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“All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”
— Philip Johnson
There is an ongoing controversy about whether architecture is art. Artist Constantin Brancusi said that architecture is “inhabited sculpture”, and U.S. President Barack Obama has defined it as “works of art that we can move through and live in.” Others feel that rather than expressing themselves as artists, the first consideration of architects should be maximizing the comfort and utility of those who utilize the space, while respecting the surrounding community. Whether or not architecture is an art, when buying or building a home, people are drawn to the architectural style that best reflects their own aesthetic taste.
For those who are drawn more towards traditional styles and value artistic form over function, the Victorian, Queen Anne, and Tudor styles offer historic charm and artistic intricacy. Many people take great pleasure and pride in restoring them to their original beauty, transforming them into living history. Many of these homes are on the National Historic Register, to be preserved as examples of the architectural styles of distinct historical periods. Tours are often conducted through neighborhoods rich in architectural history. So, before you decide to buy your new home or redecorate an existing one, let’s learn about a few of the most famous styles:
Victorian homes are distinguished by their complex designs and ornate trim. The invention of mass production allowed Victorian-era builders to utilize more decorative elements, such as spindles, that had once been made by hand. The often asymmetrical shape of these homes offers less functionality, but their bright colors and large porches invite hospitality.
Queen Anne style architecture, originally developed in the 18th century during the reign of Queen Anne, was revived by architect Richard Norman Shaw. Influenced by the Victorian style, it is often distinguished by a massive stone foundation, steeply gabled roof, towers with balconies, and vertical windows. Intricately patterned wooden gingerbread trim is often added around gables and porches, making them popular with sightseers.
Tudor style homes are characterized by stucco, brick or stone exterior walls, distinctive wood trim and large stone chimneys. Popular in the 1920s and 1930s, many of these homes feature ornate windows of leaded glass. Inside, doorways are rounded and cupboards, drawers, and bookshelves are often built in, which adds charm to functionality.
For those who are drawn towards utility rather than décor and open spaces rather than cozy nooks, ranch, split-level, and contemporary industrial architectural styles offer present-day practicality. Characterized by simplicity and spaciousness, these modern styles reflect the advances in transportation and manufacturing that accompanied the industrial revolution.
Ranch Style homes, first originated in the 1930’s became extremely popular during the 1950s and 1960s and reflected the increasing mobility made possible by the automobile. The importance of the automobile is reflected in the integrated garage, which often features decorative doors.
They’re often characterized by patios with sliding glass doors. Easy and inexpensive maintenance and open spaces are two of the things that contribute to the continued popularity of ranch style homes.
Split-Level homes offers a multi-level alternative to the ranch style. Lower levels serve as garages, the mid-level for daily living activities, and the upper levels for sleeping. Some split-level homes include a basement, which is often used as a den or playroom.
Split level homes are regaining popularity as they are especially well-suited for multi-generational family living. The separate levels provide opportunities for both privacy and togetherness.
Contemporary industrial architecture began when the manufacture of steel made it possible for engineers to design spacious, light-filled manufacturing facilities. Many of those facilities, abandoned due to technological advances, have been transformed into community centers and other useful spaces such as libraries.
Residential industrial architecture is characterized by steel infrastructure, clean lines, open spaces, and the use of glass and skylights to provide natural lighting. High ceilings and skylights and fewer walls offer a more flexible use of space.
To some extent, all of us are simultaneously honoring and preserving the past, participating in the present, and embracing the future. That reality is reflected in the increasing number of architectural styles that allow people to express their personal priorities. The answer to the question of whether architecture is art or mathematical planning for practical functionality seems to be yes.
Philip Piletic – Originally from Europe, now situated in Brisbane where I work & live. I have a strong interest in home improvement, and tinkering around the house. I’d like to thank RJ Garage Doors for their help with this article.