Friday, March 12, 2010

Architect / English Dictionary

Every profession has its own language. I guess it helps to add specificity to their work, but it certainly helps keep outsiders in the dark. Medicine is probably the worst example of this with its reliance on all those Latin root words. The reason I need a padded booth in a restaurant is coccydinia which translates to tailbone pain or a pain in my a__. I knew that going in, but now I can discuss my coccydinia in the aforementioned restaurant booth without being kicked out on my aforementioned painful tailbone.

Lawyers are no better and when you get paid by the hour, repetitious use of multi-syllabic words means you have more money in your pocket to tip your caddy at the country club, whether you actually do or not.

The hallowed halls of Academia are held together with the mortar of words and phrases that require the studious reader and listener to have a close relationship to long deceased people named Roget and Webster.

Architects, in turn, never want to be left out of the conversation, so they have their own take on this already difficult language we broadly categorize as English. Therefore, in an effort to make the upcoming final Campus Master Plan report more decipherable to us poor laypeople, I offer the following ever-so-incomplete translation guide:

When they say “Wayfinding” – we say “Getting around using maps, signs, and landmarks.”

When they say “Hardscape” – we say “Brick” or “Concrete” (as opposed to "landscape")

When they say “Something ‘wants to be’ something else” – we say “You’ve got to be kidding” (as if an inanimate object can really sense and feel and have opinions.)

When they say “Road diet” (and, yes, that is the way they talk, even in public) – we say “Narrowing the street”

When they say “Swale” – we say “That ditch that collects rainwater runoff”

When they say “AllĂ©e” – we say (after we have politely stifled our gag reflexes) “Passage or row between trees”

When they say “Streetscape” – we say “What the street and sidewalks look like” (as opposed to "hardscape" or "landscape")

When they say “Adaptive reuse” – we say “Remodel”

When they say “Vehicular conflicts” – we say “Car accidents”

When they say “Pedestrian conflicts” – we say “People getting hit by those cars”

When they (politely) say “Desire lines”, we say – “Cow paths people create in the grass when sidewalks are not the absolutely shortest path from Point A to Point B”.

and

When they (politely) say “Mid-block crossings” – we say “Jay-walking”.

Question of the Week: Any architect-speak that you want to add to our little lexicon?

Until next Friday…

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