26 May 2014

House architectural styles

Software architecture professors often make an analogy between software architecture and building architecture. I have been looking at software architectural styles for a while. What are building architectural styles about? I looked at 4 books on architecture, and liked Architectural Styles, by Carson Dunlop. This book only provides a typology of house styles, which seems to be the only meaning of architectural styles for building architecture. I wondered why bridge trusses were not included in the architectural styles. It seems that bridge trusses is a particular structural engineering concern, which is only one part of studying architectural styles.


  • detached vs semi-detached
  • Floor plans: positioning of the rooms: 1x1, 2x1, 2x2, 5x1, etc.
  • Roof shapes: flat (with or without parapet), shed, gable (with or without projecting beams, exposed trusses, gingerbread, ...), hip, mansard, ... with or without bell-cast eaves, widow's walk, turrets, cupola, ...
  • Chimney types
  • Dormers: gable, hip, arched, eyebrow, ...
  • Entablature
  • Walls: brick nogging, half-timbered, stucco, adobe, quoinning, ...
  • Windows: fixed, double-hung, single-hung, casement (opening in or out), sliders, awning, hopper, jalousie, ... with various types of muntins (separation between glass panels), mullions (separation between windows), panes, sashes (e.g. wood or metal holding the glass), and sills. Window shapes: Gothic, Palladian, curved top, ... Window crowns: fanlight, pediment, hood, ... Shutter styles, ...
  • Doors: each with their own style of fanlight and transom light (glass above the door), side light (glass next to the door), pilaster, and pediment.
  • Columns: the classical orders are Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite. A column is made of a base, a pilaster, and a capital (top).


  • The Ancient Classical style is common on government and institutional buildings. The columns, symmetry, low roof slopes, and entablatures are influenced by Greek and Roman classics. Substyles include Classic Revival, Greek Revival, and Neoclassical.
  • The Renaissance Classical style is based on European interpretations of Greek and Roman classics. Symmetry is important, and doors, eaves, and windows have distinctive details. Substyles include Italianate, French Colonial, Georgian, Adam, and Colonial Revival.
  • The Medieval style can be found mostly in cathedrals and churches. Usually asymmetric, with steep roofs, chimneys, parapets, turrets, and towers. Substyles include Gothic, Victorian, Romanesque, Tudor, and Queen Anne.
  • The Modern style dates from the 20th century and can be divided into Arts and Crafts, and Machine Age. Arts and Crafts have low-sloped roofs with wide overhangs. Substyles include Prairie (emphasis on horizontal lines) and Craftsman (tapered pillars on porches, exposed structure). Machine Age buildings eliminate decoration: asymmetric, and flat roofs with no overhang.
  • The Spanish style features adobe or stucco exterior walls, arched windows, and red-tiled roofs. Substyles include Spanish Colonial, Mission, Pueblo Revival, and Monterey.


Functionally, house styles are heavily influenced by the climate and the cost. Aesthetically, they seem influenced by the historic period and the artist/inventor behind them.

It seems that the aesthetic elements do not matter so much in software architecture. Rather, it seems that only the structural elements matter: how the weight is supported, how snow falls off the roof, how the house stays cool, etc.

In building architecture, it is difficult to separate the aesthetic from the functional. For example, the steep roofs of the Gothic style are very aesthetic, but they are very functional too: they prevent snow to accumulate.

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