Ispiri Architect's Corner Blog

Check back frequently for upcoming blog topics on current, relevant and applicable knowledge pertaining to the architecture industry.

Prairie School – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: April 30, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

Prairie School was a common architectural style in the Midwest in the late 19th and early 20th century. The style is largely characterized by horizontal lines, including windows grouped in horizontal bands, because they resembled the Midwestern prairie landscape.

Its most famous advocate was Frank Lloyd Wright, who championed “organic architecture,” a philosophy promoting harmony between human habitation and nature. The style’s architects also rejected design elements of earlier styles of European classical architecture to create an indigenous North American style.

The style also uses flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, integration with the landscape, open interior spaces, and discipline in the use of ornament.

purcell house

Purcell House in Minneapolis, MN by Purcell & Elmslie in 1913

falling water

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wringt in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

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Neoclassical – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: April 16, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

Neoclassical architecture began in the mid-18th century and was inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The style served as a rejection of the Rococo style’s use of naturalistic ornament. Its primary characteristics are a focus on symmetrical shape, tall columns, triangular pediment, and a domed roof.

Many of the foundational buildings of the U.S. government were built during this period. For example, Thomas Jefferson, who admired ancient Roman architecture, wanted the U.S. Capitol Building to be a replica of an ancient Roman temple.
Today, neoclassical architecture’s use has increased after experiencing a lull between post-World War II and the mid-1980s. This is contributed to the rise of New Urbanism and postmodern architecture’s use of classical elements.

The U.S. Capitol Building

Lincoln Memorial

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Bauhaus – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: April 2, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

The Bauhaus architecture, named after the German art school, emerged after WWI. In an attempt to rebuild the country, Bauhaus architects used principles of Classical architecture, which involved avoiding “bourgeois” details such as cornices, eaves, and decorative details. They believed that less was more.
Bauhaus architects were guided by the beliefs in the unity of form and function, that design should serve the community, the perfection and efficiency of geometry and the importance of collaboration.
Bauhaus buildings are also characterized by flat roofs, smooth facades and geometric shapes. The style decreased in popularity in 1933 as the Nazi regime rose in power.

bauhaus school

The Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany

gropius house

The Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts

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Georgian Colonial – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: March 19, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

Georgian architecture describes the group of architectural styles between 1720 and 1820 and is named for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover — George I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom. The style was revived in the late 19th century in the United States as Colonial Revival architecture.

Georgian Colonial rose in popularity in New England and the Southern colonies during the 1700s. Stately and symmetrical, these homes resembled the more extravagant Georgian homes being built in England. America’s Georgian homes tend to be less ornate than those found in Britain.

Georgian architecture is characterized by its proportion and balance; simple mathematical ratios were used to determine the height of a window in relation to its width or the shape of a room as a double cube. The most common building materials used are brick or stone. Commonly used colors were red, tan, or white.

Hinkle Murphy home in Elliot Park, Minneapolis

Connecticut Hall, Yale University

Typical features of Georgian Colonial homes:

  • Square, symmetrical shape
  • Paneled front door at center
  • Decorative crown over front door
  • Flattened columns on each side of door
  • Five windows across front
  • Paired chimneys
  • Medium pitched roof
  • Minimal roof overhang
  • Nine or twelve small window panes in each window sash
  • Dentil molding (square, tooth-like cuts) along the eaves

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Victorian – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: February 17, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

Here in America, Victorian architecture generally describes styles that were most popular between 1860 and 1900, during the time of Queen Victoria. The style got its name from the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for the reigning monarch.

In the United States, Victorian house styles include Second Empire, Queen Anne and Stick-Eastlake (a geometric, machine-cut decorating style characterized by tall, narrow structure, linearity, and emphasis on wood as a building material).

Sometimes terms such as Painted Ladies” or “gingerbread” are used when describing certain Victorian buildings, but do not constitute a specific style. The names of architectural styles (as well as their adaptations) varied between countries. Many homes combined the elements of several different styles and are not easily distinguishable as one particular style or another.

Victorian homes generally have these features: brick or stone building materials, slate or clay tiled roofs, a basement with a cellar (once used for coal storage), sash windows with large panes of glass, richly complex color combinations and porch spindles on the front gable. The exterior walls of Victorian-style homes are often textured with decorative shingles. Round towers characterize many Victorian-style houses and can contribute to a charming asymmetrical design. All four sides of Victorian homes can be quite different.

photo of a Victorian home


photo of a Victorian house


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American Queen Anne – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: January 31, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

There are many types of Victorian house styles, but Queen Anne is the most elaborate and eccentric, gaining attention in the 1880s and 1890s during the industrial revolution. America’s Queen Anne style can be tough to define, but there are generally four types of detailing:

Spindled Queen Anne
These gingerbread houses have delicate turned porch posts and lacy, ornamental spindles. This most common style is often called Eastlake due to the resemblance of Charles Eastlake, the well-known English furniture designer.

Free Classic Queen Anne
These homes have classical columns in place of delicate turned spindles and usually they are raised up on brick or stone piers. They also sometimes have Palladian windows and dentil moldings.

Half-Timbered Queen Anne
These homes have decorative half-timbering  in the gables similar to the early Tudor style houses and thick porch posts.

Patterned Masonry Queen Anne
Walls in this style of homes are made of brick, stone, or terra-cotta and masonry may be beautifully patterned. The wood has very few decorative details.

