January 27, 2016

Preservation Glossary: Pagoda

  • By: Filip Mazurczak
A pagoda in Des Moines, Iowa

photo by: Jason Mrachina/Flickr/CC BY NC ND 2.0

A pagoda in the Riverfront Gardens of the Chinese Cultural Center of America in Des Moines, Iowa.

Last week, we discussed the pointed arch, an example of how immigrants from Europe brought traditional European architectural styles to the United States. Today, we shift our focus to an architectural element that came with immigrants from Asia: the pagoda.

The Trust for Architectural Easements’ Glossary of Architectural Terms defines a pagoda as:

Pagoda, noun:

A tiered tower with multiple roof layers, constructed about a central axis pole. Indigenous to Asia (particularly to China, Japan, and Korea), and typically located there within Buddhist temple precincts, pagodas were built as decorative garden structures in the United States and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, when exoticism in architectural ornament was highly fashionable.

Word in Use:

"By the time I made it back to the pagoda last spring, it was loud and happy and overflowing with activity—the way I’d always thought it should be. A young man I recognized from the neighborhood was working behind the counter. A friend was playing guitar on the deck. The greens on my breakfast taco came from an urban farm staffed by New Orleans youth. The pagoda was—and is—a place that matters."—Ariella Cohen, This Place Matters: A Reflection (and Gallery) on Humble Places We Love.


Filip Mazurczak was an editorial intern at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He previously worked as a freelance journalist, translator, and editor. He is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Applications for the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program are due December 15, 2021.

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