The different architectural styles introduced in the previous Thoughts have developed and evolved over time because of many different reasons: local material availability, availability of a certain skilled labor force, response to weather conditions, economic limitations or available wealth, market (or buyer) demand, aesthetic preference, or simply the dictates of architectural fashion. Often, the popularity of one style in a certain era carries with it a certain status, or symbol of success–and then this architectural style can cross borders and be used (reasonably or unreasonably) in different climates, on different terrain and for different building uses.
In much of the world, the totality of all architectural building styles is divided into two basic categories: traditional vs contemporary (or modern). Although there are dozens of recognized architectural styles we often hear only these two terms. What is the difference? Traditional is applied by most people to older styles (or derivatives of older styles) such as colonial style, tudor style, or Spanish revival for example. The photo on this page is considered an example of traditional style: California Mission. “Modern” generally refers to various unadorned, often with simple wall planes, typically flat roofed variations on the international style (which, ironically, was developed quite a while ago in the 1920’s). When adapting any style, a building design can be purely imitative, that is to say directly copied from something done in the past, or, it can be derived from or influenced by a style, but with an adaptive, fresh approach. The Academy of Science building in San Francisco shown on the previous title page is an example of “modern” architecture with a wonderful fresh approach with its signature green roof. Clearly this process has led to many hybrid styles throughout the ages, and as any architectural student or real estate agent can attest, much thought and study has gone into defining and naming the various styles.
In evaluating architectural styles, several things must be considered. First, are there good styles and bad styles? Maybe, but more important and immediate is the question: is the style of the building appropriate or inappropriate for the “place” (sometimes referred to as the “context”) in which it is located ? And after appropriateness is considered, is the architectural building style well done, or is it poorly executed? These are not always easy, simple questions, but are ones that this program is designed to assist people in determining.