Picture Dictionaries for Architecture and Design

Learn About Architecture Through Photos and Drawings

A series of cubes are stacked off-center to form Santiago Calatrava's Turning Torso in Sweden
Turning Torso is a skyscraper in Sweden by Santiago Calatrava. Its height is from a series of cubes. Photo by John Freeman/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

A picture is worth a thousand words, so we've created some online picture dictionaries packed with photos. What better way to illustrate important ideas in architecture and housing design? Find out the name of an interesting roof, discover the history of an unusual column, and learn to recognize historic periods in architecture. Here's your starting point.

Historic Periods and Styles

Gothic Revival style Top of the Tribune Tower
Iconic Gothic Revival Style Top of the Tribune Tower. Photo by Angelo Hornak / Corbis Historical / Getty Images (cropped)

What do we mean when we call a building Gothic or Neo-Gothic? Baroque or Classical? Historians give everything a name eventually, and some may surprise you. Use this picture dictionary to identify the important features of architectural styles from ancient (and even prehistoric times) to modern.

Modern Architecture

Curving Computer-designed Parametricism of Zaha Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Centre, 2012, Baku, Azerbaijan
Modernism's New Form Parametricism: Zaha Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Centre opened 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images Sport Collection/Getty Images

Do you know your -isms? These photos illustrate important vocabulary for discussing modern architecture. See pictures for Modernism, Postmodernism, Structuralism, Formalism, Brutalism, and more. And, as computer-aided design allows shapes and forms never thought possible, what will we call the newest -ism in architecture? Some people suggest it's parametricism.

Column Styles & Types

Corinthian-Like Composite Columns and Arches
Corinthian-Like Composite Columns and Arches. Photo by Michael Interisano/Design Pics Collection/Getty Images

An architectural column does so much more than hold up a roof. Since Ancient Greece, the temple column has made a statement to the gods. Browse this picture dictionary to find column types, column styles, and column designs through the centuries. History may give you ideas for your own home. What does a column say about you?

Roof Styles

The John Teller House is a Dutch Colonial home in Schenectady, NY
The John Teller House is a Dutch Colonial home in the Stockade neighborhood of Schenectady, NY. The home was built in about 1740. Photo © Jackie Craven

Like all of architecture, a roof has a shape and is covered with a choice of materials. Often the shape of the roof dictates the materials used. For example, a green roof may look silly on a Dutch colonial's gambrel style roof. The shape of the roof is one of the most important clues to a building's architectural style. Find out about roofing styles and learn roofing terminology in this illustrated guide.

House Styles

Bungalow with Shed Dormer
Bungalow with Shed Dormer. Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images (cropped)

More than 50 photo descriptions will help you learn about house styles and housing types in North America. See photos of Bungalows, Cape Cod houses, Queen Anne houses, and other popular house styles. By thinking about the different house styles, you learn about the history of America—where do people live? what materials are indigenous to different parts of the country? how did the Industrial Revolution affect building and architecture?

Victorian Architecture

Italianate Lewis House in Upstate New York.
Italianate Lewis House in Upstate New York. Photo of Italianate Style House © Jackie Craven

From 1840 to 1900 North America experienced quite a building boom. This easy-to-browse list guides you through the many different house styles built during the Victorian era, including the Queen Anne, Italianate, and Gothic Revival. Drill down and follow the links for further exploration.


The Shanghai World Financial Centre is a soaring glass skyscraper with a distinctive opening at the top
The Shanghai World Financial Centre is a soaring glass skyscraper with a distinctive opening at the top. Photo by China Photos/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Since the Chicago school's invention of the skyscraper in 19th century, these tall buildings have been, well, going up all over the world. From Shanghai in the East to New York City in the West, skyscrapers are BIG business.

Great American Mansions

Emlen Physick House, 1878, "Stick Style" by architect Frank Furness, Cape May, New Jersey
Emlen Physick House, 1878, "Stick Style" by architect Frank Furness, Cape May, New Jersey. Photo LC-DIG-highsm-15153 by Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LOC, Prints and Photographs Division

Looking at some of the grand houses and estates across America gives us a better idea how certain architects influenced the wealthy, and, in turn, may have had an impact on the designs of our more humble abodes. Great American mansions tell a special chapter in the history of the United States.

Funny Pictures of Weird Buildings

Office building for Longaberger Company, shaped like a wooden basket
Headquarters of Longaberger in Ohio, United States of America. Photo ©Barry Haynes, Khaibitnetjer Wikimedia Com, Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Unported

If your company makes baskets, what should your company headquarters look like? How about a large basket? Taking a quick tour of the buildings in this photo gallery gives us a sense of architecture's range. Buildings can be anything, from elephants to binoculars.

Antoni Gaudi, Art and Architecture Portfolio

Gaudi-design roof with tiles of the Casa Batllo in Barcelona.
Gaudi-design roof with tiles of the Casa Batllo in Barcelona. Photo by Guy Vanderelst/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Talk about roof styles—some architects make up their own rules. Such is the case with the Spanish modernist Antoni Gaudi. We have profiles of over 100 architects, and we've included portfolios for many of them. Gaudi is always a favorite, perhaps because of his colorful inventions that defy time and space. Whet your appetite for design with these selections from Gaudi's life work.

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Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Picture Dictionaries for Architecture and Design." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/picture-dictionaries-for-architecture-and-design-177803. Craven, Jackie. (2021, February 16). Picture Dictionaries for Architecture and Design. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/picture-dictionaries-for-architecture-and-design-177803 Craven, Jackie. "Picture Dictionaries for Architecture and Design." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/picture-dictionaries-for-architecture-and-design-177803 (accessed April 1, 2023).