04 May 2010

Learning from Chicago – The Bungalow

Inspired by a new writing assignment and in honor of the places I have lived thus far in my life's journey, I am beginning a loose 'research project' into the evolution of housing in major urban centers throughout the United States. I begin with my hometown - Chicago - and delve into the origins, influences, and future development of the Chicago-style Bungalow.

a typical Chicago city block

There is a reason that most large urban populations over time develop a distinct housing style. When a singular housing style is established, it can in turn be easily reproduced for lower costs and at faster speeds. Materials become easier to obtain in large quantities and builders become more efficient and adept at repetitive tasks. In addition, a consistent form of housing enables an entire class of society to achieve the ‘American Dream’ in a simple and standardized way. This concept is readily apparent in the Chicago-style bungalow.

The bungalow first appeared in India, where it was built for British subjects. From this point, the squat, rectangular style was popularized in California and, from 1910 to 1940, swept across Chicago’s landscape. These forms became so popular that a ‘Bungalow Belt’ soon formed and one-third of single family homes in the city were built in conformance with the traditional bungalow style. These homes were composed of standardized fixtures and became the first symbol of affordable single-family living for the middle class.

a typical Bungalow floor plan

In many ways, the Chicago Style Bungalow serves as an embodiment of Midwestern values. They were built for a rapidly growing population of families flocking to a city booming with manufacturing and industry professions during the first half of the twentieth century. Key characteristics of a Chicago Bungalow are sturdy brick construction, a roofline perpendicular to the street, one or one and one half stories, detailed windows and stone work, and sheltered entries and porches to protect from harsh Chicago weather conditions. These structures developed as a segment of the Arts and Crafts movement in America, emphasizing craftsmanship and a strong connection to nature.

These are ideas and qualities that are still held in high regard in Chicago and the Midwestern Region as a whole. It is now evident the simple ideas that drove the creation of the Chicago Style bungalow are characteristics that will remain prominent in working class families as our cities grow and progress into the twenty first century.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

I am doing research on Chicago Bungalows and came across this post. I would love to use this photo and floor plan- do you have the citations for them/ know where I can find the originals? Thanks!