By William R. Muir
Drawings by Cecilia Mavrow
The primary purpose of a house is to provide shelter from the elements. But few homeowners are content with a building that just keeps them warm and dry; most want a home that is aesthetically attractive and that provides the viewer with a favourable impression of their social status. Throughout much of Victoria’s early history people have felt that a “styled” house, one whose shape, materials, detailing, or other features conform to a current architectural or social fashion, would do just that. Styles frequently begin when a creative architect devises an innovative house pattern that quickly catches local interest. It will spread when other architects consult the professional literature to keep current with national and international developments in building styles; professional builders often use pattern books of building plans that are currently popular.
Some styles have arisen from an attraction to buildings considered typical of a particular historical time and place. Ancient Greece and Rome, for example, have provided models for homebuilders during several periods, generally referred to as the Classical Revival Movement. (“Revival” is used here to indicate that a style from an earlier era is being recreated.) For some this was because of nostalgia for what was considered to be a superior way of life at that time, which might be emulated today by imitating its architecture. For others the buildings of that era were intrinsically attractive and needed no ideological justification for copying.
Other styles have emerged because a particular abstract preconception of attractiveness such as “symmetry” or “use of natural materials” has been generally agreed upon. Sometimes this type of style can coexist with or emerge from a historical style; for instance, one of the characteristics of Classical Revival houses is that they are usually symmetrical, and symmetry can remain a valued characteristic of a building long after people stop consciously copying Greek and Roman models.
However, the popularity of a particular style at a particular time has often been governed by factors other than aesthetics and domestic comfort; politics and ideology frequently played a role. This point will be further elaborated in the discussion of individual styles.
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the specific style
Homestead Style (Vernacular)
Second Empire (Mansard)
ARTS & CRAFTS
British Arts & Crafts
Edwardian Vernacular Arts & Crafts