Building in the climate of the New World… A cultural or environmental response?

The reciprocity between appearance, available technology and environmental context forms the subject matter of Rappaport’s famous ‘House Form and Culture’. In this essay the evolution of a particular seventeenth century building type – the English ‘hall-and-parlour’ house – in response to the significant environmental and cultural change experienced by the first English settlers in Massachusetts is examined in detail, with the aim of clarifying the impact of climatic conditions on individual buildings and larger settlement patterns. It demonstrates that transformations in the idea of what a house might look like, particularly in relation to its immediate surroundings, had wider repercussions for American ‘society’, and for energy expenditure on transport, in the longer term.