At South Main, we take architecture seriously. In fact, high quality traditional designs like ours are proven to stand the test of time, making our architecture one of the most sustainable elements of our neighborhood. Simply put, a ‘green’ building is not truly sustainable if it is torn down 20 years after it was built because it is not loved. The extensive resources required to build it will have gone to waste, and new resources must be consumed in order to build a new structure in its place. Thus we not only require all buildings in South Main to exceed the Built Green Colorado requirements, we design and construct all of our buildings according to the time-tested, traditional principles underlying all of the world's most-loved places. In this way we are ensuring that the homes we build will be loved, maintained and restored for generations to come.
It is observable that the most-loved human settlements and the longest-lived buildings generally adhere to certain ‘traditional’ principles and patterns. At its most basic level, our philosophy is to carry on the best design practices from the past while leaving behind those practices that no longer make sense.
In defining a “South Main Style,” it is most logical and appropriate to look to historical patterns in our local and regional architectural heritage for inspiration. Such buildings tend to incorporate design elements well suited to specific local conditions. Steep-pitched roofs, for example, are ubiquitous in the rocky mountain west since they are effective at shedding snow. Hence many South Main designs incorporate steep, metal roofs. Heating is also a central concern in our region, so it makes good sense to incorporate chimney and stovepipe patterns into the South Main Style.
Because so many of the towns in our region began and blossomed during the Victorian era of the late 1800s, the stock of historically significant buildings in the area is overwhelmingly Victorian. If you were to pick a style, therefore, from which South Main’s architecture draws the most inspiration, it would indeed be Victorian. Rather than simply copying and repeating historic Victorian, however, we are instead borrowing patterns from this heritage and taking them through a culturally contemporary filter. As an example, many of the local Victorian designs incorporate particularly ornate detailing which can at times border on excessive and lavish. Examples abound in Buena Vista of such lacy and frilly trim work, made possible by the timely invention of the scroll saw and the infusion of wealth into our town during the late 19th century mining booms. Many of these buildings could be said to mirror the excessive wealth and exuberance of the Gilded Age; such details are simply not relevant or workable today.
Instead, the South Main Style incorporates many of the more basic Victorian patterns, at times simplifying historically ornate details, resulting in elegant, traditionally principled, and well-proportioned designs. Ultimately our goal is to create an indigenous and distinctive architecture which is both appropriate and uniquely suited for a new neighborhood in Buena Vista, Colorado. Our goal is to create a style and character that is extremely rooted in its place and is therefore distinctively South Main.
One example of a distinctively South Main element is our frequent use of stone from on site for masonry chimneys, foundations, porch piers and garden walls. These round pieces of granite were sculpted over the millennia by glacial activity in the Arkansas Valley and are continuously unearthed as new foundations are excavated. Incorporating this abundant material helps tie South Main’s architecture to its place and reduces the environmental impact and cost associated with the shipping of alternate materials. Adapting our design and building practices to such unique local conditions makes good logical sense and results in an aesthetic consistent our natural environment.
The South Main Style is a living philosophy that will continue to be defined, expanded, and realized. Most great places historically undergo an evolution of architectural character through minor invention and adaptation while remaining tied to the local influences that inspire them. Ultimately this organic but grounded method will lead to the kind of timeless architecture that is the fabric of all great places.
Thanks to Kenny Craft for his contribution to this article.
For more on our Victorian heritage, check out Victorian Bonanza: Victorian Architecture of the Rocky Mountain West by Scott and Beth Warren.