This Glossary has been developed to support the Catalogue entries for this project. For a wider-ranging glossary visit: Looking at Buildings

Aberdeen bond

The word 'bond' describes the regular pattern in which stones or bricks are laid to make a wall. Aberdeen bond is a pattern common in N.E. Scotland, in which large rectangular blocks alternate with smaller square stones in threes, one above the other, to the same height as the larger blocks.

Colour photograph of Aberdeen bond stonework


The word comes from the Latin for a small building. It describes an architectural frame, often consisting of two columns supporting a pediment. It can be used to enclose an important feature such as a window or an inscription, giving it greater dignity.

Colour photograph of aedicule


The Aesthetic movement in late 19th-century art and design is summed up by the phrase 'art for art's sake'. Aestheticism saw art as having no practical or moral purpose, its only aim being beauty. Architecture and interior design of the Aesthetic movement was much influenced by the refined simplicity of traditional Japanese design. Among its decorative motifs were sunflowers and peacock feathers.


A passage that runs behind the high altar of a large church, linking the ends of the aisles on either side of the chancel.


A rounded or polygonal end to a room or building (usually a church).

Colour photograph of apseColour photograph of apse


In ancient Greek and Roman architecture, and their later imitations, an architrave is the decorative moulded frame of a door or window opening. The word is also used for the horizontal beam supported by a row of columns.

Colour photograph of architrave


A sharp ridge where two surfaces meet, for instance between the flutes on a Greek Doric column.

Colour photograph of Doric column showing arrises


This term occurs frequently in the job books of John Honeyman & Keppie/Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh. It seems to mean a non-specialist contractor or workman, one who carries out small jobs involving a variety of building materials.


Masonry in regular blocks with a smooth surface.

Colour photograph of ashlar masonry


An upright support for the handrail of a stair, etc. A row of balusters forms a balustrade.

Colour photograph of balusterColour photograph of balustrade


Having sides which slope inwards towards the top.

Colour photograph of windows with battered architraves


A small, open-sided structure, usually on top of a gable, where a bell is hung.

Colour photograph of bellcote


When the slope of a roof becomes less steep towards the bottom it is described as bell-cast.

Colour photograph of bell-cast roof

bolection moulding

A type of bulging, convex moulding used to cover a join between two surfaces, one of which is recessed behind the other.

Colour photograph of bolection moulding


Having corners that are cut off at an angle (e.g. bay windows).

Colour photograph of canted bay windows


The decorative top part of a column.

Colour photograph of capital


A decorative shape with curled edges, like scrolled parchment, often used as a frame for an inscription.

Colour photograph of cartouche

cat-slide roof

A roof-slope which continues in an unbroken sweep over a subsidiary part of a building, such as a single-storey extension or a dormer window.


A temporary framework used to support an arch during construction. When the keystone is put in place, the arch becomes self-supporting and the centring can be removed.


A narrow, flat strip formed by cutting away the corner where two surfaces meet, usually at an angle of forty-five degree.

Colour photograph of chamfer


The part of a medieval church at the east end containing the altar.

chapter house

A building attached to a monastery or large church, where meetings of the monks or clergy are held.

chair rail

A horizontal moulded wooden strip projecting from the wall of a room, originally to protect the plaster from damage by chair backs.


The upper part of the nave walls in a large church, rising above the aisles and pierced by large windows.

Colour photograph of clerestory


An open space enclosed by covered walks, forming part of a monastery or large church.


One of the five principal styles – or 'orders' – of ancient Roman and Greek architecture. It has a capital which combines elements of the Ionic and Corinthian.


A decorative bracket supporting a horizontal projection

Colour photograph of console

coping; coped

Coping stones are large, usually flat stones, laid along the top of a wall to protect the masonry below and throw off water.

Colour photograph of coping


A block projecting from a wall to support a load. A number of blocks, each projecting further than the one below, can be used to support a turret or an oriel window, which is then said to be 'corbelled out'.

