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Sample Paper on American Architecture

American architecture: log cabins, victorian homes and greek style

The evolution of the American house has changed over the last several centuries.  The design of the domestic home reflects many things about American culture at the time period.  It shows the values as well as the cultural norms that were prevalent during the creation of the time of the house.

The are at least three main home design structures that stick out in American culture. They are:

  • the log cabin
  • the American Victorian
  • and American modern architecture (e.g. Greek-style)

These three architectural styles all have been prominent during different periods of American architectural history and can be examined to reflect not only what was popular during their periods of construction but also what values were held by society during the time in America’s history. Log cabins, Victorian era homes and American modern architecture were important and influential forms of architecture that defined the new world and America from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

By looking at the shift in styles of architecture, we can see many different things about American society.

  • The log cabin is one of the most prominent structures of American society. The cabin became a prominent structure during the 17th century and has since been one of the most recognized and built structure in America.
  • The Victorian architecture style refers to the time period of the middle to late 19th century. This is a more ornate style that demonstrated Americans’ desire to honor their homes during a time of relative prosperity. Growth in art, design, architecture, and literature was common during this time period.
  • Modern architecture also shows some of the relative trends and cultural norms about American society.  By looking at these three different structural choices in American architecture, one can examine the way in which our society as a whole has been able to place values into their architectural structure.

All of the architectural structures served the same basic function, which is to house a family, however they are all quite different in form. Additionally, the functionality of these three different architectural designs gives an insight into the different ways of life for the people living in these times.

Log cabin

  • While the log cabin is indicative of American culture, it was actually first built by immigrants and used primarily by foreign explorers.
  • Mainly, when explorers would come to the new world, they utilized the same skills and methods that they had in Europe.
  • Similarly, construction of log cabins in the 16th and 17th centuries was also at the hands of Swiss and Germans, who came to America bringing their woodworking knowledge. These foreigners would erect log cabins because its construction used one of the most abundant natural resources, trees.
  • The log cabin was also important in representing the expansion and further exploration of the new world. For example, few people actually built these cabins in terms of a long-term settlement. Instead,  frontier settlers erected log cabins as they cleared land. This meant that log cabins were also part of the culture of living and traveling in the new world. It was only after the colonies were established and colonists began to settle that the architectural style began to be embedded in American heritage.

Surely, the log cabin represented a very early form of colonial architecture that was used by foreign explorers in the new world. As with any type of housing construction is based on available natural resources, such as forrest, stone, and brick. This meant that colonists had to use the environment to construct the best possible homes for themselves. Ultimately, the log cabin came to be a popular form of housing in America as many more people moved out west and encountered colder climates where sleeping outside was not practical. Over time, however, the log cabin would come to signify the American wilderness and longing for a period of time when humans were more in tune with nature.

Victorian houses

Throughout the early 1800’s, American architectural style had shifted towards the adoption of Victorian principles. America was founded on the premise that English men had claimed stake to the colonies before the Revolution. This meant that much influence still came from Europe, and new American forms were not yet invented.

The victorian era has been appreciated for both its literature and architecture. Charles Dickens, known for his social observations, was a literary giant of the Victorian era. Victorian era architecture were part of an important time in history when the industrial revolution and mass production came into the picture. With so many different manufacturing options for builders and designers, individuals and families,  creativity also flourished. New shapes and materials led to more daring designs. Surely, these Victorian homes were prominent in the south and in major cities in the United States. These homes were also very indicative of America’s new culture of consumption.

The style and décor of Victorian homes represented America’s affinity for consumption, wealth and prosperity. Once the industrial revolution set off a wave of new forms of mass production, consumption and material wealth became very popular.

While not everyone could afford to live in a home with this style of architecture, the emerging working class did slowly adopt living in these types of homes. It also meant that common people could begin to afford such homes in the wake of an era of consumption. However, Victorian style homes did also reflect the way in which society was still heavily rooted and influenced by England and the rest of Western Europe, despite the secession from Great Britain.

An example from modern american architecture: greek style architecture

Lastly, Greek style architecture of the later 19th century reflected professional and federal buildings that were reminiscent of ancient styles. A primary characteristic of Greek (and the more recent Greek style) architecture and art is its focus on humanism, rationalism, and idealism. These themes are further explored in a comparison between neoclassical and realist art. Mainly, when buildings like the White House and various monuments were built, they were heavily influenced by Greek architecture. Because the United States was a young nation built on the premise of freedom, they wanted to emulate the Greeks, who had similar values.

As Greek style was representative of Greece’s modern outlook on democracy and government, it was a fitting style to adopt for the major monuments and buildings of America. Indeed, while the 1800’s did also represented updated decor (that was rooted in the past) to such elements as chimneys, gables, towers, windows, gargoyles, stained glass and highly picthed roofs, the ancient Greek architectural style was still the most prominent for government buildings. Stone columns, white marble and sculptures were the common facets of government buildings, monuments, and memorials that were built during this time period.

A major impetus for the development of Greek style buildings was a return to cultural values of democracy, style and art. Mainly, since Greece was a notable nation for the development of modern ideological and political thought, it was only natural for the United States to follow in these footsteps in as many ways as possible.

The architecture was designed to last a long time, just like the political institutions that were established. Also, this style represented another important facet of American culture at the time, art. While buildings were previously built on the premise of available resources and mass consumption, these buildings were focused on being beautiful and useful. That is, these buildings were unique in that they showcased the elegance of American architecture as well as a commitment to longevity. This was a sharp turn from the log cabins that were popular for hundreds of years.

Architecture not only reflect practical matters such as weather protection and local buidling materials, but also demonstrates American values and political life. The use of Greek culture and style of architecture for government buildings surely played a role in the course of history because just like the Americans saw old Greek buildings as a symbol of their presence in history, America wanted to do the same.

Conclusion

  • Diverse architectural methods were indicative of different periods in American history. Log cabins, Victorian homes and Greek style buildings all had a specific role and use case throughout the 16th and 19th centuries. Log cabins emerged as a means of building shelter as quickly as possible with available resources. The log cabin came to encompass American cultural values of the wilderness.
  • Victorian era homes represented an era of consumption in which the industrial revolution allowed individuals to express more individuality. However, this style was indicative of Western Europe’s influence on the young nation of America.
  • Finally, Greek style buildings were similar to those that ancient Aegean people built and were sturdy, rock based and artsy. They served the purpose of being the foundation of all of the federal buildings in our country, the same buildings that stood for stability and longevity of our political institutions.

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