I love to wander through the Fan and look at a single architectural element on a variety of houses. I will pick one small thing and notice all the millions of ways it can be executed on different buildings. Sometimes I look at only front doors, sometimes transom windows, columns on front porches, window decoration, building materials on front steps, etc. etc. I know…I’m a nerd. Today, I looked at roof lines.
I already knew this but I really, really came to realize how important roof lines are to the style of a structure. In fact, I would almost go so far as to say it’s THE defining factor. Many architectural historians would disagree, stating that the façade determines the style. But, I would argue that the roof line is the ultimate expression of style because it’s the ultimate expression of Function leading Form. I love the way that sounds.
Basically, the pitch or slope of the roof is where it all starts. What, typically determined the pitch of the roof from the beginning of time was WEATHER. In a nutshell…the colder (snowier!) the climate the steeper the pitch. Conversely, the warmer the climate, the flatter the pitch. Easy.
There are side-gabled, front-gabled, gambrel, saltbox, flat with eaves, flat with parapet, pyramid, cross-hipped, half-hipped and all sorts of variations of each. And the pitch of each of these sets can vary greatly.
When attempting to label the style of a house in the Fan, one can be faced with an inherent dilemma. Turn-of-the-century architecture’s most defining feature was eclecticism…borrowing from a myriad of sources. This wasn’t just in vogue at the time. It was celebrated! So, trying to label a house as one thing is nearly impossible. But, it helps if you just look up.