3. The arris between an upper and lower slope on a gambrel or mansard roof.
  • embankment: A banking or building of a dyke, pier, causeway, or similar solid mass; hence, by extension, the result of such work, especially in the form of waterside street.
  • fundula: In the ancient Roman Empire, a blind alley; a cul-de-sac.
  • mew: A street having small apartments converted from stables. Also, mews.
  • motorway: Class of highway with two or more lanes in each direction, designed and regulated for fast motor-traffic only. The German super-highway concept dates from 1911…
  • platea: In ancient Rome, a wide passageway or a wide street.
  • public way: A street, alley, or similar parcel of land open to the sky and deeded, dedicated, or otherwise permanently appropriated for the free passage and use of the general public.
  • quadrivium: An open space where streets or roads intersect; a place where streets go in four directions.
  • ring road: Also see concentric rings, circumferential street, circular highway.
  • rio: A stream or canal; the term is an abbreviation of the Italian Rivo and is in use especially in the city of Venice, where it is applied to all the smaller water streets, that is to say, to all except the canalazzo and canareggio.
  • rioterra: A street made by the filling up of a canal; especially in Venice, where, during the last forty years, a number of old canals have been turned into streets which are generally wider and straighter than the old calli.
  • riva: A piece of ground along the edge of the water; a quay or terraced road at the water’s edge. The word is used for one of the larger water-side streets of Venice, especially the Riva degli Schiavoni.
  • rond-point: French for “round point.” In French Baroque landscape design and town planning, a circular plaza on which streets converge.
  • sakbe: In Maya construction, a raised causeway built of huge stone blocks, leveled with gravel and paved with lime plaster; used to link sections of a city or to connect them with secondary centers.
  • street: A public way in a village, town, or city; the continuation of a road through a district thickly covered with houses and upon which the houses face
  • street-furniture: Anything erected on pavements or streets, including bollards, railings, lamp-posts, pissoirs, post-boxes, street-signs, telephone-kiosks, and entrances to subways or underground railways, often of cast iron.
  • triumphal avenue: One of the great central streets of some of the cities of the Roman Empire, as notably Palmyra, where the double colonnade of Corinthian columns is still partly in place
  • via appia: See via appia.
  • via munita: A Roman road paved with a top layer of polygonal blocks of stone or lava.
  • via terrena: Any plain Roman road of leveled earth.
  • viaduct: An elevated roadway that is the trafficked equivalent of an aqueduct, supported on many columns or piers, as opposed to a bridge, which spans the space in question.
  • wynd: In Scotland, an alley, a lane; especially a narrow alley in a town forming a passage from street to street.
  • dormitory-suburb: Suburban development where most residents work somewhere else. So a dormitory-town is the same, only bigger.
  • fauburg: Medieval extra-mural suburb.
  • Garden City: One in which the single-family detached house and open spaces are predominant.
  • Garden Suburb: Low-density developments that were essentially derived from the Picturesque tradition of houses in gardens evolved by Nash and others…
  • satellite: In urban planning, an outlying community unit of secondary importance, dependent upon the larger city.
  • satellite town: Town, self-contained and limited in size, built in the vicinity of a large town or city to house and employ those who would otherwise create a demand for expansion of the existing settlement, but dependent on the parent-city for population and major services
  • suburb: An outlying section of or near a city, predominantly for residential use.
  • megastructure: Gigantic, entirely enclosed, complex of buildings, usually with many functions under one or several roofs
  • superblock: A reconstruction on the gridiron plan combining a number of blocks by eliminating the dividing streets.
  • New Urbanism: International Modernism produced numerous free-standing box-like buildings deliberately unrelated to their contexts: bits of land left by the rigidities of Modernist architecture could never be made into urban spaces that meant anything or had any qualities except an ability to dismay those who experienced the,…
  • urbanism: Term much used in the 1980s, based on Le Corbusier’s dogmas concerning town-planning. 2. Urban way of life compared with life in the country. 3. Approach to urban design taking into account the need to respond with sensitivity to urban morphologies…
  • lake village: A village composed of pile dwellings. Also called a swamp village.
  • ts’un lo: A Chinese village or group of farmhouses.
  • village: A small collection of houses; in the United States, forming part of a township and having but little independent existence…

Also see Architecture index.