Rediscovering the Front Porch
A guest recently said, ” the Bungalow’s front porch is the perfect cure all to all the digital screens we look at daily. How we’ve become used to the increasing hum and fans of electronics in our lives. We so enjoyed the renewal that came with this holiday home’s Front Porch along with the ease of a chat face to face with passing neighbors. Oh that Southern Hospitality! ”
The image of the front porch remains “as one of the few semi-public outdoor spaces associated with community and neighborliness,” says Victor Deupi of the Institute of Classical Architecture. Porches link us to an idealized past—one before e-mail (or even the telephone), when face-to-face interaction formed the core of communities. Then there are the practical considerations that have long kept the porch in favor: “Porches add beauty to a streetscape,” Depui says, “and they also offer environmental advantages by providing shade and breeze in the summer, and, if oriented south, allowing low winter light to enter the house.”
In contrast to many other American architectural traditions, however, the roots of our porches don’t appear to be found in Europe, but rather in the architectural heritage of colonial trading partners. Traders en route from the Caribbean to the British, French and Spanish colonies were influenced by island architecture, rich with large open porches to accommodate the humid climate.
Bungalows, were the last major historic architectural style in the United States to incorporate the porch. Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes made great use of porches, which reach out from under his signature cantilevered roofs. Wright, however, had a tendency to reorient the porch from the front of the house to the side or back, wishing to maintain the privacy desired by the modern family while also preserving his belief in the importance of a connection to the outdoors.
This Old House writes, “Soon, streets filled with Model T’s and the twin indoor delights of television and air-conditioning, and a middle class focused more on work than leisure conspired to dethrone the porch from its prominent place in American culture. But the underlying love for porches and their associations with the American identity never waned, and recent decades have seen a revival of porch-building. The classic image of a front porch filled with family and friends on a hot summer evening has long been a symbol of traditional American values, and it’s one that still holds true today.”