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10 thoughts on “A Field Guide to American Houses

  1. says:

    Why, in the middle Twentieth Century, did American neighborhoods and suburbs swell with tracts full of ranch houses that obviously never got near the Bar L Can you identify the styles that replaced the Ranch Is there really a difference between Victorian and Queen Anne home styles, be they standalone or town row houses If people speak of the Italianate influence in a 19th Century house, what do they mean Here s a great way to load up on these terms and how housing styles look, in quite an entertaining way In any of its iterations, Virginia McAlester s A FIELD GUIDE TO AMERICAN HOUSES is a welcome staple Find out about the various styles of U.S architecture, from Colonial to Modernist and beyond, and elaborations both fancy and vernacular Representative photographs make this an irresistible and foundational volume to have, be the reader a student of U.S history, a devotee of architecture, someone who d like to commission a home, or even a budding real estate agent needing to know where all these styles came from Buy the hardbound version if you can afford it it will last But make sure Virginia McAlester is the author or co author Drawing Oklahoma bungalow aka Oriental Peak American Rambler a k a Ranch style home


  2. says:

    Someday, I might like to own a house And if I own a house, I want to be able to say with some certainty what style it is So with those Very Important Dreams in hand, I purchased my very own copy of A Field Guide to American Houses The behemoth that arrived on my doorstep was intimidating 800 odd pages, black and white photographs, and so very many houses And I read And I peered at the pictures And I began to understand the development and evolution of housing in America How the stately houses in the south, all sprawl and living porch, faded into the snug two story shingle style houses of the north How to use window panes to date a house How technology made housing easier, and faster, and less unique My one wish and perhaps this is completely out of line with the scope of the book is that there could have been some examination and discussion about interior architecture and how that was evolving along with the exterior There s some very brief touches on it the use of a central receiving hall disappearing from early Colonial and Federal styles, only to reappear with the Millennium Mansion how back elevations changed with the normalization of refrigerators and washing drying machines how living spaces were defined by the activities therein bedroom vs formal living rooms vs rec room Overall highly recommended for anyone who wants a broad and dirty rundown of American domestic architecture.


  3. says:

    Reposted from my blog review response to A Field Guide to American Houses is that of a lay person However, the guide is the definitive reference book for architectural students A lay person such as myself doesn t read the guide with the close reading strategies of an English teacher rather, I read the book, and will continue reading it, through the lens of place and its rhetoric function in American homes and American literature The guide is a visual and textual mapping of American home designs from the 1700s to the present Simply, by referencing the guide, both professionals and lay people such as myself can place our homes and those of our communities, states, and nation in their historical and geographic contexts.I became keenly interested in the rhetorical function of home and architecture years ago, but my interest really came to life when I discovered a resource about the representation of homes in Uncle Tom s Cabin I still have a printout of the document in my filing cabinet but can t seem to locate it on the internet now The juxtaposition of geography and the structures of homes in UTC resonated with me Other books have informed my interest in homes as rhetoric Rebecca, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, My Antonia, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Great Gatsby, The Fountainhead, A Raisin in the Sun, are among these Even some YA has piqued my interest in the rhetoric of home, most recently Reality Boy by A.S King Of course, gothic literature, such as Poe s short stories, most notably The Fall of the House of Usher, succeed in no small part because of their grounding in this place we call home Of course, I d be remise in not mentioning Faulkner s A Rose for Emily I mention these texts because A Field Guide to American Houses is a resource that I ll use in constructing lesson plans, particularly those texts that rely so much on place From elevation design and influence to the way homes are grouped geographically to how designed is influenced by economics and war, A Field Guide to American Houses is chalk full of information I d thought little about Even the New Millennium Mansion McMansion in its obnoxious existence on too small lots took on new meaning as I read about its origins and its response to economic conditions These homes, says McAlester, are part of the New Traditional Architectural movement that has at times been critiqued as derivative McAlester defends the movement as having unique features and its creators They understand classical principles and architectural styele well enough to subtly alter or rearrange elements to create New Traditional home designs, not copies houses instantly familiar yet subtly different from the homes that inspired them Architectural historian Vincent Scully describes this as a conversation across the generations 725 Thinking about home design as conversational makes me think about how these topics can become conversations in my classroom Additionally, the NCTE 2014 convention theme Story as the Landscape of Knowing resonates with me as I think about landscape as place, home as places where we create stories, and design that grounds us in a sense of nostalgic longing for the past as we simultaneously look to the future Throughout the book one finds images of homes in a variety of geographical locations Thus, looking at the home styles in states where I ve lived became a fascinating scavenger hunt The images of homes sent me searching for information so that my reading took a non linear trek, as though I was journeying across the blue highways marked by squiggly lines on maps Idaho, unfortunately, is woefully underrepresented in the book, probably because it has had no real influence on home design, unlike Illinois and California If I were to criticize the book in any way, it would be in its absence of color photography I imagine the utilitarian purpose to inform of the guide justifies the inclusion of only black and white photographs Still, our cultural and architectural heritage is quite colorful, and A Field Guide to American Houses is a fun way to learn about the vernacular of our homes.


