landscape interpretation three 1920 2000

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Like your past landscape interpretations, here you are asked to recognize and date buildings by their architectural styles. In this case you are tasked with finding and identifying a structure built in the automobile era between 1920 and 2000. This will include

  • identifying the distinct housing styles that typified development prior to 1920-2000
  • dating (approximately) the year of construction of a building, based on architectural and geographic interpretation alone
  • using field observation and background research to put structures within social and environmental contexts
  • reflecting on how structures and landscapes have evolved since the time of construction.

Fieldwork Part I: First-hand Observation

  1. Spend some time reading your guide American architecture (McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses) becoming familiar with building types and styles common between 1920 and 2000.
  2. With your guide and digital camera in hand, venture out into an urban landscape. It could be Oxford, but I would encourage you to take this opportunity to explore somewhere new and different. There are plenty of such places nearby, accessible by bus or car.
  3. Use the guide and your eyes to identify a structure constructed between 1920 and 2000. How do you know? Forget historical markers or dated cornerstones, if any. How, according to architectural style alone, absent other clues, do you know?
  4. Take a photo of the structure. Observe the structure, making notes about the building’s structure and intended use, construction (material type and construction quality), architectural detailing/decorations, the position of the structure on the lot and in relation to neighboring buildings and streets, the character of the surrounding landscape, and the evident modifications to the structure and surroundings since the date of its construction. Make note of anything you may find informative about the origins of this structure and its surroundings.

Fieldwork Part II: Background Research

For the purposes of supplementing your first-hand observations, you should conduct background research into the structure and its surrounding landscape in the time period of its initial construction. The variety of background information that could be useful will only be limited to your own imagination and resourcefulness. Secondary sources like historical accounts or other published works could certainly provide insight, if they are available. But a host of other, sources may also serve. These may be found nearby in the landscape itself (historical plaques, dates engraved in facades, etc.) or in local archives (photographs/engravings, newspapers, local census data, architectural pattern books, diaries, maps, etc.). Your goal should be to hypothesize about the following sorts of questions. Who built this house? Why did they build it here? In what economic activities was the original owner engaged? How did people travel within this historical landscape? How does the historical development of the surrounding landscape help explain this structure, and vice versa?

Write-up (3-4 double-spaced pages, including photograph)

  1. Create a document (e.g. .doc or .txt) that addresses the questions below in a well written, researched, organized, and presented format.
  2. Insert your photo into the document. Total file sizes must be less than 500 KB.
  3. Drawing from your first-hand observation, answer the question: In what approximate year was this structure constructed? How do you know? Justify your answer based only on your visual observation and use of the style guide.
  4. Drawing upon your background research, supplement your field observations by answering the following questions. What kind of landscape surrounded this structure at the time of its construction, natural and human? How does the historical development of the surrounding landscape help explain this structure, and vice versa?
  5. Comment briefly on the subsequent modifications to the structure and the surrounding landscape? How has the landscape changed and why?

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