Queen Anne details can also be found on less pretentious houses. In American cities, smaller working-class homes were given patterned shingles, spindle work, extensive porches, and bay windows. Many turn-of-the-century houses are in fact hybrids, combining Queen Anne motifs with features from earlier and later fashions.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

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American Colonial – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: January 20, 2014   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

A good example of colonial-federalist style home.

There are several building design styles that compromise the American colonial architecture category, including First Period English (late-medieval), French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial and Georgian. The time period associated with these styles is about 1600 through the 19th century. Over time the Colonial style became distinct, recognizable for its use of geometry, and different regions of the United States added their own tweaks such as brass door knockers, cut-glass doorknobs and gilt indoor mirrors. Additionally, shutters on the front windows also evolved from the Colonial style.

Common features that define the American Colonial style include being symmetrical, or square, with an entry door in the middle of the front of the home. The style also features two windows on either side of the entry door, with five windows on the second floor and one directly above the entry door. Other characteristics include paired chimneys, a medium pitched roof to provide drainage in rainy weather, and a stairway directly behind the entry door leading to a hallway that bisects the middle of the second floor.

Because Colonial Revival architecture spans such a wide era, there are many different sub-periods or sub-styles in this group which include, American vernacular, Medieval European, Georgian, Federalist and later Dutch colonial to name a few. The Gambrel roof is common in this style of architecture.

Better Homes and Gardens has declared that the Colonial home is one of the most popular styles of home in the United States.

A good example of a Gambrel style roof associated with colonial homes. This roof style increased the living space/attic size which has made this style very popular in America not only because of appearance but also economical.

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Greek Revival Homes – Residential Architectural Styles

Published: December 17, 2013   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

An architectural movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Greek Revival homes are found mostly in the United States and Northern Europe. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of this style and a major force behind introducing Greek Revival architecture to the United States.

This style was very popular in the southern United States and many mansions and houses were built for the merchants and rich plantation owners. The Millford Plantation is a famous example of an American Greek Revival style. Other notable American architects to use Greek Revival designs include Robert Mills who designed the Monumental Church and the Washington Monument.

Greek Revival Home in Minneapolis, MN

Example of a Minnesota-based Greek Revival Home

Greek Revival period in architecture in the USA largely took place between 1820 and 1860, however in Minnesota the movement continued to a later date due to westward expansion.

Greek Revival architecture in Minnesota was manifested through the abundant supply of wood framing and finish materials. The architectural expressions necessary by stone construction in ancient times exhibiting deep entablatures, lintels and wide columns was emulated in wood construction here in the U.S. Key elements of Greek Revival architectural include proportion (sometimes the Golden Section appears as a divine proportionate system ), pediments, deep entablatures, cornices, pilasters, dentils, iconic capital and column details.

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Hiring Subcontractors

Published: November 14, 2013   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

Though architects provide added-value to any project they are involved in, there are certain scenarios where the services of interior designers, engineers, and other professionals will do.

For example — if your roof is leaking, you may just want to hire a general contractor. Looking to upgrade the wiring throughout your home? Seek an electrician.

In short, architects are necessary when changing a home’s footprint — making additions and/or altering room sizes/shapes. The main reason for this is that architects explore lifestyles and current uses of the space, assessing the structure and ultimately producing construction plans.

While working with an architect, it’s common that a contractor will be hired to carry out the hard labor. Some homeowners, however, go straight for contractors, and lose valuable time once they learn that the contractor would prefer to consult with an architect first.

Moreover, homeowners will even skip the contractors and go directly to subcontractors. There is the possibility that this choice could save money, but there is the greater chance of extending the length of the project. If you are unfamiliar with the proper procedures in planning, designing, and building spaces — it’s beneficial to hire a general contractor, more so a licensed architect.

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Making Informed Decisions When Using an Architect

Published: October 22, 2013   |   Posted by: admin   |   Categories: Uncategorized   |   Comments Off

In remodeling and/or designing any space, time is of the essence. It is important that decisions be made promptly so that your project’s budget and timeline are not affected.

The question then arises, “how do I make these important decisions promptly?” More often than not, you and your architect will have discussed and prioritized the various tasks involved in your project. At the same time, there should be talk of how decisions are made throughout each task outlined.

Time of course is a consideration; however it is not the most important component. Making an informed and deliberate decision is essential for a project to be successful and for an architect/designer to meet a client’s expectations. Decision making is most often determined by balancing three primary components: quality, cost, and time.  The quality component of a given product can be measured by how much material is used in the construction of a product or the material value assigned to a given product. Here are a few examples:

A client may wish to have a super insulated home, which can be defined by insulating a home in a way that that exceeds construction standards and minimum code requirements. As insulation or unconventional methods are pursued to achieve a super insulated home, cost and time may both be added to produce this outcome. However, when balancing future energy consumption, one may find that additional upfront conservation measures may lead to future savings and thus the cost and/or added time may be justified.

Another example would be selecting countertops. Stone, plastic laminate, tile, concrete, simulated stone composite, or other formed materials all have different aesthetic and functional characteristics, and each of these products has an associated quality, cost, and time frame to obtain and install. Aesthetics are usually a personal choice (likes vs. dislikes) and the look of something within the color and texture are often the driving forces in this example.  Other characteristics would include: durability, texture, available shapes, edge details and whether or not it is easy to clean something. A designer/ or architect will work with a home owner to determine which of these characteristics and components are most important to a home owner and in doing so, help them make an informed decision on the best selection.

To keep a project on track, a designer or architect needs to methodically work through these decisions with the client to reach the already-determined goals of budget and timeframe.

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