chapter  4
19 Pages

Row-type houses

Scattered throughout the northern provinces are many houses which lack adominant room in the sense that the open hall at Mayen dominates the whole house throughout its history. They take the form of a row of two to five rooms – larger houses will be treated separately as far as possible – which are interspersed with smaller squarish or corridor-like rooms, and will be designated the row type. The underlying concept was first used by Drack in classifying Swiss houses, and was devised independently, though not given that name, to meet the somewhat different houses in Britain.1 At the outset other problems of terminology have to be tackled. The first arises from the presence in the row of rooms, especially where there are five or more, of one somewhat larger than the rest: what to call it? Room use in villas is mostly unknown and the designations given to rooms by Romans are uncertain in their provincial application. In medieval and early modern architectural history nomenclature is just as much a problem, the same name being used by contemporaries for an enormous single-room building open to the roof such as Westminster Hall, for the 5 m-square principal room, lofted over, of a sixteenth-century two-room peasant house, and for the splendid point of entry of an eighteenth-century country house; the continuity of the old name reflects the gradualness of change in room use and the consequent lack of urgency at any given time to devise a new and appropriate one.2 Not only are the uses to which such a principal room was put uncertain, they can often be inferred to change even where the room stays the same size. In this situation ‘hall’ must often serve for want of a better term but consistency is unattainable; where a more definite use can be inferred, living-room or representational room will be employed.