I'm translating the description of a city block design. The city block (in this particular case) is basically a single building with a variable number of storeys: different sections of this block-sized building have different floor counts.

There's the expression "peremennoy etazhnosti" (переменной этажности) in Russian for this, meaning "of variable floor-count". In a verbatim translation, "of variable storicity".

What could be an English expression for this? Is there a commonly used expression, or should it be translated as-is, "with a variable number of storeys"?

The general design concept of the Solnechny city district provides for the construction of City Block 1.3, a perimeter block with a variable number of storeys.

I've been googling using different word combinations, but failed to find commonly used English expressions for these types of building.

For instance, I googled for "building with sections of different height", but still the result is gibberish.

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    I dont think there's a commonly used expression, and a variable number of storeys makes it sound as though there is a guy in a control room making it expand and contract, at least to me. – user339660 Jul 26 '19 at 10:44
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    Is there an architecture SE or something like that? There may be an English expression - as I say I don't think there's a commonly used one, but there could be one that an architect or civil engineer would use. – user339660 Jul 26 '19 at 10:47
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    This question (a) shows reasonable signs of research; (b) while being obviously heavily into the architecture domain, does, as you say in a comment, refer to a common design and so requires a reasonably common descriptor (so is valid also on ELU); and (c) has a reasonable chance of a reasonable answer. I wish all questions met these requirements. +1. (You may need to contact an architectural association for an answer, though.) – Edwin Ashworth Jul 26 '19 at 10:56
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    FWIW, The first image I examined in a Google Image search for << variable number of storeys >> (no quotes) had the descriptor "Modern five-porch monolithic-panel residential house of variable number of storeys in Moscow". – Edwin Ashworth Jul 26 '19 at 11:01
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    Excellent question. Buildings like that are exceedingly common in architecture dating from the last 20–30 years here, but I don’t have a word for it in my vocabulary either. You would think there’d be one, but I agree with Minty: variable doesn’t work. Barring extensions being built, no building has a variable number of floors once construction is complete. I think I’d just have to rephrase and say, “a perimeter block made up of sections of varying height” or something along those lines. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '19 at 12:20

I suggest the term asymmetrical, though it would require follow-up explanation. "The city block is comprised of one asymmetrical building that is divided into sections of varying levels."

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There's no such thing; here's why:

If it's a single building, as you say, then the total number of stories† doesn't change. The total is the total. A building may be, for example, seven stories on one side and only five on another, but we would nonetheless say it's a seven-story building because the total number of stories remains seven. Part of the structure being fewer stories doesn't decrease the total number of stories the building has.

Willis Tower in Chicago is 110 stories. The fact that it has sections that are only 50 stories, 66 stories, and 90 stories doesn't diminish its count of 110 stories or lead anyone to call it anything other than a 110-story building. That would remain true even if there were a hole creating a giant courtyard, as it were, in the middle of this building that takes up an entire city block.

That said, if you wish to clarify that there are sections that have fewer stories, then you simply say that. You could say something like, "The block is a courtyard building whose north tower has seven stories and whose remaining towers have five."

† I'm American, so I'm using the American spelling "story" rather than the British spelling "storey," along with the American plural spelling "stories" rather than the British plural spelling "storeys."

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  • So is it proven then? American English is just another story. – Brad Aug 24 '19 at 0:50

What do I call a building with a variable number of storeys?

The general design concept of the Solnechny city district provides for the construction of City Block 1.3, a perimeter block with a variable number of storeys.

If I am understanding this correctly the translation means, a perimeter block where the (variable) number/amount, of storeys can be changed I presume this item of change is regarding one building can be of a different amount of storeys than an adjacent building. Rather than in the afternoon it has more stories than in the morning.

In which case I think a better translation would be

a perimeter block with a undefined number of storeys.

undefined; Cambridge English Dictionary adjective: not clearly described, stated, or known:

The general design concept of the Solnechny city district provides for the construction of City Block 1.3, a perimeter block with a undefined number of storeys

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"Multistory" complex/building.

Multistory meaning having more than two stories.

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  • Please could you add a link to that definition? I wouldn't call a house with two or three floors multistory. – marcellothearcane Aug 7 '19 at 21:42

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