Volume (architettura)


New Member
Hi everybody.
I'm having a hard time translating the concept of "volume" in an architectural\engineering context.
Let me explain the issue: as we know, both in Italian and in English, volume is a property of an object, and not an object in itself (unless we are talking about books, of course). Unfortunately, Italian architects and engineers decided that "volume" could also be an object. Let me add a couple of sentences of the translation I'm currently working on, as an example:

- Piccoli volumi di varia dimensione si incastrano, quindi, liberamente all’interno dell’imponente struttura esistente...
- Il prodotto finale consiste di un volume in cui si alternano i vuoti (gli spazi di relazione sociale) e i pieni (le abitazioni)...

There are countless examples like these two in this particular text. In some cases I'm able to solve the problem by specifying the exact object the text is referring to (a housing unit, a prefabricated building etc...), but in some other cases "volume" is more of an abstract concept used to define a spatial entity of a given volume and shape. Is there any way a native speaker could understand this idea when reading the word "volume"? Or is there any alternative way to translate this expression other than a case-by-case analysis of the sentence (possibly maintaining the impact of the original word)?
  • What about the word "space"? You may have to go through it on a case by case basis, but in these two examples could you write
    Small spaces of various sizes are built in...
    The final product is made up of one large space alternating between empty ones (areas of social interaction...
    Thanks for the swift answer rrose!
    Believe it or not, I had the same idea for the second sentence. A wide space including open\empty areas and enclosed\full areas (more or less). The problem is that the sentence is supposed to give the idea of a solid object, or at least that is the issue according to an architect I have spoken to about my predicament.
    In the first case, the context is quite different: we are talking about housing units that are pigeonholed inside a preexisting industrial structure: the volume is then an object to be inserted inside a space, and I don't think I could refer to such object as a space itself. I might opt for the word "unit" (it would create a repetition with the end of the previous sentence, that's why I was trying to avoid it) or a generic "object".
    So you too think that "volume" would be a poor translation?
    In AE, I would have to agree with rrose that the term "space/spaces" is used in English almost exactly the same as the Italian use of "volume/volumi." So, that would be a good translation for you.

    So you too think that "volume" would be a poor translation?
    Yes I think it would only be understood with difficulty. That being said I couldn't swear to it, as the language used in very specific areas, like architecture, might in fact have evolved in ways I'm not aware of. But unless there are any architects in the house... (Lorena??)
    Unit might a good choice.

    And forgot to say benvenuto!
    Thanks, both of you! I will go with "space" when "volume" is meant as a more abstract concept, and try to find an alternative term when it's referring to a specific object. Your help has been invaluable!
    As a matter of fact, rrose, I only found "volume" in an English context on translated Italian websites.

    Thanks for the welcome, as well! I've been leeching this forum for years, apparently all my doubts had already been solved before today ;)

    I am not an architect but I agree with rrose that our use of the term "space" is very, very similar to the Italian term "volume". While we don't have the same mindset of space being a solid object, the term "space" is used in a manner very similar to how you describe the Italian use of "volume."

    So, this is just my opinion but if you translate the Italian "volume" as the English word "space" and send the document to English speaking architects (at least AE ones!) they will understand the concept. Which, I would imagine, is the primary goal of a good translation!

    I don't understand what's the problem with using "volume". I think I would use it, as in an architectural or engineering context it would be understood, I guess.
    My opinion.
    Thanks again to everyone for their answer! I went with space in most of the cases, it worked just fine!
    Lorena, the problem has been thoroughly explained: volume is a property of an object and not an object in itself. In architettese it's perfectly understandable (and in Italian, generally, we tend to use the word volume in a more loose way, just think about a monovolume), but I had the impression (and most native speakers proved my point) that in a foreign context the same word wouldn't be understood with this particular meaning, or in any case it would sound wrong. I'm fairly sure that the meaning of the sentence and probably of the word itself would be clear in the end, but I always try to find the best solution to sound as less Italian as possible, when translating :)
    I have a similar translation problem, but 'space' will not work.

    Here's the original sentence:
    "Le grandi lastre potenziano l’effetto della posa a pavimento, a parete e sulla superficie di volumi ed elementi d’arredo."

    Which I translate as:
    "The large slabs enhance the effect of floor and wall tiling and the tiled surfaces of spaces (???) and decorative elements."

    Maybe 'objects'?
    What if you dropped "surfaces" and wrote "...the tiled spaces and decorative elements." where the notion of the spaces' surfaces being understood.
    What if you dropped "surfaces" and wrote "...the tiled spaces and decorative elements." where the notion of the spaces' surfaces being understood.

    I started reading this thread from the beginning, not noticing it was from 7 years ago, and my thoughts were that there seemed to be cases where volume / volumi could just be omitted in the English translation and the sentence reworded to express whatever concept was being expressed. For this example, I'd probably drop "spaces" and keep "surfaces": perhaps something like ....enhance the effect of the floor and wall tiling, and of other tiled surfaces and decorative elements.

    That said, I'm having a bit of trouble imagining the thing we're talking about: are these grandi lastre the tiles we're tiling the walls and floors with? And then we're also tiling things other than walls and floors? (Like a tiled vanity in a bathroom with a sink set into it or something?)
    You can tile anything! Here we're talking about walls, floors, counters, outdoor patios, etc.

    I like both your suggestions, thank you for them! I think I'll go with "other tiled surfaces and decorative elements" because using 'space' in this way just seems like a real misappropriation of the word.