Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions


Conventional Classical Features

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Liverpool, St George's Hall

Besides the different ordersGlossary Term, many other conventional features make up the classicalGlossary Term language of architecture.

The porticoGlossary Term derives directly from the classicalGlossary Term temple. It is made up of columns or pilasters, usually with a pedimentGlossary Term on top. A porticoGlossary Term often marks the major entrance to a building.

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The Banqueting House
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London, Huth's Bank (former)

Though pediments originally reflected the form of the end gableGlossary Term of a temple, they were also used decoratively over doorways, windows or niches, especially by the Romans. Curved segmental pediments may also appear alongside or instead of triangular ones. A range of windows may have an alternating row of pediments, triangular and segmental.

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The Reform Club

A broken pedimentGlossary Term omits the central upper part or the whole centre, an open pedimentGlossary Term(shown) the centre of the architraveGlossary Term or lower part.

An aediculeGlossary Term is a surround with a pedimentGlossary Term and often also two small columns or pilasters. The word comes from the Latin for 'little building.'

Plain stonework can be outlined with grooves (rusticated), often in combination with a rough or rock-like finish, or horizontally incised (banded). QuoinsGlossary Term are rusticated blocks used at the ends or angles of a building.

Parapets may be ornamented with urns or vases, or with balustrades, which have uprights of various forms usually quite unlike full-scale columns. Balustrades like this also appear on some staircases.

Other classicalGlossary Term forms were taken over from Egyptian architecture, notably the obeliskGlossary Term and the pyramid. These were used as the basis for new monuments, and sometimes also decoratively, on a small scale.

ClassicalGlossary Term architecture has always accommodated ornamental sculpture, whether as grand figure groups in pediments, statues on parapets or pedestals, or relief panels of various kinds.

Other common mouldings and enrichmentsGlossary Term associated with the classicalGlossary Term styles are illustrated in the glossary.

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London, Lodge, Euston Station
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London, Taviton Street, Bloomsbury
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Westminster Bank (former)



(lit. little building): Architectural surround, consisting usually of two columns or pilasters supporting a pediment.


Formalized lintel, the lowest member of the entablature in classical architecture. Also the moulded frame of a door or window (often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave). Lugged: a moulded frame with horizontal projections at the top. Shouldered: similar, but with vertical projections in addition.

Broken pediment

A pediment with its apex omitted.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.


The carved decoration of certain classical mouldings.


Peaked external wall at the end of a double-pitch roof. Types include: Dutch gable, with curved sides crowned by a pediment (also called a Flemish gable); kneelered gable, with sides rising from projecting stones (kneelers); pedimental gable, with classical mouldings along the top; shaped gable, with curved sides; tumbled gable, with courses or brick or stonework laid at right-angles to the slope. Also (Scots) a whole end wall, of whatever shape.


Lofty pillar of square section, tapering at the top and ending pyramidically.

Open pediment

A pediment with the centre of the base omitted.


The differently formalized versions of the basic post-and-lintel (column and entablature) system in classical architecture. The main orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. They are Greek in origin but occur in Roman versions. Tuscan is a simple variant of Roman Doric. The Composite capital combines Ionic volutes with Corinthian foliage. Though each order has its own conventions of design and proportion, there are many minor variations. Superimposed orders: orders on successive levels, customarily in the upward sequence of Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite.


A formalized gable derived from that of a classical temple; also used over doors, windows etc. A broken pediment has its apex omitted. An open pediment has the centre of the base omitted. A broken pediment with double-curved sides is called a swan-neck pediment.


A porch with the roof and frequently a pediment supported by a row of columns. Porticoes are described by the number of columns, e.g. distyle (two), tetrastyle (four), hexastyle (six), octostyle (eight). A prostyle portico has columns standing free. A portico in antis has columns on the same plane as the front of the building. Blind portico: the front features of a portico applied to a wall; also called a temple front.


Dressed or otherwise emphasized stones at the angles of a building, or their imitation in brick or other materials.