Words that Architects use: Architect Bingo Card #1

Bob Borson —  November 8, 2010 — 81 Comments

If you want to be an architect, you have to speak in a certain way; if you don’t, no one will take you very seriously. Architects tend to be overly specific and use words rarely uttered by regular human beings during normal conversations. In fact, 62% of all the words that come out of an architects mouth could be replaced by a simpler and more widely known word.

Once you have decided that you do in fact wish to be an architect, you have to accept that there are words that you are simply going to have to learn. These words by design will obfuscate the listener (by the way, I could have said ‘confuse’ instead of ‘obfuscate’ but that is precisely the point here). Let’s get things start shall we?

I have come up with a list of designer-y words that you need to master. Once you have managed to work these words into your daily conversations without effort, you’ll be on your way to becoming a bona-fide architect. At this point, you should expect your commissions to increase – or if you are still in architecture school that your grades will improve.  You will discover that people will stop listening to you and just accept that the words coming out of your mouth are awesome and righteous … the listener will not want to expose the fact that they don’t understand the word that you are using in such a common and cavalier manner. Once you have reached this point, the real secret is that you can start making  up your own words and people will be forced to believe you. This is a riff on the story ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes” and architects have been making use of this technique for decades.

Here is the first round of words for you to memorize:

juxtaposition: the state or position of being placed close together or side-by-side, so as to permit comparison or contrast

tartan grid: a design of straight lines of varying widths and distances, crossing at right angles

hierarchy: a system of elements ranked, classified and organized one above another, according to significance or importance.

homogeneous: uniform in structure throughout or composed of parts that are all of the same nature or kind

symmetry: balanced proportions; correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or median plane or about a center or axis

curvilinear: consisting of or bounded by curved lines : represented by a curved line

biomimicry: is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems

texture: the characteristic structure given to a surface or substance by the size, shape, arrangement, and proportions of the parts

tectonics: the science or art of shaping, ornamenting, or assembling materials in construction

clarity: the state or quality of being clear

fenestration: the design, proportioning, and disposition (arrangement) of openings in a building

parti: the basic scheme or concept for an architectural design, represented by a diagram

articulation: a method or manner of jointing that makes the united parts clear, distinct, and precise in relation to each other

massing: a unified composition of two-dimensional  shapes or three-dimensional volumes, especially one that has weight, density, and bulk

diagram: a drawing, not necessarily representational, that outlines, explains, or clarifies the arrangement and relations of the parts of a whole

form: the shape and structure of something as distinguished from its substance or material

truncated: having the apex, vertex, or end cut off by a plane; or stopping short from a completed expression

procession: moving along in an orderly often ceremonial way

shell: the exterior framework of a mass or form

piloti: any of a series of  columns supporting a building above an open ground level

merge: to combine, blend, or unite gradually by stages so as to blur identity or distinctions

folly: a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece or to lend interest to a view

composition: the arranging of parts into proper proportion or relation so as to form a unified whole

uniformity:the state or quality of being identical, homogeneous, or regular

balance: the pleasing or harmonious arrangement or proportion of parts or elements in a design or composition

While you are learning and practicing your new vocabulary words, take the form along with you next time you are sitting in a design presentation and mark off the words as you hear them.

Feel free to submit your own architectural vocabulary words for consideration in the comment section below. I’m pretty sure that we can come up with a full set of ‘Architect Bingo‘ playing cards so that you and all your friends can play along at the same time.


All the cards are finished – You can find them by following the links below

Card #2

Card #3

Card #4

Card #5


Bob-AIA scale figure

ps – on the advice of my crack legal team Architect Bingo©® (US Patent Pending)

Print Friendly

even better