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Thread: Urban Identity No. 2: Residential Architecture

  1. #1
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Urban Identity No. 2: Residential Architecture

    As everyone knows, this

    is a 1950's Chicago bungalow. There are thousands of these all over the city and near suburbs, and it is in my mind the quintessential "Chicago" house. Note perfectly manicured lawn. Chances are there'll be a "[Insert Democratic alderman's name here]/Daley" sign stuck into it come the next mayoral election.

    This

    , on the other hand, is the Phoenix ranch. 1960's vintage. Note front carport and lack of grass in the front yard. In essence, it's the same as Exhibit A from Chicago, with a completely different look owing merely to the fact that it's in Phoenix rather than in Chicago.

    So, Cyburbians, I offer you a challenge: come up with an example of the house/apartment/high-rise that best represents the residential character of a chosen city. Photos are cool too, because we like to look at 'em. If you have none yourself, do as I did and cull examples from realtor.com or other similar sites.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Providence - front gabled triple-decker. (Parade St.)


  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    drucee,
    I have to disagree with you about Chicago.

    I think the (stereo)typical Chicago residential is the classic chicago bungalow, seen below:
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Hate to say it, but many of these homes look like they came straight out of the pages of Sears and Roebuck. A few modernizations over the years, front decks enclosed for added living space, but.... Even what we view as Americana seems to have come straight from the annals of mass marketing. Or did Sears basically copy what it saw and turn it into a mass produced version?

    Check out the following link for more Sears Homes

    http://64.66.180.31/archive/sears/index.shtml
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Here is another link to the official Sears archival site for its kit homes:

    http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/byimage.htm
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    In Buffalo, Sears houses weren't that common; they were certainly present, but not in the volumes seenn in other cities. Bennett Lumber, based in North Tonawanda, was the source of the bulk of kit houses in the city. Many of their styles reflected a unique Buffalo vernacular.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally posted by DennisMaPlanner
    Hate to say it, but many of these homes look like they came straight out of the pages of Sears and Roebuck. A few modernizations over the years, front decks enclosed for added living space, but.... Even what we view as Americana seems to have come straight from the annals of mass marketing. Or did Sears basically copy what it saw and turn it into a mass produced version?

    Check out the following link for more Sears Homes

    http://64.66.180.31/archive/sears/index.shtml
    Off Topic: Something I always wondered about: Does the United States have much of a "culture" at all? Or-is our culture primarily top-down (i.e., McDonalds, Sears kit houses, casseroles made out of packaged mixes, etc.?) Leavened, of course, with the wonderful "ethnic" cultures of the waves of immigration.

    As for unique and distinctive residential architecture-that's one of the many reasons why I prefer the Bay Area to Seattle. Seattle looks like Indianapolis or Fort Wayne dropped in a beautiful coastal setting. San Francisco looks like nowhere else-and I would argue this is somewhat true of many of the older East Bay suburbs.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Off Topic: Something I always wondered about: Does the United States have much of a "culture" at all? Or-is our culture primarily top-down (i.e., McDonalds, Sears kit houses, casseroles made out of packaged mixes, etc.?) Leavened, of course, with the wonderful "ethnic" cultures of the waves of immigration.

    As for unique and distinctive residential architecture-that's one of the many reasons why I prefer the Bay Area to Seattle. Seattle looks like Indianapolis or Fort Wayne dropped in a beautiful coastal setting. San Francisco looks like nowhere else-and I would argue this is somewhat true of many of the older East Bay suburbs.
    I hear you. I live within the heart of the Olde King's Highway Historic District in Sandwich MA. The easiest thing to get built is the "traditional Cape Cod" style house. Our neighborhood looks like anywhere USA, as it has the same style houses as the town I lived in in NH for many years and the neighborhood looks the same as where I grew up in Western MA. Unfortunately much of today's McMansions all look like they are coming from the same cookie cutter factory as well so there is no real "Custom Built" look from the outside.
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Well, around here you'll probably find lots of Georgian houses in the wealthy suburbs, that type of housing for Santiago's climate is in my opinion totally off.
    Georgian style houses I believe are ok for cold winter climates, unlike Santiago's mediterranean climate. The other housing style you see around the wealthy suburbs is the Mediterranean style that is ok for the climate, but it'sthe same house cloned 1000000 times all over the suburbs... yuck. The most wealthy build themselves a unique "bunker" house, 0 windows towards the street besides they're surrounded by a high concrete fence which has only an entrance for their little BMW or other sports car (including Volvos and Porsches). Now that's style huh? a big and high concrete wall towards the street; talk about friendly residential architecture...

