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Jan. 28, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: There's more to the bungalow
The typical bungalow has a strong horizontal emphasis, like this classic 1840s Regency bungalow. (Brian Marshall/Special)


If asked what a bungalow is, most folks would immediately conjure up an image of a single-storey Ranch style house. And, while we wouldn’t be wrong, that’s not the whole picture.

So, let’s begin with the origin of the word bungalow. When Europeans first opened trade with the Indian subcontinent, they found a low-set dwelling with multiple openings (to encourage cooling breezes through the interior) located under deep roof hangs that shaded expansive verandahs.

Called banglain Hindi or bangalo in Gujarati, the fundamentals of this form became “the” choice for homes of British army officers during India’s colonial period. As the anglicized bungalow concept migrated back to England with the returning military, it found a ready reception amongst Regency architects.

Although the form was completely in sync with Regency’s “anchored-to-the-earth” philosophy, the elements which made the bungalow an ideal tropical dwelling didn’t easily translate to the English (or Canadian!) climate. In response, these architects altered some of the elements, such as installing French doors (equipped with storm shutters) in verandah openings to make them somewhat more winterized.

The bungalow form they worked with was not necessarily a single-storey building, but their designs invariably appeared to settle down into the landscape.

In the early 20th century, the Greene brothers of California used the bungalow form as the basis for their Craftsman designs (many of which were storey and a half or even two storeys, like the Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif.).

Here again the criteria was, and still is, not the height of the building but rather the house form which defines a bungalow.Frank Lloyd Wright often used the form, as did the architects of the Contemporary style (often referred to as “Mid-Century Modern”).

All to say that the Ranch style, which is commonly used as a rule-of-thumb when describing a bungalow, is only one expression of many that use this form.

Confused? Well, blame it on marketing. But between us, look for homes with a horizontal emphasis on which the roof extends to deep overhangs and/or verandahs or porches, which in combination with cladding surfaces and design elements draws your eye down and out into the landscape.