Miscellany 15: architect-speak

Miscellany 15: architect-speak

Continuing our exploration of the origins, conundrums and variety of language

Nearly every profession has its jargon and often for good reason. Practitioners of specialised fields need to use specialised words the general public isn’t familiar with. After all, they’re doing things the rest of us aren’t trained to do and need to talk about their craft with a high level of precision to make sure it’s done to perfection.

But occupational jargon can quite easily get out of hand. This is never more clear than when a profession reinvents common terms in its own image, obscuring their mundane meanings from the public. When this happens, the jargon can start to feel less genuine and more like it was created out of a desire to build mystique and glamour, consciously or otherwise.

One profession steeped in jargon is architecture. Here are a few of our favourites:

Fenestration - quite simply, windows. Not to be confused with defenestration, the medieval practice of throwing someone out a window.

Aperture - a hole for a window or door.

Pilotis - like pillars, but simpler. The name is more complicated to compensate.

Scale - size.

Intervention - a new building. Not to be confused with any of the regular definitions of intervention.

Grain - as in urban grain. Contains no nutritional value.

Curate - to choose.

Space between, also interstitial - what it sounds like, pretty much.

Building envelope - the walls, floor and roof of a building. So the building part.

Skin - the outermost layer of a building. So… not the building part?

Curvilinear - curvy.

Rectilinear - rectangular or containing rectangles.

Formal - related to forms. Not formality.

Pods - anything small and roundish.

Diagrammatic - simple, usually in a good way. We’ll leave it to the professionals to tell us what that means.

Proud - sticking out, as in “the countertop is proud of the cabinet”. Wait. What?

We’ll leave it there, although we could always go on.

Since we already trust these folks with our lives, spending the majority of our time inside their creations, we’ll give architects the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have a legitimate need for all the terms above. But that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at them.

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