|Sydney Opera House: It's extremely architectonic.|
It also cost $102 million, rather than the $7 million
first projected—a factor of fourteen.
(Architect: Jorn Utzon; completed 1973)
Truth be told, most architectural jargon masks fairly simple-minded concepts. I’ll let you in on a few favorites below, but don’t tell my colleagues you heard it here:
• Architectonic. This term always perplexed me when I heard it with numbing frequency in architecture school. Well, guess what? It means something that's done in an architectural manner.
Yup. That’s it. Ergo, a building that’s architectonic has the sort of features only an architect could bring to it—a highly articulated (oops, see next entry) roofline, or an imaginative window. A massive cost overrun would probably qualify too.
|This skyscraper architect has been having fun|
• Contextual. The environment surrounding a building is known as the context. An architect who feels his or her work must blend into that environment is known as a contextualist. So when a strict contextualist designs a house in a neighborhood full of mediocre claptrap, at least the result is predictable: It will be diluted mediocre claptrap.
|Enfilade. French royalty loved it.|
The peasantry was less impressed.
• Enfilade. Although it sounds like something you spread on toast, enfilade refers to a linear arrangement of of rooms whose doorways are aligned to allow an unobstructed line of sight through the interior. Ten points for drama; zero for privacy.
Blame this concept on seventeenth-century French architects, who were obsessed with enfilade’s dramatic effect and were only too happy to dazzle their royal clients with it. While their clients still had heads, that is.
|Architect Richard Norman Shaw|
Don't call my stuff Shawish.
• -ian, -esque. Academic architects love to classify buildings by their resemblance to the styles of famous dead architects—e.g., Miesian, Wrightian, Corbusian—you get the idea. Except for Louis Sullivan, whose style is inexplicably not Sullivanian, but Sullivanesque, and Richard Norman Shaw, whose style isn’t Shawesque nor even Shawish, but Shavian.
No, I’m not making this up.