Friday, February 6, 2009

Architectural Styles Defined: Ranch Style...

Part 2 in our unfortunately delayed series of articles on the misuse of terms as they apply to the architectural style of a building, and how that misuse leads to poor communication between clients and professionals. Here’s an in-depth look at what defines the “Ranch Style:”

The Ranch Style is considered one of the more varied and difficult styles to define. This is because it is one of the rare styles born out an socioeconomic shift more than an actual architectural movement. The roots of the ranch style were the tremendous housing and commercial construction needs of post World War 2 America and the Baby Boom. America's most renowned architect of the time was arguably Frank Lloyd Wright who's 'prairie style' had gained much popularity do to it's rejection of victorian box and its vertically accentuating aesthetic. Concurrent with the Crafstman Style, it featured long overhangs, but was driven primarily by an accentuation of the horizontal plane and the use of open spaces within the interior.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House:
Post-War Ranch House:

The Ranch Style continues this stretching of the horizontal plan but, while still not formal in its spacial arrangments, is less open in plan in order to simplify the structural loading of the building. In addition, the common ranch will typically have more simplified detailing and smaller overhangs in its original condition in order to be produced more quickly and efficiently.

As a result of this lack of true stylistic origin, the Ranch Style has been adapted to many different types of homes and as a result is derided by many critics of architecture as not being a true style. However, with roots in the one of America's most celebrated styles and being perhaps the most widely implemented building type in this country, it would be a mistake to simply dismiss Ranch Style. It may lack the openness and sophistication of detailing that a Prairie home would have, but in doing so it created a vernacular for the middle class that is maleable to regional and individual tastes.

For Architects, this creates an unique remodeling situation where changes to the original structure can be driven by a client's personality as much as the original style of the home. Because of this, for better or worse, the Ranch Style should be considered a true style of american individualism and the middle class.

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