Architectural Nomenclature, or "When a Bond is Not a Blonde"

My educational background is primarily in engineering, however during recent work on a National Park Service Historic Preservation Certification Application, I found myself in the position of having to assist with creating an architectural description of the building we were creating the application for. Through the single architecture class that I have taken, along with fair amount of reading about historic preservation, I have picked up a limited architectural lexicon via immersion, however it is far from complete. Greg Donofrio and Meghan Elliott both have architectural backgrounds, and have been immensely helpful in assisting me with terminology.

Photo of flemish bond brickwork from The National Builder vol 63, July 1920.

Photo of flemish bond brickwork from The National Builder vol 63, July 1920.

Unfortunately, my limited architectural vocabulary has led to some slightly embarrassing, if not somewhat amusing mix-ups. When discussing the description of a brick facade, Greg asked me to verify the use of a “Flemish bond” in the main coursework. For some reason I misread “bond” as “blonde,” and thought that Greg was referring to decorative horizontal bands of buff brick. After a couple of responses back and forth (which I think I confused both of us), I realized my mistake. When I mentioned this later in a meeting, it was suggested that “Flemish Blonde” sounded like a good beer. I like to homebrew, so when I have the time I’m thinking of making a commemorative batch.

The upside of this incident is that it inspired Meghan to acquire a set of reference books on architectural nomenclature for our office. We now have nine books in the architectural dictionary library, from the 1500+ page, three volume set of “Sturgis’ Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture and Building” by Sturgis et. al., to the short and succinct “Identifying American Architecture” by John Blumenson. With these books to refer to, I should be able to create better architectural descriptions, and (hopefully) avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.

PVN Staff