2, 277-303 (1983)

A Theory of Architectural Design

Anthropology, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York 13901 AND

Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721

Received January 5, 1983 A rudimentary theory to explain the design of vernacular structures is presented. Conceiving of architectural design as a social process, the theory focuses on the influence of utilitarian and symbolic functions as well as on the trade-offs between production and maintenance costs. A particular design is viewed as the outcome of a process of compromise among conflicting goals, influenced by factors of adaptation and social organization. The theory is used to generate an explanatory sketch for why the prehistoric Anasazi of the American Southwest went from being pithouse to pueblo dwellers.


The purpose of this paper is to advance a preliminary but general theory to explain the design of vernacular architecture. This effort is intended to contribute to the larger research emphasis developing in archaeology that is concerned with explaining, in behavioral terms, variability and change in material culture (e.g., Braun 1983; Schiffer 1979; Hayden 1977a, 1977b; Goodyear 1979). Although the determinants of specific artifact morphologies have always been of interest in archaeology, theoretical treatment of the design process is usually subsumed by discussions of “style” and “function.” These discussions have resulted in tangible progress (e.g., Wobst 1977; Plog 1980; Dunnell 1978; McGuire 1981; Sackett 1982; Rathje and Schiffer 1982; Jelinek 1976), but a fully general theory, applicable to architecture as well as to chipped-stone tools, remains elusive. The present paper may contribute to the construction of a high-level theory of artifact design, but our immediate aim is to set forth
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a testable, middle-range theory to explain variability and change in vernacular architecture. Archaeologists examine the end products of design-particular structures-that can be characterized by formal properties, such as size, shape, and construction materials. To explain how structures come to have specific designs-why some are large and others small, why some are made of wood and others of stone, why some are internally partitioned and others not-we must examine the design process. In particular, we must identify the general causal factors (and their interrelationships) that influence the decisions leading to the designs for specific structures. On the broadest level, of course, availability of materials and technology constrain architectural designs. Although they may have desired it, the builders of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon could not have used marble; nor, with their technology, could the same Bonitians have erected a pueblo of 50 stories. However, these types of constraints, which put generous limits on designs, furnish relatively few insights into the causes of variability between societies, and contribute little to explaining differences or changes in the vernacular architecture within societies (cf. Rapoport 1980a, 1980b). Given the wide limits set by technology and available materials, investigators must pay special attention to the social process of design that determines where-within the limits-choices actually fall. The social process is likely to narrow the options considerably, and, on occasion, it can alter the existing constraints by inventing new technologies or by securing formerly “unavailable” materials. Let us now begin to build a social theory of design.

A SOCIAL THEORY OF DESIGN Architectural design is a process whereby social groups make choices concerning several recurrent sets of activities (Rapoport 1980a:287, 198Ob:7). We focus on the activity sets of production, use, and maintenunce of the built environment. With respect to each activity set, people attempt to maximize certain goals. Because the activity sets are interdependent, it is impossible in the design process to maximize all goals simultaneously. Moreover, maximization of one goal is usually achieved at the expense of others. Thus, the design process can be viewed as a series of compromises between goals, the result of which is necessarily the achievement of some goals at less than a maximum level. Factors relating to a society’s social structure and adaptation determine the specific content and weighting of the goals. Social differentiation and social inequality affect both the utilitarian and symbolic requirements of

Use goals establish a series of requirements with attendant ranges within which the design must fall. and even demolition of structures. the definition of the range itself) depends on the compromise (or trade-off) between production and maintenance . precisely. However. We will be stressing the trade-offs between production and maintenance goals. the design falls within a particular range (and. maintenance. and constrains the investments that can be made in architectural symbolism. In the context of these other factors. and maintenance. while others-the occupants-use and maintain the structures. in the most differentiated societies. The separation of these activities among different groups increases the potential for conflict in the design process. use. each acting in its own best interest to maximize goals. separate task groups have arisen that specialize in design. . Increased differentiation associates each activity set with a different social collective. production. As societies become more differentiated. and maintenance cannot all be maximized with respect to a particular structure. these activity sets and their attendant goals become increasingly associated with different social units. where. Among societies with limited differentiation. Design is a social process because compromises between goals are effected within and between social groups. and may be exacerbated by imperfect communication between social units. In this case. goals relating to use are usually accorded a high priority (Allsopp 1977:81-95). Since the goals of production. there is often appreciable social distance between those who made and maintain the structure and its users. Even in the simplest case where a single family or institution participates in all three activity sets. individuals in the group may have divergent views as to the requirements for use and on the compromises to be made between the goals of use. sometimes with assistance from other families. construction. such as our own. Residential mobility has a direct effect on utilitarian requirements. In more differentiated societies. some families or task groups specialize in construction. such as the Navajo (Jett and Spencer 1981: 17) and the Tarahumara (Pennington 1963:223. to a certain extent. Finally. architecture must remain responsive to the developmental cycles of households and institutions. Let us now consider some of the causal factors that shape the design process by examining in more detail the basic goals of use. In the compromises reached during the design process. the family that will use and maintain a structure often also builds it. such as the Samoans (Goldman 1970:255). the potential for conflict grows. and maintenance. production. such as anticipated uselife. 226).THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 279 structures.

