The house complete: Downing's domestic architecture

Caren Livengood Yglesias, University of Pennsylvania


This thesis considers Downing's domestic architecture as a definition for American expectations about dwelling. Downing combined his expertise in landscape design and his familiarity with influential English architectural treatises and pattern books, and adapted architectural principles with designs for Americans. Because his mission was to direct public taste, he published designs that consistently contained essential features effectively linking the proprietor's character, the landscape and architecture. Downing's architectural principles of fitness, expression and style were not new. What was new was his insistence that with good direction, tasteful and well-designed houses were possible for all Americans. To convey his ideas, he published house designs that consistently included features that were critical for dwelling. This thesis interprets original dwelling types described by Quatremère de Quincy, and known to Downing through Loudon, as features essential for domestic architecture. The authority of Downing the architect, and his enduring relevance, resides in the floor plans he designed, and the way he integrated types that others had seen as distinct. Their moral charge and response to situation are factors supporting his direction for American housing expectations. Expression as an architectural principle requires the display of constituent types. Metaphoric acts are possible though analogous architectural interpretations of personification and animation. Affirmed in this way, these features accommodate places for contemplation and the routines of operation, Downing's key duties of satisfactory domestic architecture. The application of these principles by Downing in his designs results in a vital architecture, full of life—the house complete.

Subject Area

Architecture|Landscaping|American history

Recommended Citation

Yglesias, Caren Livengood, "The house complete: Downing's domestic architecture" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3043907.