An Inside Look at Architect Lingo, Part III

Our love for Modernist architecture at Optima is a language all its own — in more ways than one. As we discuss all things design, keywords in architect lingo begin to permeate the vocabulary of everyone in our offices, from architects to property managers and beyond. In honor of the passion and language we all share (and in follow up to Part I and Part II), today we’re taking another inside look at words you might hear in a day at Optima. 


Clerestory refers to the windows in a structure. Also known as a clearstory or an overstory, a clerestory is any high section of the wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose of these windows (and their altitude) is to invite in sunlight, fresh air or both. 

Historically, clerestories were included in large structures such as cathedrals with expansive central halls. While the technique is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt, and carried over to the Byzantine era, this architectural detail is most widely seen in architecture from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Clerestories are also employed in many transportation vehicles, such as train cars, to provide additional lighting, ventilation and headroom. 

At Optima, clerestory windows prove an invaluable tool when creating open-floor-plan Modernist buildings. Employing windows at multiple levels, we’re able to ensure spaces that are flooded with light and that exude an open, airy atmosphere. 

Rectilinear design at Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Rectilinear design at Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Stripped back to its most basic definition, rectilinear is an adjective referring to anything in a straight line. In architecture, however, a rectilinear form then becomes anything that consists of only straight lines. Rectilinear design creates a sense of order and structure within design, and therefore plays well into the Modernist philosophy.

That being said, originally rectilinear style originates from the third historical division of English Gothic architecture (also called The Perpendicular Gothic, or simply, perpendicular). Contradictory to paired back rectilinear form in Modernist design, the rectilinear style of Gothic architecture includes lavish, ornate geometric detailing. 

In our own structures, we often employ rectilinear design as an expression of our Modernist sensibilities. The bold, simple geometry of straight lines allows us to best explore ideas of form and function, creating spaces that are at once complex in thought but simple in application.

The Optima DCHGlobal Building System at Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal, in New Zealand.
The Optima DCHGlobal Building System at Whale Bay House, Optima DCHGlobal, in New Zealand.

On the Module

Modular architecture refers to the design of any system utilizing separate components that can be connected together to create one, cohesive whole. A highly flexible system, the building-blocks nature of modular architecture allows individual pieces to be easily replaced or repurposed as needed. Building on the module, then, refers to the process of creating a structure out of a module system.

Optima President and Principal Architect, David Hovey Jr., designed his own modular system: the Optima DCHGlobal Building System, a patented structural system that is based on 7’-0” x 7’-0” horizontal module, a 1’-3” vertical module, and a 21’-0” x 21’-0” structural bay with connectors, beams, and column components that are joined together with tension controlled bolts to create a 3-dimensional structural grid allowing for design flexibility in both vertical and horizontal directions. You can see the system employed throughout our Optima DCHGlobal projects, Relic Rock, Arizona Courtyard House and Whale Bay House.

An Inside Look at Architect Lingo, Part II

Our team is joined together by a love of exceptional design so naturally, design is our shared language. From property managers to accountants to architects, we’ve all come to know and love the architect lingo that helps us communicate our passions, our creations and our vision. In celebration — and in follow up to February’s blog we’re sharing Part II of our inside look at architect lingo.

Juxtaposed facade and surrounding landscape at Optima Sonoran Village
Juxtaposed facade and surrounding landscape at Optima Sonoran Village.


Juxtaposition refers to the fact of two things being placed close together with a contrasting effect. It’s the intentional creation of, and analysis of, a relationship that brings about exciting new realizations and discoveries, bringing added layers of meaning to each individual object and their relation to one another. 

In architecture, the use of juxtaposition becomes particularly striking, manifesting on a large scale in entire building facades. With everything we build at Optima, we consider the relationship — or juxtaposition — between the built and natural environment. How does each entity influence and illuminate the other to positive effect? In our desert dwellings, juxtaposition occurs between the organic beauty of the arid landscape and the bold, Modernist facade of the houses, built in concrete and glass to intentionally illuminate their counterpart. 

Looking out the windows at Optima Biltmore Towers
Looking out the windows at Optima Biltmore Towers.


Derived from the Latin word fenestrae (windows), fenestration is defined as the arrangement of any holes in a building’s facade. More specifically, this usually refers to the doors and windows on the elevation of a building. 

From the most basic standpoint, fenestration allows for the entry and exit of people into and out of a structure. That being said, fenestration historically posed a challenge to architects, because poking holes in a structure can weaken its resiliency. With Modern construction and increasingly durable building hardware, architects are freed up to explore fenestration with more liberty and inventiveness, going beyond the practical to examine decorative approaches.

The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village
The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village.


Terraces originated as a series of flat areas made on a slope for cultivation purposes, but have evolved into any level or paved area next to a building. Their uses vary widely, from still being tied to agricultural practices to now being a place of leisure and pleasure. 

At Optima, our approach to the terrace is with respect to its landscaping origins we employ terraces that allow our buildings, and their residents, to live in harmony with the surrounding landscape. We see the relationship between cultivating plantlife and cultivating relaxing spaces as intrinsically related.

Stay tuned for future features on the world of architecture lingo at Optima.

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