Cascade of Roofs


Many of us love looking at houses whether we are in the housing market or not.  One need only look at the popularity of internet sites such as houzz or our very own Centris and for confirmation. While browsing these sites we can often find ideas to make our own spaces more beautiful and functional.

What makes a house a home?  What makes an entrance work?  What makes one room feel comfortable and another not?  Many of these questions can be answered by studying people and how they like to use indoor and outdoor spaces.

Over the next while, I will be sharing some insights from a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander and Associates.  This book, originally published in 1977, outlines a new attitude to architecture and planning.  Many of these insights are timeless and worth sharing.

Blog 1: Main Entrance

Blog 2: Cascade of Roofs

Cascade of Roofs

We are all connected by our need for shelter.  Roofs have played a primal role in this need from the beginning of time. In fact, the most primitive of structures were nothing but a roof.  Christopher Alexander believes that if a roof is hidden or just capping a tall structure and if its presence cannot be felt around the building, people will lack a fundamental sense of shelter.

The pattern we are looking at today is called Cascade of Roofs.  Many beautiful, welcoming homes have this feature.  It is basically a home design that starts with a large central area and has smaller spaces, individual rooms, and porches falling naturally around the edges.  This pattern allows for varying ceiling heights and roof lines that create interest and variety in a house.  This design actually makes a lot of sense when you consider that people gather in the larger central space and then are able to retreat to the smaller more private spaces for other activities.

I used this pattern when designing my own home.  The central area includes an open living space with kitchen, dining and living room. The bedrooms occupy opposite wings of this central space.  (The children’s bedrooms are on one side and the master on the other). The screen porch, entrance, and smaller rooms are all around the edges.   All of these features are brought together by a series of roofs at various heights.

The cascading roof design is functional and beautiful.  In addition, the roofs tend to ground the house and satisfy our human desire to feel sheltered and protected from the elements.

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