such as juniper. trees that have little or no commercial value today are not well represented (e. mesquite. Although there is a vast body of literature on the mechanical and decay-resistance properties of lumber. Saile 1977).g. admittedly. Bodig and Jayne 1982). spatial extent. and other factors on the floor-space requirements of dwellings (cf. For example. the delineation of use goals and material factors in highly specific. Powell 1980. Although a host of studies have begun to establish correlations between the size of social units and amounts of dwelling space (for examples of such studies. McGuire 1981.280 Goals of Use MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER The goals of use can be partitioned into utilitarian and symbolic functions (cf. A few examples underscore these problems. but it is nonetheless a useful one for present purposes. if one wishes to specify and compare behavioral requirements for prehistoric construction materials. the diversity. and ironwood in the . Schiffer 1973). we cannot yet reliably specify the minimum space requirements for any particular prehistoric case. Until these studies are carried out. quantitative terms may be difficult given our present knowledge. see Hassan 1981). a great deal more work is needed to discern the influence of activity patterns. Even a mundane requirement. and season of performance of activities as well as the size of the social unit lead to minimum floorspace needs (cf. seasonality. pinyon. stemming in part from the nature and diversity of the activities and social groups that use the space. This dichotomy is. Thus. To carry out these general functions. Rathje and Schiffer 1982:67. Schiffer 1972). an oversimplification. such as the maximum load that a wooden roof must bear. From the standpoint of the archaeologist. which can be enumerated in terms of specific material factors. Clearly. cannot be translated into quantitative terms for many of the construction materials used in vernacular architecture. specific formulations of floor-space requirements must be regarded as highly tentative . The basic utilitarian functions of architecture are to (1) mediate between people (and some of their artifacts) and the natural environment and (2) delineate space for the performance of activities by various social units. Temporal patterns of structure use along with diurnal and seasonal temperature variations give rise to specifications for building materials having certain insulation values (Evans 1980). It should be recalled that the specific material factors and use goals are not always realized because of raw material and technological constraints and compromises in the design process.. built environments must meet certain requirements.

there is a need to communicate ever more information materially (cf. or woodis mainly utilitarian. Symbolic functions and requirements of architecture. These investments take the form of decoration. In the absence of such data. It is obvious that societies vary greatly in how much is invested in such symbolism. If the function of an institution is primarily ideological or social. which facilitate the workings of ideology and social structure. and the question is why. however. then its investment in architectural symbolism should be relatively greater than if its functions are primarily economic or technological. Hodder 1979. employing a certain shape (such as the cruciform plan of a basilica). building on a grand scale. remains a structure whose design-expediently constructed from earth. as social units become increasingly specialized. symbolic elaboration of architecture is needed to project to potential clients and stockholders a corporate image of “success”: reliability. it may be necessary to carry out new experiments. stone.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 281 American Southwest. few structures are built totally without symbolic investment. Buildings with predominantly utilitarian functions. We propose that the structural investment in symbolic functions increases in response to greater social differentiation. In societies having more groups and more social distinctions. Symbolic functions do under certain circumstances lead individuals and social groups to make investments in architecture beyond or in spite of a building’s utilitarian requirements. The Navajo hogan. In discussing symbolic functions. Although banks and insurance companies in our own society have mainly economic functions. but rather with how symbolic requirements enter into the design process and influence the physical form of architecture. artifacts with high symbolic content-especially built environments associated with religious institutions-are needed to help integrate a society’s disparate parts (Rathje and Schiffer 1982). and permanence (Duffy 1980). Wobst 1977. as Rathje (1982) has noted. Furthermore. it may still make seemingly irrational investments in material symbols. with little structural investment in symbolic function. use of rare or expensive materials. arguments (such as our own below) necessarily rest on a very insecure footing. . can acquire extensive symbolic content (Kent 1980). In highly differentiated societies. 1982. depending on their functions. we are not concerned with how a structure becomes imbued with meaning. but some have more than others. wealth. Rathje and Schiffer 1982). even after an institution’s economic base has eroded. despite its heavy symbolic loading (Jett and Spencer 198151-105). such as Navajo hogans. and use of particular construction techniques. Indeed. are not as concretely definable as utilitarian functions.

