Want to know your echinus from your abacus?

May 11, 2009

by Sandy Ikeda

As a result of taking “Creative Cities in History” at NYU I’ve a renewed interest in architecture. I picked up Achitecture: Elements, Materials, Form by Francesca Prina and have found it very useful as a source of basic vocabulary and concepts.

I can now tell a capital from an entablature, a column from a pillar, and a model from a rendering, each of which is treated in its own, short chapter. The text is concise accompanied by many photos with brief captions that, except for an occasional misdirected arrow, helpfully illustrate and explain.

One of the problems of this kind of field guide, intended I guess for someone with some basic knowledge of architecture, is that some of the captions are quite cryptic. Example:

The Doric capital is distinguished by a circular, expanded echinus and a thick, square abucus. The entablature bears a frieze composed of metopes and triglyphs.

However, with a little digging and skipping around one can decipher passages such as this. Unfortunately, the glossary at the back of the book is not very extensive (though it does contain entries for “metope” and “triglyph”). But, for its size (a sturdy paperback at 376 pages) it’s very handy indeed!

2 Responses to “Want to know your echinus from your abacus?”

  1. gcallah Says:

    My echinus is quite swollen right now, but I’m seeing someone for it.

  2. Bill Stepp Says:

    The reviews at Amazon of “Architecture for Dummies” are pretty critical, so maybe this is a better bet. Haven’t checked “The Idiot’s Guide to Architecture.”
    Hey, where’s “Austrian Economics for Dummies”?


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