Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hey Bangla Bill

This blog is becoming entirely too red-brick this week. Time to insert some architectural levity. My candidate, the Bungalow. I have always loved this Picton home; in fact LOML and I would likely be able to agree on its purchase, should a number of unlikely stars align at some time.

The typically one and one-half storey Bungalow style arose in the early 1900's as a new way to define living space. Its design ancestor is the single-storey Bengal style house, called 'bangla' in Hindustani, which was adopted by British colonists and soldiers for summer use.

The Bungalow style was in part a reaction to the massive Victorian mansion with its many defined formal rooms, mazes of hallways, overwhelmingly ornate decoration and the resultant need/space for servants. The Bungalow faced the bright new Edwardian era with efficient and open floor plans, simple built-in cabinetry and seating, and an orientation to the outdoors. Other names for the style are Craftsman or California Bungalow. (Somehow the word 'bungalow' was co-opted later to describe the familiar plain single-storey house. But that's not the Bungalow we're talking about here.)

The Bungalow's most appealing features are the two-tiered low-pitched sloping roof, wide eaves with open rafters, and usually a gable. The Bungalow is an informal shape; the roof-line commonly extends forward to enclose a front porch with heavy columns. No gingerbread, no dripping finials. Instead, a craftsman-like emphasis on natural materials, and on revealing architectural elements like roof brackets, rafters and bracing.  Wood shingle or stucco cladding, stone or brick exterior chimneys complete the rustic look. Belleville has some great examples with rugged river rock chimneys and verandahs, that I want to capture. The Bungalow sits low to the ground, integrating with its surroundings via banks of plantings. 

Not ostentatious. Cheerful. Welcoming. Homey. Let's get to work on aligning those heavens.

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