Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Gospel of the Porch

From Michael J. Lewis' exquisitely wrought book, with a nod to the folks at the Front Porch Republic:
Both [Alexander Jackson] Downing and [Alexander Jackson] Davis attached particular importance to the porch or veranda, which had already become a distinctive hallmark of American architecture but which now assumed a social, even moral role.  For Downing, the porch was the place of family gathering, "where the social sympathies take shelter securely under the shadowy eaves."  With the open porch, the enclosed box of the house was rendered social and gregarious.  Architecturally, it served the same function as the ledge in [Thomas] Cole's painting, the viewing promontory which thrust the lone observer into the very landscape that he contemplated.  So persuasive was Downing's gospel of the porch that it took two consequential inventions - the television and air-conditioning - to supplant its social and physical functions in the middle of the twentieth century
We could do worse than to look to those two Alexander Jacksons for rehabilitation - Downing for landscape and Davis for architecture: American answers to American problems.