Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

How to sound cool at a dinner party full of architects.

Time to update your archi-vocab

Chaz Hutton
Mar 15, 2018 · 3 min read

Back in University you made friends with just one architect, but because they seem to travel in packs, you then met the rest of them, and now suddenly 10 years down the road here you are, at a dinner party full of them, having to explain to the one person who doesn’t know you why you’re not an architect, and just what the hell you’re doing here.

You’ve thankfully managed to throw on some expensive black jeans, a crisp white shirt and a velvet jacket at least, so you’re at least blending in visually. But what are you saying? What words are you deploying here to impress these people?

Facade? Cantilever? Oh Please, these are pedestrian at best. Here’s the list of the ones you really want.

Oh, and remember, these will only work provided you say them all with complete conviction and a lot of grandiose hand gestures.


Let’s start this with a simple one: Almost everything is ‘Space’ in architecture: If you take a building and cut it in half, you’ll find they’re almost entirely empty and made up of air. It is important to call all these empty bits ‘spaces’.

This is not a “nice room” it’s a “lovely space”

This is not a living room, it’s a “communal space”


Voids are also spaces, but it’s space you can’t really stand in. Imagine jumping into a space, and if doing so would result in severe injury, then you’ve got yourself a void.

But voids are also mysterious, so talk about them like they’ve got awkward personalities.

Don’t say “This is a nice little hole”, say “Oh, I like how restrained this void is”


This is the point where one space turns into another space. ‘Wait,’ I can hear you asking, ‘like a doorway?’ You’re goddamned right ‘like a doorway’ , but now that you know archi-speak you’re going to call it a Threshold.

Hence, you should always peer through a doorway while saying “Oh I just love this threshold” (don’t forget those hand gestures either)

Ephemeral or Ethereal.

It doesn’t matter which one of these you use, because nobody really cares what they actually mean. I’d suggest just picking one, throwing in a suffix and using it to describe whatever you happen to be looking at.

“Oh, I just love the Ephemerality of this space”

Everyone will nod in agreement, too unsure to bother questioning you.


Massing is just shapes in relation to other shapes. Are there shapes? Do they look good together? Excellent! Now you can gesture towards a building and say something like

“Oooh, I just love this massing”

Basically you’re just saying you like the shape of shapes, but making it sound a lot more clever.


If ‘facade’ was the Chardonnay in the 80’s, then ‘vernacular’ is whatever it is everyone’s drinking now. If a building looks like another building you’ve seen before then that’s pretty much its vernacular. Now you can just walk around pointing at buildings and informing anyone that cares to listen that you “really love that vernacular” — while that will feel like you’re sexually objectifying the building, all the architects will at least be very impressed.


To literally wrap this list up is Connection, this is the glue for your new-found archi-vocabulary. Simply take two of your new words and combine them like so for maximum effect:

“Oh, I just love this connection between the space and the massing.”

Anyone who’s actually listening to you will know you just said you love walls, but you shouldn’t worry about that, because it’s a dinner party full of architects, and nobody’s listening to anyone.

Chaz Hutton

Written by

I write stuff, draw stuff, design stuff, build stuff.

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