April 18, 2007

What Makes a Good Cave--or Ranch-Style House?

Cave-dwellers had five criteria for choosing caves. (Discovery Channel via Mirabilis.) They includes entrances facing east or west and a "porch" for outdoor activities.

When it comes to purpose-built houses, Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski has a three-part series. Here are links to the first two parts:

1. "Why Do We Live in Houses Anyway?" (as opposed to multi-family buildings).

It's one thing to say that people prefer to live in a house, but what kind of house? Basically, there are three choices: a free-standing house, a house sharing common walls with its neighbors, and a house that is oriented to an inner court. The last is an ancient model. The Roman dwelling was the classic courtyard house. Generally one story high, it covered the entire lot. Depending on its size, it had one or several open-air courtyards. The courtyard house, small or large, was the dwelling of choice; only the poorest Romans lived in insulae, or multistory tenements.

2. "The Ranch House Anomaly".

Buoyed by the post–World War II boom, optimistic about the future, and gripped by the idea of Progress, Americans embraced innovation as never before, in the way they traveled, the way they brought up their children, in their manners—and in their homes. The hallmark of that period was the ranch house. It is said to have been invented in 1932 by Cliff May, a self-taught San Diego architect, but it also owed a debt to Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses, and to Alfred Levitt's popular "Levittowner." Today the suburban ranch house is considered the epitome of conservative taste, but at the time it represented a radical departure from tradition.

(via Cliopatria.)

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