Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....
Kevin D. Murphy
Domestic architecture in the USA comprises a wide variety of types—including detached single-family residences, row houses or town houses, apartment buildings, and more—as well as structures ranging from impermanent earth-fast dwellings of the seventeenth century to contemporary ‘McMansions’ measuring thousands of square feet in size. What makes housing important are the many ways in which it has deeply touched the lives of all Americans. Because of its diversity, the domestic architecture of the USA has been studied from a range of disciplinary perspectives, from the formal to the anthropological.
The earliest housing in America was built by native populations prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 17th century. While some was substantial, such as Pueblo Bonito (AD 910–1110) in Chaco Canyon, NM, other architecture, such as that constructed by many Native Americans in the Northeast, was transient.
While the subject of housing has sometimes been considered the purview of architectural historians, in fact, at any given historical moment, many (if not most) domestic buildings have not been designed by professional architects but by carpenters, builders, contractors, or home-owners. In the settlement period, the houses of most European Americans were earth-fast, small-scale, one-storey buildings, and were designed by their owners or builders. Given that the earliest housing in the USA was not built on stone foundations, it was perishable and little of it survives; it is known primarily through archaeological evidence. Research has shown that the earliest houses were typically constructed of locally available materials and that regional variations reflected the places of origin of the builders. For example, the 17th-century architecture of the Massachusetts Bay Colony reflected the knowledge on the part of its British settlers of existing traditions in Great Britain, although it was adapted to local circumstances. The Parson Capen House in Topsfield, MA (...
A category of buildings designed to house retail and shopping. It includes arcades, department stores, shopping malls, strip centres, and big-box stores. Retail architecture exists in small towns, big cities, and suburbs: anywhere people congregate. It is as ubiquitous in time and space as the organized exchange of goods for money. It is distinguished from commercial architecture, which, in real estate and architectural practice, can refer more generally to any property that produces income for its investors or owners but does not refer to a building’s architectural function (i.e. retail).
Buildings housing commercial activity have existed since antiquity. Anthropologists have described exchange halls and commercial structures in many cultures, including Roman, Aztec, Tang dynasty China, and Mesopotamian. During the medieval and Renaissance periods, market halls and exchanges were built in cities such as Antwerp, Bruges, London, and Venice, sheltering trading activities at ground level and municipal government functions above (...
Elise Madeleine Ciregna
Stonecarving throughout American history has been utilized for various purposes: utilitarian work such as paving, roofing and hitching posts; and ornamental work, such as architectural elements, gravestones and monuments, and sculpture. America’s first professional stonecarvers were mainly trained, skilled artisans from England and Scotland. These men were often called “statuaries” because they were capable of producing highly ornamental carving and sculpture, similar to the work of trained academic sculptors. There was little call for such highly decorative work in the colonies, but as urban centers gradually formed, stone masons found plenty of work in newly emerging cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
In rural areas many of America’s early stonecarvers were native-born and self-taught. Their skills were most often put to use carving gravestones, which were needed in every community. Both professional and native-born stonecarvers produced beautiful, often idiosyncratic carved work. They worked in the “direct” method of carving, that is carving directly into the stone without creating a preliminary model. Botanist John Bartram designed his own stone house in Philadelphia around ...