A Letter from Author Francis D.K. Ching
|Author Francis D.K. Ching|
The idea for a visual dictionary of architecture evolved slowly over a number of years as I taught in the design studio, read books and articles, and confronted terms that were either new to me, were being used in sometimes contradictory ways, or simply tossed out with the assumption that everyone knew what they meant. And so I often asked myself what did these terms really mean?
Of course, there were already general dictionaries that supplied these meanings if one bothered to look them up, and for more discipline-specific terms, there were architectural, historical, and construction dictionaries available. But few had more than a smattering of illustrations. And since architecture is such a visual art, I believed there was a need for a truly visual dictionary. The few visual dictionaries that were available simply named various things and their constituent parts but neglected to supply definitions and meanings. So there was this void to be filled.
The initial phase of the project, of course, consisted of gathering essential architectural terms and their definitions from various sources. For many, I had to reference textbooks to more fully understand the meaning of a term and then to compose a concise yet accurate definition. At times, defining one term required including other terms embedded in the definition. This led to a natural nesting of terms into sets.
As I continued to compile terms and thought about the project, it became clear that I wanted to not only properly define architectural terms but also gather them in a way that related the terms to each other in a logical and hierarchical way, using both illustrations as well as relative positioning on a page to convey these relationships. So then the truly challenging and fun part of the project was to see how I could organize the terms in such a way that their groupings into sections and subsections made sense.
To do this, I started with fairly obvious divisions, such as design and structures. Once the fundamental term was defined, I then arranged related terms in a hierarchical fashion. For example, design can be defined both as a process and a product, which led to two different sections. In the case of structures, I began with the basic idea of a structure and related concepts that applied to all structures, regardless of material or scale. The second level of terms began with basic types of structural elements, such as arches and beams, and structural systems, such as frames and plate structures, each of which deserved its own section.
Historical terms created its own set of problems regarding inclusion and proper placement. While some terms may be considered obsolete, they remained, in my view, useful as points of reference or retained a certain charm.
Once I had identified the major sections of the dictionary and assigned each term to one of the sections, I imported them into Pagemaker and began laying out the terms and definitions on each page according to their relationships to each other.
I then printed the page out and laid tracing paper over the page and roughed out ideas for illustrations. In many cases, this necessitated moving some of the terms and their definitions around. I then did the final drawings for each page on a single sheet with leader lines and arrows. After these sheets of drawings were scanned, I placed the scans in Pagemaker and adjusted the terms and definitions further to fit. In this second edition, I used Photoshop to eliminate the leader lines and arrows and used the lines and arrows within InDesign. This gave me some leeway in the placement of the images.
It has been a pleasure to develop this second edition and I hope the spirit and flavor of the first edition endures the inclusion of current technology.
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