Because of this reciprocal relationship. Goals of Production and Maintenance The major goals of production and maintenance are set forth with comparative ease. A primary goal of production is to minimize the cost of the manufacture process (Wilson 1971:26). value of materials. the poorwho live on a day-to-day basis-have little call on resources and can establish no foundation for sizable investments in production. For example. and (3) more advantageous trade-offs between production and maintenance costs for the structures of the elite and of wealthy institutions. Increased social inequality has three predictable effects on architectural design in a society: (1) relatively higher investments by elite persons and wealthy institutions in the symbolic component of architecture. the elite . In most real situations. and low manufacture cost tends to inflate the cost of maintenance (Keiser 197856). Usually. As a result. The relative weighting given to production and maintenance costs in design is determined by factors pertaining to a society’s social structure and basic adaptation. At the most basic level. McGuire 1983). an unhappy compromise is often struck between production and maintenance. greater inequality means that the elite have at their disposal more of a society’s total production to invest in structures beyond minimum utilitarian requirements. the goals of manufacture and maintenance come into direct opposition. low maintenance cost is achieved by greater manufacture cost. with respect to vernacular architecture.282 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER Clearly. Access to resources determines the ability of a social unit or institution to mobilize materials and labor for production. but they can also invest relatively greater amounts to fulfill the symbolic goals of use. whereas the principal goal of maintenance is to minimize the cost of keeping a structure functional during its uselife (Keiser 197856). The main factor from social structure is social inequality. symbolic investment. For both manufacture and maintenance. and the design of architecture. and expertise. As such. cost is defined in terms of energy expended. a change in goals or in the use requirements of a social unit or institution will lead to changes in the meaning. with the goals of maintenance-and sometimes use-sacrificed. compromises-sometimes quite painful onescharacterize the design process. These consequences of social inequality can be expected for a number of reasons. Not only can wealthier groups afford to make more favorable trade-offs between production and maintenance costs. (2) more variability in the production costs of architecture. which is conveniently viewed as relative access to resources (cf.

with attendant reduction in maintenance costs and extension of uselife. which helps to maintain the elite’s preeminent position (cf. thus. may also occur. is the most important causal influence on the minimum acceptable uselife of structures. As . These in part determine a structure’s anticipated uselife. for the mass of population that is relatively deprived of resources. In an archaeological time frame. wealthier households tend to have more members. depending on the uselives of a society’s structures. they would need to construct larger dwellings (see also Whiting and Ayres 1968:122-123). Conversely. these lags should be detectable. Clearly. In this manner. Finally. as is the case with most hunter-gatherers. structures may meet utilitarian goals only minimally. the greater investment in manufacture. As social inequality changes. a case can be made that social inequality in England is somewhat less today than that indicated by variations in domestic structures. large groups of people become dependent on the elites for their livelihood. Because elite structures tend to have longer uselives. Schneider 1974). Anticipated uselife is the critical variable that links social and adaptive factors in the decisionmaking process. The interaction of uselife with other factors that affect design is complex. as determined by a society’s basic adaptation. so too should a society’s architectural designs. In many historic societies and those known archaeologically. For example. certain lag effects. many of which were built centuries ago by families that are no longer affluent. The main factors of a society’s adaptation that influence the relative weighting of production and maintenance costs are residential mobility (on household and community levels) and settlement longevity. settlement longevity is generally quite short. some of these mansions are now being converted into museums. The longer the expected uselife. either in terms of scale or substantialness. We propose that the anticipated longevity of a settlement. where rates of construction for different dwelling types through time can be ascertained and where changes in function can often be determined using the evidence of remodeling. the more benefits obtained from a greater investment in production. Indeed. but some relationships can be posited. the distribution of wealth in a society-social inequality-intluences both the mix of utilitarian and symbolic functions of architecture as well as the trade-offs between manufacture and maintenance costs. as Netting (1982) establishes cross-culturally. the fortunes of the elite relative to the rest of society may decline without being immediately reflected in architecture. However.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 283 can define and reinforce architecturally their dominant positions in the social system (Webster 1976:816). When societies are highly mobile. is reflected in what often survives in good condition for investigators to study: structures of elite social units and wealthy institutions. Such displays may take the form of “over-” building.

which tend toward very low social inequality. Because of a greater ratio of volume to surface area. Rafferty n. structures are expediently constructed and ephemeral (Sahlins 1972:3). use. domed dwellings require less material to construct (Swanson 1981:vii-viii). and they may be made of flexible. Generally. Indeed. and maintenance. In addition. and degree of residential mobility (Robbins 1966. have little need to express social inequality or social differentiation architecturally. well known. Use.). As a result. use. several cross-cultural studies have shown a relationship between floor plan. substantialness of dwellings. precisely that claim was made by the counterculture builders of the late 1960s in our own society (Kahn 1978:200-201). hemispheric structures have a lower wind resistance than rectangular buildings (Keiser 1978:21). The Znjluence of Cultural and Maintenance and Adaptive Factors on Production. and maintenance under other conditions. These relationships between settlement mobility and uselife of dwellings make good sense in terms of trade-offs between production. the more nomadic the society. However. lightweight materials of irregular shape (Whiting and Ayres 1968: 124-125). The ephemeral nature of housing for most archaeologically documented hunter-gatherers is. of course. Such structures tend to be less substantial and have less stringent requirements for building materials than the rectangular structures that usually typify long-lived settlements.d. These advantages seem to imply that domed buildings are a universally optimal form of structure. Whiting and Ayres 1968. A consideration of domed vs rectangular architecture permits us to examine some of these relationships more closely and allows us to set the stage for the pithouse to pueblo example. These characteristics permit people who build domes to achieve their basic utilitarian goals of shelter at low cost. Flannery 1972. and they heat up and cool down more slowly than rectangular structures of equivalent size (Evans 198050). factors relating to the basic adaptation and social structure of mobile groups favor expedient construction of dwellings. indeed. If people anticipate using a structure for long . Highly mobile groups. the uselives of such structures are generally short. Nor do these societies have to maintain structures for long periods of time. Thus.284 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER one might expect. cf. Domes fit the utilitarian housing requirements of mobile groups almost perfectly. domes have a number of disadvantages that make for bad compromises between production. the more likely it is to construct domed dwellings with round or oval floor plans.