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally posted by DennisMaPlanner
    I hear you. I live within the heart of the Olde King's Highway Historic District in Sandwich MA. The easiest thing to get built is the "traditional Cape Cod" style house. Our neighborhood looks like anywhere USA, as it has the same style houses as the town I lived in in NH for many years and the neighborhood looks the same as where I grew up in Western MA. Unfortunately much of today's McMansions all look like they are coming from the same cookie cutter factory as well so there is no real "Custom Built" look from the outside.
    That traditional Cape Code, I think, is pretty much a New England thing, isn't it? So, that is a bit of a regional flavor.

    Of course, most of the new single family homes in the suburban Bay Area are being cranked out by large builders, who hire design factories in Orange County, so they look the same as LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Off the top of my head, I can think of one city in the US where the residentail achitecture is historically almost exclusive to the area. And that is Charleston, South Carolina.

    You can't see a picture of a single house without almost instantly connecting it to Charleston.


  12. #12


    This is the predominant form of housing to be found in the Calgary area outside of the inner core. Calgary is a very young city, and has seen a lot of expansion in the past 25 years, predominantly as an outspread dispersion or single-family residential "communities" platted out in large subdivision developments. Carma Developers and Jagger Homes are quite heavily involved in the Calgary residential markets, with a typical template used to develop their residential units. I'm sure these come as no great visual surprise to you, prevalent as this template is across the rest of North America. It is unfortunate, as Calgary has, in my opinion, sacrificed any trace of self-indentity and vernacular, and rejected any kind of celebration of the physical environment in which it is located, and it has done so largely in horrific style. In Calgary, there are whole sectors of the City that make an effort to transplant themselves into a southern Californa style of living, with use of desert rose as a paint scheme, and street names such as "Sierra Morena Boulevard". It makes me cry to go back to my home town. There is hope though - Calgary has, I believe, neared the peak of its outward expansion and infrstrastructure demands will no longer permit the low-density sprawl that so typifies tha majority of the City area. As the City matures, more infill will occur and perhaps the City will begin to recapture some of the specific architectural heritage that lies buried deep within its western heart, and remains within some of the older communities comprising the city core.

    Some other Calgary images,


    Stephen Avenue Pedestrian Mall


    Bonaventure Park


    Mackenzie Towne (a New Urbanist-styled greenfield development)


    Altadore new development


    Garrison Woods


    Garrison Woods - adaptive resuse of old Military housing


    Old and new City Hall

  13. #13
    From Montreal, a good example of the ubiquitous triplex rowhouse, constituting the bulk of the residential mix.


    St. Urbain

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally posted by Spatial_Monkey


    This is the predominant form of housing to be found in the Calgary area outside of the inner core. Calgary is a very young city, and has seen a lot of expansion in the past 25 years, predominantly as an outspread dispersion or single-family residential "communities" platted out in large subdivision developments. Carma Developers and Jagger Homes are quite heavily involved in the Calgary residential markets, with a typical template used to develop their residential units. I'm sure these come as no great visual surprise to you, prevalent as this template is across the rest of North America. It is unfortunate, as Calgary has, in my opinion, sacrificed any trace of self-indentity and vernacular, and rejected any kind of celebration of the physical environment in which it is located, and it has done so largely in horrific style. In Calgary, there are whole sectors of the City that make an effort to transplant themselves into a southern Californa style of living, with use of desert rose as a paint scheme, and street names such as "Sierra Morena Boulevard". It makes me cry to go back to my home town. There is hope though - Calgary has, I believe, neared the peak of its outward expansion and infrstrastructure demands will no longer permit the low-density sprawl that so typifies tha majority of the City area. As the City matures, more infill will occur and perhaps the City will begin to recapture some of the specific architectural heritage that lies buried deep within its western heart, and remains within some of the older communities comprising the city core.

    Some other Calgary images,


    Stephen Avenue Pedestrian Mall


    Bonaventure Park


    Mackenzie Towne (a New Urbanist-styled greenfield development)


    Altadore new development


    Garrison Woods


    Garrison Woods - adaptive resuse of old Military housing


    Old and new City Hall
    Looks almost identical to the Bay Area. Maybe not as much stucco, but huge garages, big angles, etc.

    At least the Georgian/pseudo-colonial style of the east can have some balance and grace. Unless they stick a huge garage on it. There is a quite nice Georgian in our "exclusive" Eastridge development that is a very well balanced facade, then they stuck a two story garage "module" onto the facade of the Geogian box, ruining the architecture totally.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Edmonton

    1910s home:


    1920s bungalow (downtown):


    1940s multifamily residential:


    Common in areas built in the 1940s


    Another common home type:


    The following house is uncommon to the area, as there are hardly any older homes that have a covered front porch.