  4. says:

    I marked this as read, but this is a book that I enjoy savoring in small bites I m so sad I lost my copy


  5. says:

    Ok, I admit it I cherish a sick pride in having read each of the 850 pages in Virginia McAlester s magnum opus.Unfortunately, I still can t tell the difference between many of these house styles, even with the author s patient guidance Italianate or Italian Renaissance Classical revival vs Greek revival vs Neoclassical And please, I need help with mullions, muntins and lintels aren t those small shellfish, not parts of windows Even after slowly digesting this book over the course of four years, I m lucky if I can spot an architecture gimme, like half timbering or a Tudor gable.However, eating all these architectural veggies has its payoff the dessert course, aka the chapter on McMansions After following the author on a tour of thousands of houses, you learn enough to snark along with her Look at that Millenium Mansion What a beauty Multiple cascading hipped roofs You gotta be kidding me


  6. says:

    I thought I was the only house geek..but now I know I m not alone There are others, and look, now we have a book to encourage our obsessions I have always wondered how my old house would be classified I now know that I own a gable front and wing Folk Victorian This is even better than my Victorian Houses Coloring Book


  7. says:

    Virginia and Lee McAlester s A Field Guide to American Houses is a very useful tool for understanding both in describing and dating common American houses For many people, houses seem to be so common that they are not worth describing or thinking twice about, but I think when houses are observed with a critical eye, they can reveal a wealth of information about the people who built, bought, and lived in them They are documents from which history can be extracted With similarly held beliefs but only a minimum of interpretation, the McAlesters set out to chronicle and period ize the diverse though often overlooked as less than diverse range of American houses Although this book has since been criticized for its heavy focus on style focusing chiefly on reading housing exteriors and largely ignoring their interior variations and relations it does well to introduce a working framework for grouping houses built in similar style and period together in order to better understand why and how they came to be built when they were.The book begins with a generic look at style, form, and structure and further provides a pictorial key and glossary that illustrates many of the slight variations among basic house forms and materials It then moves on to talk about folk houses Native American, pre railroad, and national varieties before moving into the bulk of the subject matter American house styles from the 17th century onward With broad overview headers Colonial Houses 1600 1820 , Romantic houses 1820 1880 , Victorian Houses 1860 1900 , Eclectic Houses 1880 1940 , and American houses Since 1940 the authors group the houses built in those time periods into styles and then through a combination of illustrations, descriptions, and photographic examples, explain what the identifying features are for each housing type with a fairly impressive attempt to address both its common varieties and where they are most commonly found in American regions This book is a treasure for anyone trying to improve their historic preservation vocabulary or sharpen up on their house style periodization skills.


  8. says:

    Excellent reference source for tracking changes in architectural styles by region and time Pictures from across the country document influences and combinations It is amazing how many of the styles easily transferred from Chicago to Texas to Oklahoma to Pasadena Each pilaster identified So glad to have found this It is a good source to keep going back to until you have the differences between Gothic and Prairie firmly in mind Not so useful for 1980 and after, but starts with earliest American structures.


  9. says:

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  10. says:

    This book is an endlessly fascinating dream for anyone who is even mildly interested in domestic architecture I pored over its excellent collection of photographs and line drawings for hours I kind of want to buy it now For what purpose, I am not sure, but I feel like I need to own it.