all materials that require less maintenance than the organic items customarily employed for making domes in societies lacking access to aluminum and fiberglass (Keiser 1978:56). Although domes provide more volume per unit of surface area. do not always undergo developmental cycles. In such cases of high mobility. they often experience temporal variation in size (cf. Mobile populations. pertaining to social organization. Households in all societies go through developmental cycles: an individual or couple founds a new household. privacy may be achieved by dividing structures internally. privacy is recognized and valued to some degree in all societies (Rapoport 1976). or brick. and this is a distinct liability for less mobile groups. Privacy. Domed structures tend to have higher maintenance costs because they are less substantial and because they are often constructed of perishable materials (Whiting and Ayres 1968: 121). then they will benefit from low maintenance costs. This particular deficiency of domes does not decrease their usefulness for populations that occupy structures for only a small fraction of a household’s developmental cycle. Even though nonresidential social groups. whereas rectangular buildings easily accommodate expansions and additions. domes are difficult to subdivide. is a culturally variable concept. not all of this space is available for activities because of a lack of headroom around the margins of the structure (Kahn 1978:200-201). like task units or religious societies. As the example of domed . Architectural design must reflect and adapt to these variations in social units and their architectural needs. relatives.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 285 periods of time. rectangular structures can grow along with the expanding social unit. if we may generalize from the Navajo (Kluckhohn and Leighton 1962:91). In more long-lived villages. obtain privacy in part through economic and social activities that often take individuals away from home for long periods. Hemispherical structures cannot respond well to these changes. defined as control of unwanted social interaction. friends. especially a full generation or more. as Kahn (1978:200-201) also points out. their activities (and thus requirements for space) often also change. When the composition or size of social units changes. can be found for why domes are not always good solutions to the housing problem. Still other reasons. Moreover. adobe. and servants (Wilk and Rathje 1982). Rathje and Schiffer 1982). which usually have larger populations and perform most activities within a day’s radius of home. which grows by the addition of other members such as children. Internal partitioning of structures facilitates storage (Hunter-Anderson 1977). In sedentary settlements. nevertheless. It is difficult to build a dome out of stone. and it provides better privacy for the building’s occupants. which is more important to settled peoples. growth of the household is dealt with by building a larger dome in the next settlement.

Yet. insubstantial. For example. disputes within family groups are easily resolved by the migration of one party to another settlement. Wilk (1981. curvilinear pithouses that were well suited for relatively mobile households.286 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER houses shows. some Kekchi villages contain substantial edifices associated with various institutions. Because individual survival does not depend on maintaining ownership of specific plots of land. the Sedentary period Hohokam occupied shallow. The degree of residential mobility in an adaptation also affects the extent that investments are made in structures for symbolic purposes. but it also interacts with adaptive variables in the design process to influence utilitarian requirements. The institutions do not shift location because household movement occurs within their jurisdictions and because their existence is independent of the lifespans of particular households and individuals. we must also examine the relationship between residential mobility on the household level and the uselife of buildings. seemingly permanent institutional structures-ballcourts and platform mounds (not to mention canals)-were built (Haury 1976. in one way or another architectural design must be responsive to fluctuations in the size and composition of social units. is the scarce resource. we suspect. If structures are not utilized for long periods of time. Wilk and Rathje 1982) points out that households of the Kekchi Maya in Belize move often and. expectably. generalizing. 1981). The latter institution administers large tracts of land within which households periodically shift their residences. Consequently. then the costs of elaboration above utilitarian requirements would have to be paid on a recurrent basis. suggest that this situation results from an agricultural adaptation where labor. may also fit other prehistoric societies. Wilcox et al. principally the Catholic Church and the government of Belize. Wilk and Rathje (1982:633-637). Social differentiation not only affects the symbolic functions of architecture. Kekchi settlements themselves are not mobile. not land. In these cases of high mobility. build houses that sacrifice maintenance goals to minimize production costs. Greater differentiation of tasks among individuals and the concomitant specialization of technology lead to in- . This model. societies should put greater emphasis on portable goods or animals as symbols to express social inequality and differentiation. occupied like Snaketown for centuries. rather it is the households that move frequently within and between settlements. in these same settlements. Wilk and Rathje (1982:635-637) further suggest that a similar pattern of mobile households and immobile institutions characterized the Swasey phase-the earliest Maya. The effects of settlement longevity on architectural design are just part of the picture.

