Witold Rybczynski Attempts to Decipher Architect-Speak

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By Steve Delahoyde

We’re still recovering a bit from the record-setting blizzard we got here over the last couple of days, which certainly didn’t help us get over this flu going around, so this writer is going to start gently this morning. Slate‘s resident architecture critic, Witold Rybczynski, has decided to weigh in on the way architects speak to one another, using lots of highfalutin, five dollar words, in an essay he’s entitled, “A Discourse on Emerging Tectonic Visualization and the Effects of Materiality on Praxis” or as the subheading says, “…an essay on the ridiculous way architects talk.” It’s a fun piece, quickly running through the history of American architecture speak, ranging from the days when “fenestration” meant “window,” to the modernist period when less-was-more, to our current state, which Rybczynski believes is just as jargon-heavy as ever, thanks to universities teaching architecture “as a theoretical discipline.” He provides a very funny, short translation guide for the words currently in large circulation, which should come in handy the next time you run into somewhere wearing a black turtle neck and eyeglasses that are much cooler than yours.