Colour photograph of corbels


One of the five principal styles – or 'orders' – of ancient Roman and Greek architecture. It has a capital decorated with acathus leaves, and volutes at the angles.

Colour photograph of Corinthian capital


In Gothic architecture, a projection like a leaf or flower, repeated at regular intervals to decorate the edges of pinnacles, spires, canopies, etc.

Colour photograph of crocketsColour photograph of crocketed gable


Characteristic Scottish treatment of a gable in which the sloping sides take the form of steps, each step corresponding to a course of masonry.

Colour photograph of crow-stepped gables


Shaped like a cross. In a church with a cruciform plan, the nave and chancel form the upright part of the cross and the transept makes the arms.

cusp; cusping

The point formed by two intersecting curves, a feature of Gothic window tracery.

Colour photograph of cusped traceryColour photograph of cusped doorway

cyma recta (Latin)

A moulding with an S-shaped profile.

Dean of Guild Court

In Scottish burghs during the period when Mackintosh was active as an architect, the Dean of Guild Court was the public authority to which anyone intending to build had to apply for permission. The early origins of the Dean of Guild Court lie in the associations, or guilds, that arose to protect the rights and privileges of medieval traders and craftsmen. Their leaders, known as Deans, presided over courts composed of other guild members, and had legal jurisdiction over a range of disputes, including some relating to property and building. By the mid 19th century, most of their functions had been taken over by the growing machinery of local government. In Glasgow, exceptionally, the ancient Dean of Guild Court continued to function, and its powers were strengthened by the 1862 Glasgow Police Act, which decreed that anyone intending to build within the burgh had to apply for a warrant from the court. In other burghs across Scotland, however, a variety of different systems of building control had evolved by this date. To create a uniform system, the 1892 Burgh Police (Scotland) Act laid down rules for a new generation of Dean of Guild Courts with clearly defined powers. Dean of Guild Courts continued to be responsible for building control until their abolition in 1975.

The records of Dean of Guild Courts provide invaluable information about late 19th- and early 20th-century building activity in Scottish towns. The Courts' minutes give the dates when cases were considered, and the names of property owners or their agents. Drawings submitted to the Courts have in many cases survived, although they are generally restricted in the amount of detail they show: the emphasis is generally on materials, construction, drainage and sanitation, etc., and not on aesthetic matters, with which the Courts were not concerned. In the case of the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, the Court's officers carried out regular site visits to inspect buildings under construction. The records of these inspections provide an extremely detailed account of the progress of construction, which was often remarkably rapid by comparison with the 21st century.

Dean of Guild Courts only existed in Scottish burghs. In rural areas, following legislation in 1897, building control was the responsibility of County Councils until 1975.


A 19th-century term describing the middle phase of English and Scottish Gothic architecture, which emerged at the end of the 13th century and continued throughout the14th century. In the earlier part of this period, window tracery is geometric; later, it features flowing S-shaped curves. Other typical features include naturalistic foliage carving, ogee arches and complex vaulted roofs.

Diocletian window

A semicircular window with two mullions, also known as a thermal window. So called because of its use in the Roman baths – or thermae – built by the emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century AD.

Colour photograph of Diocletian window

dog-leg stair

A stair with two parallel flights between each floor, linked by a half-landing.


The earliest and simplest of the five styles – or 'orders' – of ancient Roman and Greek architecture, the others being Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

Colour photograph of Doric order


Features of a building, usually around window and door openings, which are more highly finished than the surrounding wall surface, or treated more decoratively.


A projecting moulding above a door or window, designed to throw off rainwater.

Colour photograph of dripmould

Ecole des Beaux-Arts

The Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts ('School of Fine Arts') in Paris was a prestigious state-funded international training centre for architects in the 19th century. It fostered an approach to design based on lucid, formal planning, and a scholarly understanding of the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome and the Renaissance. Many American architects studied there, as did Scots such as John Keppie.

Early English

The earliest phase of English Gothic architecture, from the end of the 12th century to the end of the 13th century. Its most typical feature is the lancet window: a tall, narrow opening with pointed arched top.