And it prompts us to consider possible raw material and technological constraints on the design process. This furnishes additional incentives to escalate the investment in production. To this point we have outlined the basic parameters of the design process of vernacular architecture. stone may be available but a technology to work it cheaply is lacking. 1981). is feasible because investments in rectangular architecture have reached the point where the uselife of structures exceeds the lifespan of households. stone may be inaccessible to relatively sedentary societies of low complexity. Under those circumstances it is not surprising that a single household often builds several structures to accommodate various activities. construct expendable. relatively mobile populations. The wood and thatch structures that are built in these areas generally have short uselives relative to what might be anticipated on the basis of settlement longevity. including storage. In other regions. thereby giving structures market value in addition to use value. . In some situations raw material or technological constraints can lead to the construction of dwellings that do not meet the minimum acceptable uselife. for example. The provisional theory we have set forth requires both elaboration and thorough testing. whereas in our own society we erect substantial houses that last many generations. we now turn to a familiar archaeological instance of architectural change. as in our own cities.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 287 creasing differentiation of architectural design. reusing structures that have an appropriate size (and symbolic content) for each stage (Schiffer et al. the transition from pithouse to pueblo in the American Southwest. In the tropics. It requires us to consider as well the linkage between adaptive factors and factors relating to social structure as mediated through anticipated uselife. and to promote privacy. for example. thus. one of several in use. partitioned rectangular houses. As architectural production-and later maintenance-is increasingly delegated to specialists. Specialists. These effects of differentiation interact with uselife. the costs of replacing and repairing structures go up. Even so. Windmills furnish an early industrial example of such a structure. This strategy. often need sheltered work areas unintruded by other activities. households may again become mobile. in its undeveloped state. The theory forces us to ask questions about the likely influences of symbolic and utilitarian functions and about trade-offs that were made between manufacture and maintenance. To illustrate this potential of the theory. it can serve as a framework for proposing tentative but testable explanations for specific instances of architectural variability and change. In settlements of great longevity. equipment associated with specialized tasks may demand particular architectural forms. such the Kekchi. similarly.

Hammack and Hammack 1981:62). Moreover. aboveground masonry or adobe pueblos. Hunter-Anderson 1980). We prefer to isolate cause in a more proximate fashion. but rather a process of change occurring in slightly different ways and at different times across much of the Southwest. In a discussion of the change in dwellings in the Dolores area. Lipe and Breternitz (1980) anticipated many of the present paper’s emphases on the relative costs and benefits of pithouses versus pueblos. was rather soundly dismissed. Gilman 1981. Nor is the transition total: pithouses continue to be constructed long after the introduction of rectangular surface rooms (Cordell and Plog 1979:408. but from the adoption of hard cradleboards (Wormington 194759). Wendorf 1950:92-l 15. a suitable antecedent would not furnish an adequate explanation for why the Anasazi or any group actually adopted a new design for their dwellings. on the Colorado Plateau. This hypothesis. 700 and 900. The pithouse to pueblo development appears to have taken place first among the Anasazi.D. Subsequent research demonstrated. Recent explanations for the pithouse-to-pueblo transition have emphasized various interacting adaptive and social variables (cf. in today’s frameworks of explanation. between A. share the general belief that population growth per se explains the change in architecture. over 50 years of intensive archaeology in the Southwest has failed to reveal pueblo-type structures earlier than those built by the Anasazi. Whalen 1981). however. which may be determined in part by demo- . semisubterranean pithouses to rectangular. Most scenarios find ultimate causality. The present discussion seeks to integrate many common concerns into a broader theoretical framework. popular among early workers. that the difference in skull forms resulted. This shift is not a sudden substitution. several researchers proposed that the “idea” of aboveground construction diffused to the Colorado Plateau from elsewhere (Martin 1939469). The variables we consider. Gilman 1981). Many of the earliest explanations for changes in Anasazi dwellings have been or can be discounted. Most attempts to account for the architectural transition have focused on the Anasazi (cf.288 EXPLAINING MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER ARCHITECTURAL CHANGE: PITHOUSE TO PUEBLO During the later prehistory of the Southwest. however. At approximately the same time that the immigration hypothesis was overturned. however. not from an immigration. One explanation. in an increasing population and in shifts from lineage to clan-type organizations (Chang 1958. 1957:129. there is a shift in dwellings from dome-shaped. focusing on several factors that are more immediately relevant to explaining outcomes of the design process. Plog 1974. suggested that a population of broad-headed people moved into the area and introduced the new architectural form (Kidder 1962:329-330). and we shall too. too. Gillespie 1976. Martin et al. We do not.

