Listen to part of a lecture in an Architecture Class.
Today, we are taking a little detour from the grand styles of public architecture we've been studying to look at residential architectures in the United States.
Since this is something we can all identify with, I think it will help us see the relationship between the function of a structure and its style or form.
This has been an ongoing theme in our discussions, and we will be getting back to it in just a moment.
But before we get started, I want you to take a moment to think: does anyone know what the single most popular style for a house in the United States is today? Bob?
I bet it is the ranch-style house.
Well, in this area, probably. But are we typical? Yes, Sue.
How about the kind of house my grandparents live in? They call it a Cape Cod.
That's the one.
Here is a drawing of what we consider of a classic Cape Cod house.
These days, you see this style all over the United States.
But it first showed up in U.S. northeast, in the New England region, around the late 1600s.
For those of you who don't know the northeast coastal region, Cape Cod is a peninsula, a narrow strip of land that jets out into the Atlantic.
And so many houses in this particular style were built on Cape Cod, that the name of the place became the name of the style.
Now why did the Cape Cod style house become so popular in the northeast?
Well, one reason is that it's a great example of form following function.
We've talked about this design principle a lot about form following function.
And what did we say it meant?
Someone give me an application of this principle.
What did this concept that form should follow function?
How would it be applied to housing design?
Well, if it means the design of the building, it should be based on the needs of people who use it.
Then, well, the architect has to be very practical to think about the people who’ll actually be living in the house or working in the office building, whatever.
So for the architect, it's all about users not about showing off how creative you can be.
Good, of course, for a Cape Cod house, it might be even more accurate to say that form also follows climate.
Who knows what the climate's like on Cape Cod?
Cold in the winter...
And whenever I visit my grandparents, it's really wet.
It's usually either raining or snowing or foggy and windy, too.
I guess because it's so exposed to the ocean?
That's right. So take another look at this drawing, and you can imagine how this design might be particularly helpful in that kind of climate.
Notice how the house sits fairly low to the ground.
This relatively low compact structure helps the house withstand the strong winds blowing off the ocean.
And look at the slope of the roof, the steep angle helps keep off all that rain and snow that accumulates in the winter.
Another thing, Cape Cod houses usually face south to take advantage of the sun's warm through the windows.
That's helpful in winter.
Now what can you tell me about the chimney, about its location.
Well, it's in the middle. Because, does that have something to do with heating the houses?
I mean since the heat never has to travel very far.
That mean you can heat the house more efficiently, right?
Exactly, now see how the house has very little exterior decoration, that's also typical of early Cape Cod houses.
The wind was one reason, nothing sticking out that might blow away in the harsh weather, but there was probably another reason, not related to the climate, more reflection of a rural New England society back then.
You see, Cape Cod houses were not built in the big cities, where all the rich people lived back then.
These were the modest dwellings the people who built them simply couldn't afford lots of expensive decorated details.
But it was more than just matter of money.
In these rural areas, people depended on each other for survival.
Neighbors had to help and supported each other in the difficult environment, so you didn't want to appear to be showing off.
You wanted to avoid anything that might set you apart from your neighbors, the same people you might need to help you someday.
So all these help to create an attitude of conformity in the community, and you can see why a modest, a very plain style would become so widely imitated through out rural New England.
It is plain, but you know it's nice looking.
Good point, and in fact it's precisely that as aesthetic appeal, the... the purity,the nearly perfect proportions of the house... that's another reason for the Cape Cod's enduring popularity even in the places where the climate was so mild that its functional design doesn't matter.