The term relates to the feudal system of land holding which existed in Scotland until 2004. Under this system, land was granted permanently to so-called 'Vassals' by 'Superiors'. A Superior could in turn be the Vassal of another Superior, and so on, the ultimate Superior being the Crown, which was the only outright owner of land. Used as a noun, feu means a holding of land under this system; as a verb, it means to grant such a holding to a feuar. Feus were granted in return for payment to the Superior of a regular fee, known as feu-duty. When feuing land, the Superior could impose permanently binding conditions on the feuar with regard to the kind of buildings to be erected.


A decorative termination.

flying buttress

An arch-like structure which transfers the lateral thrust of a stone-vaulted roof to an external buttress.

Colour photograph of flying buttress

French Renaissance

The specifically French manifestation of developments that transformed architecture across Europe in the 16th century, shaped by the revival of interest in ancient Roman architecture. In France, the richness and variety of late medieval architecture was at first combined with classical details imported from Italy, before a more sober classicism emerged in the middle of the 16th century.


Fine-grained stone that can be cut in any direction and easily carved.

Gibbs surround

James Gibbs (1682-1754), born in Aberdeen and trained in Rome, was one of the leading British architects of the 18th century. His best known work is the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. His name is used to describe a type of window or door surround which is 'banded', i.e. interrupted at regular intervals by projecting blocks.

Colour photograph of Gibbs surround

Glasgow Style

This term was already in use by 1903, when a report on the teaching of decorative arts such as embroidery, metalwork and enamelling at the Glasgow School of Art referred to 'the very interesting development known as the Glasgow style' among its students. This style was influenced by the example of Mackintosh, James Herbert McNair, Margaret Macdonald and Frances Macdonald – the Four – whose distinctive work in various media had attracted attention when shown at the Glasgow School of Art Club exhibitions in the mid 1890s. Characteristic features of the Glasgow Style were: attenuated and otherworldly female figures; a palette in which green, purple and pink were prominent; imagery derived from nature, especially plant and flower forms (in particular roses and heart-shaped leaves); and an overall tendency to linear stylisation. The work of the Four was highly individual and often challenging, but commercial imitators watered down their style and popularised it for a wider market. Echoes were to be found throughout Glasgow and beyond, in everything from stained glass to typography. These coarsened examples of the Glasgow Style should be distinguished from the outstanding work of other Glasgow practitioners, such as the book designer Talwin Morris, and the furniture and interior designer George Walton.

Gothic Revival

Gothic architecture, characterised by the use of pointed arches, traceried windows and stone-vaulted roofs, dominated much of Europe from the 12th century to the 16th century. It was superseded by styles derived from the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome, but in the 19th century many architects turned back to Gothic. They were partly attracted by its beauty and its romantic associations with the pre-industrial age; partly by its Christian symbolism; and partly by what they believed to be its 'truthfulness': the way in which its buildings clearly expressed their methods of construction and their purpose. This renewed interest in medieval architecture is known as the Gothic Revival.


In the Doric order– one of the three main classes, or 'orders', of ancient Greek temple architecture – guttae are cone-shaped decorative features carved in stone, forming part of the horizontal frieze that runs above the columns. They are thought to have originated as imitations of the wooden pegs used to secure the roof beams of temples constructed from timber.

Colour photograph of Doric orderColour photograph of guttaeColour photograph of guttae

harling (Scots)

A weather-resistant exterior finish consisting of aggregate (small stones or gravel) mixed with a binding material (traditionally sand and lime). The wet mixture is dashed onto masonry walls. The word does not appear in the job books of John Honeyman & Keppie/Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, where the term 'roughcast' is used instead.


A hipped roof has a slope instead of a gable.


The imitation of historical styles and forms.


A funnel-like container at the top of a downspout, into which smaller pipes discharge water. Also known as a rainwater-head.

Colour photograph of hopperhead

hydraulic lime mortar

Mortar made with lime that hardens by reacting with water.