are household mobility and settlement longevity (and their effects on anticipated uselife) and. the pithouse. increased inequality should result in greater variability in the pro- . 900-1050 the surface structures are transformed into masonry roomblocks containing habitation and storage rooms that perhaps were used throughout the year. masonry roomblocks and kivas are combined into larger aggregrations. the shift from circular to rectangular floor plans. Pithouse architecture first becomes common (or at least archaeologically more obtrusive) on the Colorado Plateau at about A. a theory must account for the evolution from subterranean forms to surface dwellings. and the contemporaneous production of pithouses and pueblos in the same areas. but its functions become more specialized as a “kiva” with greater emphasis on ceremonial use.D. The theory presented above leads us to examine as possible causal variables changes in settlement longevity and household mobility and in social differentiation and inequality. The exact events of this sequence and their timing vary from place to place on the Colorado Plateau.D. greater investments in the symbolic functions of structures.D. Several authors have described the sequence of architectural change among the Anasazi. social differentiation and inequality. Basketmaker pithouses. We have suggested that more longlived households and communities should adopt rectangular floor plans for dwellings and should move from a primary emphasis on maximizing production goals to maximizing maintenance goals. Around A. Daifuku 1961. and a row of jacal (wattle and daub) surface storage rooms apparently replaces the antechamber (and semisubterranean pits). 800-900 these jacal rooms are being used for seasonal residence. Morris 1939. 700 the pithouses are consistently attaining a more squarelike shape. sometimes attaining the size of the massive Pueblo Bonito of Chaco Canyon or Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace. which sometimes have antechambers. Lipe and Breternitz 1980. 550. the change from wood to stone or adobe building materials. The foregoing synopsis and dates apply primarily to the Mesa Verde area (Lipe and Breternitz 1980). to a lesser extent. pithouses continue to be constructed in some areas well into the thirteenth century. Increasing differentiation should also lead to rectangular floor plans. and the establishment of institutions that have varying emphases on ideological and utilitarian purposes. To explain the pithouse-to-pueblo transformation. In the next few centuries. By A. range from nearly circular to nearly rectangular in shape and have a depth that varies from less than 1 m to more than 2 m. Finally. Martin 1939). and a synopsis of this change may be abstracted from their work (Roberts 1929.D. More importantly. the survival of the pithouse as a ceremonial structure. continues to be built. Evidence indicates that by A. The former habitation structure.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 289 graphic changes.

Changes in Anasazi dwellings conform to our expectations. Grebinger 1973). The degree of residential mobility of households and of communities depends in large part on the nature of a society’s adaptation and on the density of population in relation to resources. The dome- .. in this example. Unfortunately. that domesticated plants were more important in the diet-becoming by about A. were inhabited for only one or two generations. Ideas regarding the symbolic requirements of Anasazi architecture are most controversial. Researchers disagree over how large a dependence Basketmaker III populations had on agriculture (cf. Plog 1974. 900-1000 in most areas the primary subsistence resources-is widely believed (e.290 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER duction costs of structures and in higher investments in their symbolic functions. Cordell and Plog 1979. and social structure. the studies required to infer changes in these variables rigorously from the prehistoric record of the Southwest have not been carried out. 25 years) (Lipe and Bretemitz 1980:27). Among aboriginal groups in the historic Southwest. such as Betatakin and Kiet Siel (Dean 1969). we will necessarily rely on conventional wisdom about changes in subsistence base. Along with the reduction in household and community mobility is some evidence for increasing social differentiation and inequality (Cordell and Plog 1979.D. 1000-1150: burial data suggest a “ranked” society with marked differences in access to resources (Akins and Shelberg 1981). not because we believe they are correct in all respects. From Basketmaker II to Pueblo III. will establish the requisite inferences at a high level of reliability. but because to do otherwise-in the absence of intensive data analysis-would be arbitrary. We fall back on extant inferences. Eddy 1966:471-505). whereas some Pueblo III masonry rooms are known to have been in use for a century (e. perhaps oriented in part toward disconfirming our scenario. Rohn 1971:25). thus. however.D. Schiffer 1972).g. the general trends appear to be toward greater dependence on agriculture and increasing population density (Hunter-Anderson 1980).. We expect that future studies of change in Anasazi societies. in presenting our scenario of architectural change. Although some well-dated pueblo sites. population. Specific analyses suggest that pithouses were occupied for less than a generation (ca. the general trend toward reduced mobility of households and probably communities from Basketmaker III to Pueblo III seems to be established. Stiger 1977.g. The trend toward greater social inequality peaks on the Colorado Plateau in Chaco Canyon between A. Thus. sedentism and long-lived settlements seem to be correlated with degree of dependence on agriculture and with population density (Spicer 1962: l-20). settlement longevity. we will not emphasize symbolic functions.

and observations of the junior author). 1981). Round and oval structures. mobile populations. Dean. Actual durability under conditions of heavy earth (and winter snow) loading would be considerably less. pithouses would have provided their inhabitants with ample protection against the cold winters of the Colorado Plateau. Forest Service study. Earth-loaded dwellings. Insofar as use is concerned. as pithouses age. untreated juniper fence posts were shown to have a uselife of 32-37 years (DeGroot and Esenther 1982:231). Ranchers report that untreated pine fence posts last about 5 years. those ofjuniper perhaps IO-30 years. they have uselives-as dwellings-of about 6-10 years (Jeffrey S. as anticipated uselife goes up they do not continue to be a good architectural compromise-if alternative designs are feasible-because of high maintenance costs. Not only do the insulating qualities of earth reduce heat loss through infiltration. With their good surface to volume ratio. semisubterranean Basketmaker III pithouses would have served quite well for relatively undifferentiated. as a result. are difficult to partition and expand. Moreover. vermin and insects. and the insulating and heat-retaining qualities of earth-loaded construction. Clearly. and difficulties in keeping the structure clean (Ahrens et al.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 291 shaped. users periodically would have had to rebuild and refurbish their pithouses. exhibit definite disadvantages. Insect infestation usually begins rapidly. pithouse dwellings do not easily accommodate the increased storage requirements of a more settled agricultural population. It should be noted that these figures document the durability of upright posts bearing little or no load. the need for differentiated activity space. such as dampness. to increase uselife beyond more than about a generation. including insect infestation. after a single year (King 1983. especially with internal posts. For example. reconstructed Hohokam pithouses at the Gila Heritage Park showed considerable deterioration. Navajo hogans in the same environment suffer serious insect infestation. personal communication. when not built of waterproof materials. Anasazi builders addressed the need for more storage by adding ante- . these problems intensify.S. Even in the more arid Hohokam area. Bodig and Jayne 1982). Despite the favorable thermal properties of pithouses. Wood that supported the roof was in contact with the ground and would have decayed in short order. 1982). because early in the process of decay the strength properties of wood are markedly reduced (Wilcox and Rosenberg 1982. but the surrounding soil helps to moderate temperature fluctuations (Ahrens et al. and may have caused pithouses to be abandoned long before they became structurally unsound. In a U. 1981:9-11). nor the changing space demands of developing households. and new maintenance problems-brought on by the rotting of the wooden membercarise.