    The 1960s come to the suburbs:


    Typical 1970s downtown condo high-rises:


    A Terwillegar Towne (neo-traditional neighbourhood) home (built in last five years or so):


    A new downtown 'open loft' style condominium high-rise:


    Modern mid-rise condos in the Glenora area (just west of downtown), big right now for redevelopment:


    The new West...ultra rich suburbs:

  16. #16
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Toronto provides a very interesting diversity of residential architecture that unmistakably belongs to it.

    We start downtown, with the cottages of "Muddy York," once slummy, now, like most of this part of the city, pretty well gentrified:


    In the midtown neighborhoods, we often find these twin homes, or "semis" as they are known here. My Urban Geography professor, Michael Conzen, once told me that he "loves Toronto because it's full of these brick rowhomes that could have come right off the streets of [his] boyhood home, Newcastle." In my mind, they do indeed look like the bay-windowed semi-detached found in nearly all British cities. But they also remind me of the twin homes of northeast Philadelphia.

    This is a slightly newer example, probably postwar:

    And a slightly older one. with covered porch and light Victorian detailing:

    Note the sharp central roof point. Many Toronto two-story homes seem to have it.

    In North Toronto and west Scarborough, as in the outer neighborhoods of Chicago proper, Brooklyn, or Queens, the predominant style becomes Brick Bungalow. Again, unmistakably Toronto, as they are most often semi-detached and feature a brick color found less often in the States:



    In the inner suburbs, Brick Bungalow gives way to Modern (Barely) Detached, probably built in the 1970s and 1980s, and, despite the protruding garages and small amount of gangway between homes, owing more to Slough than to St. Louis:




    Outer Toronto displays a degree of suburban development that gives no indication that the city's nearest American neighbors are Detroit and Buffalo. Once again, the differences between the US and Canada show through, as Torontonians like to build narrow, and use that aforementioned brown brick:

    Victorian detailing is pretty common even in newer subdivisions.



  17. #17
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    I ain't done yet. The triplex rowhouse posted by Spatial_Monkey is but one aspect of the Montréal residential style.

    Of course, it's the most familiar one. Montreal Triplex #13497B comes in a variety of styles, shapes, and colors:

    Montréal brown brick

    (Rosemont)

    Stone front

    (Rosemont)

    Or newer, with central entrance, but always the ubiquitous terrasse:

    (Plateau Mt-Royal)

    Outside Montréal proper we get the bungalows, clearly designed to minimize the negative consequences of winter: note steeply pitched roof and carport.

    (Pointe-aux-Trembles)

    (Riviere-des-Prairies)

    The suburbs of Montréal built during the 1980s and 1990s appear to be the only ones in this part of North America where hard contemporary is the standard architectural style. Santa Ana, meet Sainte-Thérèse:

    (Blainville)

    (Mirabel)

    (La Prairie)

    (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu)

    During the last few years, tall cottages with hard-contemporary Victorian detailing (on narrow lots, as in Toronto) have been the norm as far as Montréal's suburban development:

    (Saint-Hubert)

    (Lachenaie)

    (Pointe-aux-Trembles)

    (Laval)

    Also, check out the interior photos, where available. It would seem that Montréalers have a characteristic interior design style as well. Are parquet floors and brightly colored melamine kitchen cabinets really that much cheaper in Montreal?

  18. #18
    Outside Center City, most of Philadelphia's residential neighborhoods are made up of two or three story rowhouses, usually porched.

    Photo credit: R. Bradley Maule

  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Although I don’t have pics, one style that is in several places but for the same reason. The houses built for the Company Mining Town. In a few parts of Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and parts of NY, PA, and other iron or copper mining areas, you will get sections of town with small 1 story bungalow houses that look almost the exact same. They where owned by the mining company, and the miners had some of their pay deducted to live there. The mining company also owned the town store, and everything else. It was a form of communism in the US.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    When i see how a two-story row like that I automatically think far West Philly (although it appears to be North Philly). Front porches were a post-depression phenomenon so you have to go pretty far out into West and North Philly to find them. They're certainly all over the Southwest and parts of Germantown. You'll find a few as well in extreme South Philly.

    To me these are South Philly rowhomes.




    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  21. #21
    Very true. Yeah, that shot's from Nicetown-Tioga. I guess you could look up statistics to figure which style is on the whole better represented, and you may be right that the older, closer-in, more Italianate style rowhouses are there in bigger numbers. I think I was trying to show the most "average" style, considering just how massive North and Northeast Philly are, in physical size. If you figure that those ugly dirtpiles in Bustleton define one extreme and manicured rows in Queens Village bound the other end, is North and far West Philly the middleground of residential neighborhood architecture?

  22. #22
    Member Miko's avatar
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    Re: Is there any culture at all?

