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We Could Use Some Fenestration in This Façade: Confusing but Commonly Used Architect Terms

Architecture is all around us. We might not recognize it as such, but it is. It’s not just that mansion down the street—it’s your own home. It’s your neighbor’s front porch. It’s the way your roof slants, and it’s where your stairs meet the hallway.

The work of architects is everywhere,
and it was vital to the construction of your home.

Despite the fact that architects have such important jobs, what they actually do is a bit of a mystery to many people. They design buildings, right? Well, not exactly. Architects can have many different duties, depending on where they work and who they work for. Design architects are probably the most stereotypical version of architects. They often work for large firms and are involved in the more artistic side of the construction process, freehand sketching and creating computer models. Production architects work on the more technical side of things, producing building plans that a contractor will use to actually make the building.

The types of architects you’re more likely to meet are sole practitioners or architects that work at small to mid-size firms. The latter do a little bit of everything, including meeting with clients and designing buildings. Sole practitioners or firm owners also have a lot of responsibility for many aspects of design and production.

You will most likely meet with an architect during a remodel or the building of a new home. They will work with you to understand your needs so that they can develop and deliver the right project for you. However, architects come with their own jargon that may be difficult to understand. Here are five of the most common terms architects may use while discussing a project with you.

  • Façade: Often the first part of a home you’ll see. It’s the exterior of a building, usually the front, that is given special treatment to make it appear fancier or more ornate than other parts of the exterior. Think of the façade as the face of the building. Just like a human face, the façade is the part of the exterior that makes the house unique.
  • Fenestration: Simply an opening in a structure. It’s most often used to refer to windows, but fenestration can be used to describe all kinds of openings, including doors, skylights, vents, and wall panels. You might better recognize the word “defenestration,” which is the act of throwing someone out of a window.
  • Parti: The big idea. Though it sounds rather festive, parti is simply short for the French “parti pris,” which means “to make a decision.” It’s the concept that guides the project and helps the architect organize their ideas and decisions. Because it is so basic, it’s often one of the first steps of the entire project.
  • Juncture: How materials go together and intersect. This term refers to the more technical side of architecture. Correct and well-made junctures will help homes last longer with fewer maintenance issues.
  • Order: A system of decorations of certain proportions and uses. There are five orders in classical architecture: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite. They were developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to outline sets of rules about different types of architecture. The rules are not strictly adhered to now, and modern architects use these orders and modify them to suit particular designs they have in mind.

Architects are usually vital to the success of home remodeling and other building projects. Unfortunately, they often come with their own nuanced lingo that many of their clients don’t understand. The five terms described here are just the beginning, but even being equipped with only these terms will help you effectively communicate with your architect and understand their vision for your project. Go ahead and use these terms in your next conversation—the architect is sure to be impressed.