One of the five principal styles – or 'orders' – of ancient Roman and Greek architecture, more decorative than the Doric and Tuscan but less rich than the Corinthian and Composite. Its most distinctive feature is a capital with a pair of spiral volutes.

Colour photograph of Ionic orderColour photograph of Ionic capital


An upper storey of a building is described as jettied when it projects in front of the storey below.


A window opening, narrow in proportion to its height, with a pointed arched top.

Colour photograph of lancet


1. A glazed structure rising from the roof of a building, admitting light to the interior; or,2. A decorative, open-sided structure crowning a dome.

Colour photograph of lanternColour photograph of dome with lantern


The site of a quarry near Dumfries supplying red sandstone. It was used extensively in Glasgow from c. 1890.

B/W Full-page advertisement for Baird & Stevenson's Locharbriggs Quarry, reproduced in 'Glasgow International Exhibition catalogue', 1901, p. xvi


Originally an opening between the corbels supporting the projecting battlements of a castle, from which missiles could be dropped on the enemy below. The word also describes the corbels hemselves, together with the masonry which they support. In the Gothic Revival, machicolations were decorative rather than defensive.

Colour photograph of machicolations

Mansard roof

A roof in which the slopes are broken into two planes, the lower one almost vertical and usually lit by dormer windows. Named after the French architect François Mansart (1598-1666).

Colour photograph of mansard roof


A professional who prepares schedules of the materials required for a building and calculates the value of work undertaken by the various contractors.


An outpost established by a church to provide religious and social activities, often in a new or developing district or an area of social deprivation.


In medieval and later architecture, large windows can be divided into smaller areas of glazing by vertical stone bars (mullions) and horizontal ones (transoms).

Colour photograph of mullioned-and-transomed window


A late 18th- and early 19th-century style derived from the close study of ancient Greek and Roman architecture.

newel post

Decorative post at the end of a flight of stairs, supporting the handrail.


An arch composed of two opposing s-shaped curves, concave at the top and convex at the bottom. If the curves are convex at the top and concave at the bottom, it is called a reverse ogee.

Colour photograph of ogee archColour photograph of ogee lintelColour photograph of ogee lintelColour photograph of reverse ogee


A projecting window on an upper floor.

Colour photograph of oriel


In Italian Renaissance architecture, a palazzo is a large and imposing urban building of square outline with regular windows and one principal entrance. It has living accommodation on the upper floors, and sometimes shops on the ground floor. Such buildings were widely imitated by 19th-century British architects when designing office blocks, schools, town halls, banks, etc.


A triangular, gable-like feature above the portico of an ancient Greek or Roman temple. In later periods, pediments are used decoratively above doors and windows, sometimes curved or twisted into more complex shapes. An open pediment is not enclosed by mouldings along its lower, horizontal edge. A broken pediment has no apex.

Colour photograph of pedimentColour photograph of pediments over windowsColour photograph of pediments over windows


The last phase of English Gothic architecture, originating in the first half of the 14th century and reaching its climax in the early 16th century. Typical features include large windows, flattened arches, fan-vaulting and an emphasis on soaring vertical lines. Outstanding Perpendicular churches are found in East Anglia and Somerset, a legacy of the great wealth generated there by the wool trade. Mackintosh made sketching tours in these areas.


A flat, vertical strip of masonry attached to a wall, with a base and capital: a two-dimensional version of a column.

Colour photograph of pilasters


Columns supporting a roof, usually sheltering the entrance to a building.

Colour photograph of portico


Roof timber supporting common rafters


A small square or diamond-shaped piece of glass, held together with others by strips of lead to make a window.


One of the stones, alternately long and short, that make up the corner of a building or that form the sides of a window or doorway. They are often decoratively treated, and emphasised by making them project from the wall surface.

Colour photograph of quoinsColour photograph of quoins

relieving arch

An arch embedded in the wall above the lintel of a window or door. It relieves pressure on the lintel by spreading the weight of the masonry above.

Colour photograph of relieving arch


A decorative panel or screen above and behind an altar.


The vertical side of an opening in a wall. When the opening is bigger on one side of the wall than the other, the reveals are described as splayed.