    Yes, *definitely*. But in architecture (the area of culture I assume you're talking about), you generally find the best expressions of regional culture in vernacular architecture by going back to periods in which most houses were custom-built. Here in New England, I can identify a number of regional styles of which the Cape Cod is only one. In my city you can find expressions of a number of regional styles (medieval English, for the very oldest; Georgian, Federal, farm, Greek Revival, etc.) A little traveling will open your eyes to other styles unique to other regions; houses from the same eras down South will have higher ceilings, different fenestration, and different massing. You can trace ethnic /cultural/ historical influences in style as well (Why Charleston resembles Key West resembles New Orleans resembles Quebec).

    The thing is, once you get into the late 19th century, style became less local and started to impact larger regions due to the spread of national media. Magazine and books popularized and published house plans, which were then built any- and everywhere. Those Buffalo houses really aren't displaying anything obviously unique to Buffalo -- they do appear to be plan-built or closely based on very common plans, and they have their cognates in many other industrial cities. Same with the bungalows, the ranches, and so on. Just as with clothing fashion, people build new homes in styles that look good at the time. When you read a city's architecture, you learn when its busiest periods of growth and settlement were. Sometimes that gives a certain city or region its 'look' -- as in, the suburbs of LA are packed with 30s bungalows, because the 30s are when LA saw an explosion in population looking for work and cheap housing. 19th century Mill towns (like BUffalo and hundreds of others) are chock-full of plan-built catalog houses, built quickly by local contractors, assembly-line fashion, to house the workers at rapidly expanding plants. 50s suburbs outside of cities boast lots of ranches, the preferred home style at the time of the GI bill loans; and 60s suburbs will feature the split-level ranch. The late 70s/early 80s brought rowhouse condos and rehabbed mill lofts, and we have the 90s trend to thank for the ubiqutious Palladian-Nantucket-beach-house shingled monstrosity, and the odious colonial-Italianate bastard of the McMansion.

    So -- along witht the industrial revolution, trends became much more national and much less regional.You can still find new homes that really do express their region, but if they're recent, often the only regional cues are the landscaping, paint colors, and trims.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Indeed, regional differences are diminishing somewhat, but one cannot escape the small details, even in supposedly "mass-built" places like Buffalo. The two-stories and semi-bungalows may resemble those found in Cleveland, Erie, Syracuse, or Toledo, but several features are still uniquely Buffalo: the telescoping house, where the second story is set several feet back from the top story (the two are usually flush in most of the Midwest), and Northtown Neo-Roman, the mock-Italianate style that flourishes in the Buffalo suburbs and can be recognized by its slight brick-color and window-type variations from the "Colonials" found in the Chicago suburbs. The upscale suburbs of Syracuse often resemble outer Boston suburbs in the prevalence of 1960's-era center-hall colonial and ranch houses, but instead of the "colonial" white, light-blue, and light-yellow clapboard exteriors, bright, though muted, colors such as light green, light pink, and steel blue are often found. And I've always wondered why the dark-brown and beige-yellow bricks found in Montréal and Toronto's urban neighborhoods are rarely found on the other side of the US-Canadian border.

  24. #24
    Member Miko's avatar
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    The thing is, those details that you identify as 'Buffalo' are not specific to a place, they're specific to the time the house was built. They're details that were trendy when the home designs were popularized -- and that just happens to be when those houses were built. I could show you houses in NJ and in here in Portsmouth with the second-story setback. There's a house down the street from me here that's buff-brick, and they're very commonly seen in the Southern states.

    These details aren't truly vernacular, they're mass-culture trends that you can find in Popular Mechanics and similiar magazines, right down in your local library, and that's how bulk building has been done from 1870 on. The things that *do* express a local taste are the paint colors --often, original house colors reflect popular styles of the building era, but once the first owner makes an artistic choice, the paint colors end up reflecting individual and local tastes and trends. But paint is just a surface treatment.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    I'm still not sure if any other city has "telescoping" two-flats with nearly the same frequency as Buffalo. Yes, Miko, the designs are very similar, but as I keep pointing out, it's the small details. For example, both Madison, Wisconsin, and Orange County, New York (an exurb of New York City) have their fair share of brick-front, vinyl-sided McMansions, but Prairie House-style detailing is noticeable even on the most mass-produced designs (possibly owing to the proximity of Taliesin), whereas Orange County goes for slightly more Victorian or colonial detailing, if any distinguishing features at all. In addition, upscale attached suburban housing, like these examples from suburban Milwaukee and Madison,


    is widespread in Wisconsin and Minnesota (and suburban Chicago) but almost nonexistent in Sunbelt or East Coast cities

    This brings us back to the brick/frame question that was brought up long ago. The middle-class housing stocks of Chicago and Milwaukee were built during roughly the same time period, but mid-city neighborhoods of Milwaukee are lined with frame bungalows, while mid-city neighborhoods of Chicago are almost exclusively brick. I see no factors that would have caused this, except for sheer local preference.

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