Pueblo rooms also represent a favorable compromise with respect to maintenance goals. contiguous rooms of masonry constructionpueblos-provide a good architectural compromise for low mobility populations on the Colorado Plateau where tabular sandstone requiring little working is widely available. that pithouses were more costly to build than surface structures (Cordell and Plog 1979:418. then. document pueblo rooms in use today that were built 250 years ago (Ahlstrom et al.292 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER chambers to their dwellings. Pueblo architecture. is well suited to fulfill the functional requirements of societies that occupy their structures for many decades and that exhibit modest degrees of social differentiation and inequality. Needless to say. In contrast to pithouses. Tree-ring studies. techniques of construction and plastering. Ratios of surface area to volume comparable to that of domed structures can be achieved by constructing large compact structures of rectangular rooms (Evans 1980:71). Anasazi builders pragmatically discovered this principle. befitting a more differentiated society. Symbolic functions. masonry styles. can be added to with little difficulty to accommodate households at different stages. Thus. It is of some interest that Lipe and Breternitz (1980:28) discern more differentiated use of architecture with the advent of yearround occupation of surface structures. 1978). but is it also true for the masonry structures of Pueblo II? We suggest not. if one includes the possibility of multiple stories. eminently testable. unlike pithouses. indeed. but did not facilitate their expansion to fit households at different developmental stages (cf. or in some cases adobe. Built of stone. Lipe and Breternitz (1980:23) suggest that the energy budgets of pithouses and small pueblos in the Dolores area were comparable. pueblos-with minimal maintenancecan last indefinitely. This may have been true for jacal rooms that appear in Pueblo I. Gillespie 1976:201. pueblos can be modified to fulfill a variety of utilitarian functions. Lipe and Breternitz 1980:27). Rectangular structures are easily subdivided and. is that pueblo rooms require a greater expenditure of resources and labor to build than pithouses. they have few or no organic structural members in the zone of rapid decay near and in the ground. for example. A shift to rectangular pithouses may have made internal subdivisions more feasible. as Lipe and Breternitz (1980) . Lipe and Breternitz 1980:27). Several authors have suggested just the opposite. Saile 1977) could have been manipulated to express differences in the nature and wealth of social groups as well as to channel social interaction. If. A crucial assumption of our scenario. Room size. and other design features (cf. and then by erecting rectangular surface rooms better suited to a more differentiated use of space. can be readily expressed in the medium of pueblo architecture.

structurally resemble Basketmaker III pithouses (McGregor 1965:216-217). Erasmus found that 2. Dean. which may be excavated from 15 to 162 cm into the earth (Jett and Spencer 1981:57). but several factors suggest that masonry pueblo rooms are more costly to construct than pithouses in terms of labor expenditure. 1982) would double this figure. Recent studies on Navajo and Pueblo wood use are instructive in this regard. much of the Anasazi population would have had to travel greater distances. 1982). Gnarled specimens of juniper and pinyon are not useful for constructing pueblo rooms (Jeffrey S.000 trees were cut to build Chetro Ketl. These two species usually grow in bent and branching shapes. Experimenting in Sonora. Because of their basically domed or conical forms. straight members for both primary and secondary beams. 1982). have similar energy budgets. On a more general level. provide a more appropriate timber for pueblos. hauling. Dean (personal communication. personal communication. and are easier to erect. compared to rectangular buildings. shaping. why did the Anasazi ever build pithouses? Resolution of this issue will require much more experimental research. It should also be noted that a pueblo roof requires a considerable amount of wood. expertise. and are found in or near most areas that were occupied prehistorically. and materials. surface structures are more versatile than pithouses. We have been unable to identify any grounds for the belief that excavating a pithouse required more work than quarrying. whereas pueblo rooms require long. sometimes over mountainous terrain. The most ubiquitous trees on the Colorado Plateau are juniper and pinyon. Straight pieces of juniper and pinyon occur but Douglas fir and ponderosa pine.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 293 imply. Wood requirements for the construction of Navajo hogans are much less stringent than those for pueblo rooms (Jeffrey S. Whiting and Ayres (1968124-125) note that. and estimates that 26. and laying rock for a masonry room. Vivian and Mathews (1964:lll) estimate that an average of 15 timbers would have been needed to construct one room at Chetro Ketl. . For example. Experiments reported by Coles (1973) and by Erasmus (1965) for various construction activities using neolithic tools provide data relevant to part of this question. to obtain these materials. especially forked-stick hogans. personal communication. which generally grow at higher elevations on the Plateau or in restricted canyon settings. Archaeologists have long noted that Navajo hogans.6 m3 of earth could be excavated per person-day using digging sticks. Because these latter species are found in more scattered locales. Dean. the comparable figure for Europe. some styles of hogan can be built from odd shaped and branching pieces of wood. domed structures have less demanding requirements for construction materials.

