Chances are that if you look out the window of your home you will see that the majority of houses around you look pretty similar to yours. This isn’t a mistake or a sign of some architect’s lack of imagination. Instead, the plight of urban planning has always been to get neighborhoods built quickly and as cheaply as possible in order to accommodate the influx of families that are moving to the area. If you happen to live in a newly developed or renovated area, you are likely to see the same siding, similarly-zoned house plots, and more or less the same floorplan; only certain features will be subject to the whim of the new tenant, but that is almost exclusively on the interior. Aspects like window installation and other external hardware are just too easy to contract out to a company in bulk for a good price.
As urbanization continues to roll on, conversations are happening on the state-wide level to abolish single-family zoning. The arguments for and against are numerous; those who are in favor feel that it would help manage (and eventually eliminate) racial inequality or climate change, while those against feel that it would minimize their property value and demean their way of life. Wherever you fall within the discussion, an interesting sociological result emerges either way: mass urbanization has been happening for centuries, and whether you live in one of those areas or are forced to build your house yourself, fads in design emerge. Just as there are movements in the art world, there are movements within architecture. Whether all neighborhoods in the future will be populated by townhomes and apartments, or the traditional American post-war zoning continues, we will see the most popular building trends rise to the top.
NECESSITY BREEDS CREATIVITY
We can go on and on about the building techniques that accompanied each significant epoch of human history, from the adobe hut of Central America to the Tudor-style homes of Elizabethan England, but when considering how to express yourself here in the states﹘especially in the age of mass-produced homes﹘a brief tour of the Utah architectural experience may serve us better. It’s important to remember that no matter the age or style of your home, if you are looking to renovate anything from the siding to the rain gutters, you have experts nearby who can help you.
Many of these styles were created to reflect the economic circumstances of the time, the climate of the area, and the materials on hand. Truly necessity breeds creativity, and the same can be said for today.
PIONEER STYLE (1847-1890)
Naturally enough we start at the beginning of Utah’s history, with the Pioneer Style of homes. While the Pioneer Style wasn’t exclusive to Utah primarily, early Utah settlers were able to take this typically ostentatious design and convert it into a more modest reflection of the new state’s citizenry.
The Pioneer Style is:
- A contemporary revival of early Greek and Roman architecture. English styles also found their way into Pioneer as well.
- Often the doors are placed directly in the center of the façade, while the windows are installed symmetrically on all sides of the home.
- The siding is typically laid in bricks or stone. Other than above certain doors or windows, there are no curved edges to be found anywhere.
VICTORIAN PERIOD (1880-1910)
Some of Utah’s most famous Victorian homes can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and represent a moving away from the traditional prairie style to a seemingly more lavish and architecturally free period. This is due in large part to the economic upturn within the state and the number of people who were starting to pass through, as Salt Lake was becoming a central hub in the West for the railroad industry.
Victorian homes are characterized by:
- A reliance on spires or turrets as a main feature of the home. They draw the eye as a harsh counter against the pitch of the roof.
- The symmetry of the Pioneer Style has largely been done away with in favor of wings of the house that may extend perpendicular to the rest of the façade.
- More freedom within the lines of the home. Architects at this time were no longer content with arches above the main door but began experimenting with shapes and soft angles in the structure as well as the ornamentation.
- The siding remained largely brick, but modern Victorian homes have utilized vinyl as well.
EARLY 20TH CENTURY STYLE (1900-1925)
As Utah entered the 20th Century, there became a sort of call-and-response in the architecture of modern homes. The ornateness of the Victorian style couldn’t continue as urbanization began to take hold of the valley and neighborhoods needed to accommodate more people moving in all the time. Utah began to see more homes built to serve function more than form. Roofs became flatter, porches became wider, and window installation was happening less sparingly about the body of the home.
Early 20th Century Style included:
- The creation of the Bungalow style, which became hugely popular in more rural areas of Utah. The bungalow was usually a single story and had a squat appearance with a low, flat roof.
- The return of a more symmetrical building philosophy. Houses tended to look boxier.
- The siding of these Utah homes began to see more diversity; stucco, brick, wood, and stone all made an appearance.
THE REVIVAL PERIOD (1910-1955)
As Utah began to see the end of two world wars and the mass production of technologies like TVs and cars, people began to experience a renewed sense of freedom that found its way into the architecture of the time. People who had been out to see the world were now returning and the typical nuclear family had more money than ever before, now that America was the dominant world power. This saw an influx in classical styles being revived from all over the world.
Styles that saw a revival in Utah include:
- The Tudor Style, with the telltale exposed wood siding.
- The Colonial Style, complete with columns and ornate molding around the rain gutters.
- The Neoclassical, with its symmetrical brick siding and sharp angles.
POST-WAR MODERN (1949-PRESENT)
The building trends that we see quoted the most today in our modern homes come from the post-war building boom that dominated the 20th Century. In order to reflect the fast pace of urbanization along with the economic prosperity that accompanied most of the era, houses became large yet simple. We saw the rise of the Ranch Style (or Rambler) home, with its single-story, and low-pitched roof. As time progressed, the pendulum would swing the other way again, and the McMansion would come into popularity, which saw elements from all building styles used.
Post-War Modern includes:
- Multi-car garages
- A drastic reduction in porch size, or a lack of porch altogether
- An adherence to all sorts of design elements, even clashing philosophies, all in the same project