Dwellings vs. Houses — a Matter of Distinction

John Brinckerhoff Jackson (J.B. Jackson) was a pioneer in landscape studies whose essays and books traced the history of the USA by taking a look at its landscapes, both present and past. A fantastic selection of his essays and lectures is Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (Yale University Press, 1984), which includes”The Movable Dwelling and How It Came to America,” an essay that he wrote in 1982.

In the essay Jackson creates a differentiation between dwellings and houses; the former are both temporary and often movable, and the latter are rooted in position and span generations. He distinguishes these two types through their prevailing construction materials: dwellings are built in wood, while houses are built of timber, often stone.

This ideabook introduces some houses at these two sticks as a way to talk about Jackson’s essay, in which he endeavors, as he puts itto”comprehend the new type of house we are all making in the usa.”

LaRue Architects

In”The Movable Dwelling,” Jackson traces dwellings and houses, stone and wood, from Western Europe to America. Contrary to dwellings, houses in Europe were diagnosed with a family ; believe that the House of Windsor and other similar dynasties as explicit illustrations of this semantic distinction between both types. Size was also significant, and Jackson writes that city and town governments really prescribed big houses, so as to express a certain grandeur.

The rock covering this massive house in Austin, Texas, is completely appropriate in this particular sense. Imagine the identical massing in wood — it would reduce the impressiveness of the house.

Wright Design

Jackson also discusses the class distinctions that created wood dwellings suitable for people who might have to move on short note to follow job (or, for most farmers, once the land was drained ), and people who made rock buildings suitable for families with money who could stay in 1 place for generations.

In a second essay in Discovering the Vernacular Landscape,“Stone and Its Substitutes”, he claims that rock”was commendable since it had been extracted from the depths of the earth and was timeless.” On the flip side, felling a tree is relatively simple and cheap, reinforcing Jackson’s distinctions.

This cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains shows how rock can be used for walls and roofs. Together they give the house a solidity that origins it in its place.

David Vandervort Architects

Like the previous example, this house in Seattle illustrates how rock anchors a construction to the landscape and creates a sense of belonging. The special location that the substance creates, in this case a path, is incontrovertible, stemming from the the walls of the house and the parallel website walls built from exactly the same stone. The stepping stones in between are done in a totally suitable manner, fitting well between the walls.

Dick Clark + Associates

This contemporary house shows how rock imparts a sense of solidity regardless of style. The wing walls in the entry and the garage also give the impression that the rock is of a particular depth; this could truly be the case, but in addition, it is possible that the rock is cut thin and also is a facing material, along the very same lines as the metal panels that slide between the rock walls.

Learn about rock veneers

Cathy Schwabe Architecture

Jackson not only touches wood dwellings from Europe (specifically England and northern Europe) to a particular group of people that were cellular, but he discovers that a legal differentiation also existed. Dwellings of wood were usually not tied to land, such that when the land was handed down to another generation, it did not incorporate those constructions, which could then be moved off the land.

One way in which this has been carried through to the usa is that wood is proper for secondary buildings, in this case a studio. It is less about class distinctions as well as the building’s capability to be moved than the impression of lightness and temporariness. The corrugated metal could be regarded as a contemporary update of the board and batten wood siding, a perfect complement to it.

Arcanum Architecture

The biggest differentiation that Jackson draws between the dwellings of Europe and people of America is how the latter”were built, occupied and finally disposed of as commodities, product designed and produced to meet a definite market,” he writes. Obviously, this attribute has been this day, however certain constructions recall frontier dwellings, in particular board and batten.

This house is billed by the architect as a”custom agrarian style home,” a description that taps into the ancient farm buildings built of wood from the abundant woods.

David Vandervort Architects

Wood dwellings will also be suitable for cottages, which make as small an impact on the land as possible, and that can be removed to return the land to its state before job.

In the case of this Pacific Northwest cabin, it’s easy to see in the view why it’s sited where it is, however the way in which the house is propped upon slender footings above the floor means it sits gently upon the landscape. The base required to maintain up a masonry construction, on the other hand, would have been more substantial.

Modular Lifestyles, Inc

The only illustration accompanying Jackson’s essay is really a portable house being pulled by a truck trailer emblazoned with a”Wide Load” sign. This sort of house, one built to be moved, is that the 20th-century American version of the movable dwelling that Jackson joins. It is not the most endearing dwelling in the USA, but for many people it is a way to get a house without being tied down to a single place.

The fabricated house, as the style can be known as, revealed here is designed to be”off the grid,” tapping into today’s sustainability concerns. Propane and solar have been used for power, and it does not have any sewer or septic toilet.


This very small house in Portland takes cellular home to the intense without being what we think of as a mobile home. Its kind recalls a home sitting on the land, but it’s mounted on a trailer framework that could be hooked up to a truck and pulled where the occupants like.

Louise Lakier

By the end of Jackson’s essayhe writes that he’s”convinced that the trailer or an improved version of it is, for better or worse, the cheap dwelling of the near future,” due to its being”inexpensive, convenient, and portable.” This future may yet come to fruition, but it seems that something else has taken hold in the usa in the decades because Jackson’s essay. Instead of a rise in cellular dwellings and their getting an impact on preparation, we have seen houses get larger as the suburbs have sprawled.

Louise Lakier

The cellular home may not have caught on since Americans want equally a home and a house — they also want the capacity to maneuver in response to family, work and other issues, while giving the look of solidity and origins in their house designs.

Freedom has come about by fixing the house as a product. People today purchase, sell and move into houses that express solidity for whoever lives in them.

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