The style of Medieval European architecture that gave way to Gothic at the end of the 12th century. Its charactersitic features are semicircular arches, sturdy cylindrical columns, and massive walls with relatively small openings.

rood beam

A beam marking the division between the nave or public part of a church and the chancel containing the altar. In medieval churches, such beams supported a painted or carved representation of the crucified Christ, called a 'rood' in Old English.


John Ruskin (1819-1900), English art critic and writer on social matters, influenced the Gothic Revival in Britain by encouraging architects to study medieval Italian buildings.

Scottish Baronial

The architecture of 16th- and 17th-century Scottish fortified houses, with their crow-stepped gables and conical-roofed corner turrets, is sometimes described as Scottish Baronial. Mackintosh himself used the term in this way, but it is more often used to describe Victorian buildings that imitate these features.

Colour photograph of Crathes CastleColour photograph of 19th-century Scottish baronial building

Scottish Renaissance

The specifically Scottish manifestation of developments that transformed architecture across Europe in the 16th century, shaped by the revival of interest in ancient Roman architecture. The Scottish Renaissance began in the 1530s, with royal building projects at Falkland Palace and Stirling Castle that were influenced by direct contact with the latest developments in France. They include classical columns and ornamental carving. By the early 17th century, in buildings such as George Heriot's Hospital in Edinburgh, Scottish architects were using decorative details derived from European pattern books.


A group of seats, usually three, situated in the chancel of a church for the use of the clergy. They are generally built into the wall, and have elaborate canopies.


A sloping ledge, marking the points at which a wall or buttress steps back as it rises.

Colour photograph of buttresses with set-offs


A method of preserving stone by painting the surface with liquid containing silica.

skewputt (Scots)

A stone at the corner of a gable, specially shaped to support the coping stones built higher up and at an angle to it. Also known as a skew corbel.

Colour photograph of skewput, Iona Abbey

snecked (Scots)

Snecks are small pieces of stone used to fill the gaps between larger stones in a wall. 'Snecked rubble' describes masonry that has a mixture of squared stones of different sizes.

Colour photograph of snecked rubble masonry


1. The triangular space between two adjoining arches; 2. In a multi-storey building, the area between the lintel of a window and the cill of the window above.

Colour photograph of spandrel

spine corridor

A corridor forming the main route through a building, with rooms branching off on each side.


A surface that meets another surface at an oblique angle.


A strong upright post, used to support a load or strengthen a wall.


Carved, moulded or painted decoration made up of curving and interlacing bands, like leather straps, widely used in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Colour photograph of strap workColour photograph of strap work parapetColour photograph of 17th-century strapwork


A horizontal projecting band or moulding on the outside of a building, often corresponding to a division between two storeys.

Colour photograph of string courses

stugged (Scots)

Of stone: roughly dressed with a chisel, producing a pitted surface.

Colour photograph of stone with stugged finish.

tempietto, pl. tempietti

Italian for 'little temple'. Used to describe a small circular structure surrounded by columns, often with a dome.

Colour photograph of Dugald Stewart's monument, EdinburghColour photograph of Kilmore and Oban parish church tower

tie beam

The main horizontal member in a roof truss, forming a triangle with the rafters.


A subsidiary part of a long building, which cuts across the main axis at right angles. In a church, the transept usually marks the division between nave and chancel; in large churches, there may be more than one transept.


In a large church or cathedral, a passage or gallery above the main nave arcade and below the clerestory, with arched openings looking into the church.


A work of art, usually a painting or relief sculpture, consisting of three connected panels.


The simple, traditional architecture of a particular place or region. Vernacular architecture arises naturally from factors such as locally available building materials, traditional skills and prevailing climate, rather than from theories about style or from imitating the architecture of other periods or cultures.


A spiral shape, particularly as used at the angles of Ionic and Corinthian capitals.

Colour photograph of capital with volutes


One of the wedge-shaped stones that make up an arch or lintel.

Colour photograph of voussoirsColour photograph of voussoirs