Symbols in Architecture

 Architectural symbols are there so that the people who build the amazing structures we see around the world will have a universal language with which to communicate among one another. Regardless of what language they actually speak, multi-national teams of architects, engineers and skilled construction professionals are able to understand and transform a building plan from its paper version to a real vibrant architectural marvel. 

There are hundreds of architectural symbols that can be found in any single building plan, and accurate interpretation can only be done by experienced professionals. Architecture symbols are categorized according to function (e.g. electrical, piping and plumbing, material, structural, floorplan etc).


Switch (with Pilot Light)

A switch with a pilot light or an indicator light activates the pilot light when switch is turned ON. Conversely, the pilot is OFF when the switch is OFF. This is useful when the switch is connected to a light bulb or an electrical appliance/equipment located elsewhere is not immediately visible. 

Switch symbol

Time Switch

A time/timer switch is a device with a built-in electronic/mechanical timer that turns an electrical circuit ON and OFF at certain times of the day. This device is useful for energy conservation or as a security feature when home owners are away. It deters would-be burglars from attempting to break-in because it appears as though somebody is home turning lights on and off. 

Switch symbol


Switch (2-pole)

A 2-pole switch is typically used for receptacles or appliances that use 240 volts. It switches 2 hot legs of power instead of just the one for single-pole switches and comes with a ground terminal.

Switch symbol (Two Poles)


Switch (with dimmer)

A dimmer switch allows the level of light to be adjusted, instead of simply having it always just OFF or ON.  It comes in knob models that can be turned from the OFF position to the fully-lit position, or lever models that slide from one end to the other. 

Switch symbol with dimmer



Standard door symbols are not hard to make out in floor plans even for the untrained eye. They are however differentiated by the direction they open to and some are quite easy to overlook, like the symbol for a bifold door.

Windows and Doors Symbols


Water Closets

Water closet symbols indicate a toilet. Modern building designs very likely contain water closet symbols in varying shapes or designs. 

 Water closets Symbols

‘P’ Trap

The ‘P’ Trap is one of several types of wastewater traps used in residential plumbing to capture sewer gases and prevent them from entering the house through the drains found in kitchen sinks and showers. 

P-Trap Symbols

On this Page: Armenian    Church    Middle Eastern    Roman   


Akan Architecture Symbols
Akan architecture is not only elaborate in terms of function and building technology. It also presents, as a reflection of the people and their spirit of independence, a variety of forms and design principles that encode expressive messages which continue to astonish foreign observers.


Architectural Blossoming of the Lotus
The temples of the Bahai Faith are well known for their architectural splendor, and the Temple constructed in Delhi is a continuation of this rich tradition.


Buddhist Art and Architecture
Borobodur Temple, The Hill of Sanchi, The Buddha Image, Symbolism of the Stupa/Chorten, Hand Mudras, Symbolism of the Mandala, Tibetan Buddhist Art, Tibetan Thangka Paintings.


Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
Images, history, and architectural analysis of more than 300 buildings of Buffalo's historic architecture.


Buddhist Art -
Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BC, and thereafter evolved by contact with other cultures as it spread throughout Asia and the world.


Ancient Symbols in Architecture by Balwant Saini
Symbols have always been an important part of an architect's design vocabulary. In recent years some architects in India have used ancient symbols such as Vedic mandalas as a basis for planning and design of buildings. Let us examine the significance of symbols in Hindu temple architecture and see how valid they are in a secular society.


A Breathing of Doors - Brief Essays on Symbolism
The doorknob represents the limited grasp of thought and choice, guided by curiosity and wonder to find light and darkness The life-door is a door going inward and outward at the same time, and either path may have light and darkness.
Art, Mysticism, and Perpetual Motion   


(PDF) - Plan Symbols
Architectural Symbols.


Architect-Symbols on Blueprints
The architect-symbols actually include electrical, plumbing, and wall framing, but for simplicity sake, we'll say that the architectural designs are for the things like doors, kitchen cabinets, walls, stairs, and appliance measurements.


Architecture and Development of New York City
So many skyscrapers began to appear in New York that by the early years of the twentieth century these buildings become the symbol of New York.


Architecture, Design and Symbols
The number of sacred monuments (churches, monasteries, chapels, shrines and Khachkars, or stone crosses) is truly mind-boggling. There are more than 5,000 churches, monasteries and chapels in Armenia, and over 20,000 Khachkars in the small territory of the Republic alone.


Ancient Mesoamerican Architecture
Pictures of various ancient Mayan sites, such as PalenqueTikal, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Bonampak, Yaxchilan, etc.




Armenian Architecture


Architecture, First of the Arts
Of all the arts, architecture is supreme. For the general public used to visiting museums filled with paintings of compact size easily hung by the hundreds, the priority given to architecture in the art world may seem strange.


Sacred Geometry and Armenian Architecture
Almost literally, geometry meant contact with the gods. It was considered a way of imitating the structure where the sun (probably the first god) and the moon (probably the second god) governed the natural order-- early man believed if he could "map" the universe, he would be able to predict the whims of gods, who sent punishing droughts, floods and pestilence on the land around him.
Symbolic Forms in Armenian Design   




Church Architecture


Symbolism in Incarnation Church's Architecture
Our house of worship, The Church of the Incarnation, abounds with these early symbols of our faith. Many of their origins are lost in the mists of time, but all possess a power to recall to our minds the many wonderful mysteries of our religion.


Symbols in Christian Art & Architecture: Crosses
A resource for learning the sign language of faith.


Symbolism in Church Architecture
The mediaeval cathedrals and churches of Europe admirably exhibit a combination of art with craft.




Middle Eastern Architecture


Symbols and Signs in Islamic Architecture
Architecture as Symbol and Self-Identity. PDF.


Eclipse 1999 - Images of Iran
Eclipse images in Iran


Military Architecture of Ancient Egypt
For most of Egypt's ancient history, it was a land of fortifications. To some extent, all Egyptian ceremonial buildings, including temples and even funerary complexes, were intended to function as bastions of order and harmony, requiring at least symbolic fortifications to protect them from the surrounding chaos.




Roman Architecture


Geometry in Art and Architecture
Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple...
Ad Quadratum, the Sacred Cut, & Roman Architecture   


Images of Roman Art and Architecture
She-Wolf of the Capitoline, Cinerary effigy-urn, Temple of Portunus (Fortuna Virilis), Ara Pacis Augustae, Villa of Livia, Maison Carree, Pont-du-Gard aqueduct, Temple of Vesta (Forum Romanorum), House of the Vestals (Forum Romanorum), Arch of Titus, Trajan's Column, and much more.