The language of buildings

I want to learn to speak Building. plan2I want to be able to read rotunda, to decipher synagogue and skyscraper, to be fluent in finial and fleche. I'm already in love with the language. Clerestory; entablature; architrave: they sound like unspeakably lovely sexual feats, but I want them to mean more to me than mouth porn. I want to scale their heights, mine their subtleties and erect from their furling consonants a real, solid geometry.

I used to think I was destined to be an architect. It was all planned out. I would live sky high in a light-filled New York loft, playing with big sheets of paper and clicky pencils, enveloped by soft scents of agapanthus and Arabica. Now and then I would get down to earth on a building site, playing with big workmen and chewed HBs, enveloped by soft scents of ash and arsecrack.

My only problem was the whole making-a-building thing. I just don't do 3D; my spatial abilities are penulitmate to none. From an early age, my Duplo collapsed; my Lego caved in; my Jenga teetered and smashed.

I know my Gehry from my Hadid, but mainly because of his beautiful torques for Tiffany and her bonkers Melissa kicks. I get searing, soul-swiving pleasure from William Kent style country piles and Lasdunian bunkers alike, but I am reduced to gazing with inarticulate awe and fear, when I want to parse them, understand them, probe them, play.

My self-education has started slowly. I kicked off with the trashy but embarrassingly addictive fictional formica that is Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follet's cathedral tome; I've moved onto the slightly less flimsy but still moderately MDF Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. At the end of the month, the Andrea Palladio show at the Royal Academy should raise my ignorance another rung.

But how I can crack into the marble vaults of true architectural insight remains as deep and thrilling a mystery as machicolation (ahh. whisper it again, softly, in my ear). Archigeeks, throw me a bone.