and thus required less labor. is 1. As a pit structure. had important nonutilitarian functions (Dozier 1970). Although we cannot assert that Anasazi kivas were used exactly like more recent kivas or that Basketmaker III and pueblo kivas had identical uses. constructing masonry walls 0.5 person-days are required to erect each cubic meter of masonry. Coles (1973:57) suggests that a structure with 90 m2 of floor space could be built in about 150 person-days. the kiva could .6 person-days (Erasmus 1965). and laying of stone indicate that in the neighborhood of 8. jacales. Even if these figures were the same. The arguments and evidence presented above are in no way conclusive regarding the relative production costs of masonry pueblo rooms and pithouses.294 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER reported by Coles. It should be obvious that the experimental errors built into these estimates could be somewhat greater than the magnitude of the differences in labor requirements for the various modes of construction.4 m3. were pithouses that continued to be built in pueblo villages. At this point. from procuring materials to the last stage of construction. are required. after all. which is doubtful given the different materials used. many more experiments. perhaps using Anasazi tool kits to replicate pithouses and pueblos. Most Anasazi pithouses were of course a great deal shallower.25 m thick to enclose the same volume or space would have involved about 114 person-days. at least in historic pueblos. the basic conclusion would not change: the effort to build a pueblo room was generally greater than that needed for an Anasazi pithouse. available information furnishes tantalizing support for the proposition that the mix of maintenance vs production costs are very different for these two kinds of Anasazi structure. A jacal structure with 45 m2 of floor space and 2 m of head room would involve a construction effort of 75 person-days (Coles 1973:157). Clearly. These experimental data permit us to offer very coarse estimates on the relative expenditures of labor for pithouses. To the pithouse and pueblo estimates one would have to add costs for procuring and shaping the roofing materials as well as for erecting the roof. It is also apparent that more skill is involved in laying masonry walls than in digging pits. The institution that occupied the kiva. Despite the lack of fully appropriate experimental data. Erasmus’ data on quarrying. one might inquire: How do kivas fit into the picture? Kivas. shaping. Finally.3 person-days (from Coles 1973:73) or 34. there is little doubt from the archaeological evidence that kivas served some kind of integrative function prehistorically. We stress that comparisons of pithouse and pueblo costs must include the entire range of activities. Regarding wattle and daub construction. and masonry houses of similar size. Excavating a pit of the same dimensions would require either 64.

Lipe and Bretemitz 1980:27-28). large areas within the northern Rio Grande region in New Mexico are marginal for agriculture (Cordell 1978). If they were temporary shelters. and the apparently “late” adoption of pueblo architecture in some areas.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 295 contrast with domestic pueblo architecture to indicate symbolically the discreteness of that institution (cf. and the persistence of the ceremonial plaza at Zuni Pueblo (Ferguson and Mills 1978). It is probably no accident that in some of these areas pithouse villages. Perhaps . often involving the most sacred aspects of a society’s ideology. or round rooms built into square architectural spaces. because of altitude or aspect. We suggest that the remaining two possibilities probably account for the late pithouse villages. if these pithouse villagers were following a more mobile adaptation. in puebloan society.. whereas symbolic functions. continue to be occupied well into Pueblo III times (Cordell 1978). then they should be found near pueblos and should be inhabited for only a brief period just before them. then their settlements should be located in agriculturally marginal areas (i. In addition. and (3) as the homes of poor people who cannot afford the greater production costs of pueblos. size alone set off kivas from dwellings. With the differentiation of structural designs for various uses. Our theory would suggest that pithouses might survive as dwellings in three situations: (1) as temporary shelters used during pueblo construction. subterranean masonry rooms. short growing season or paucity of arable land) and should yield evidence for greater dependence on foraging. For example. These expensive variations are entirely understandable. Previously.e. the survival of the traditional Piman Ki as a ceremonial wine house among the Papago (Underhill 1946). Another issue to be considered with respect to the pithouse to pueblo transition is the contemporaneous use in one area of pithouses and pueblos. in pithouse villages. size and mode of construction could carry a heavier symbolic load. seemingly dependent largely on hunting and gathering. pursuing a more mobile. given that symbolic functions are heavily weighted in the design process of kivas. The survival of extinct dwelling forms as sacred structures may be a common pattern. older adaptation. changes in utilitarian functions demand new forms. perhaps living on the margins of Anasazi society. remain tied to the past. In the Southwest. there are at least three other examples: the construction of Navajo hogans for ceremonial use in HEW housing tracts (Jett and Spencer 1981:232). Of these possibilities the third appears unlikely for the Anasazi case because the production costs of a pueblo room would not seem to exceed the resources that any family could muster. On the other hand. many of the later pit-kivas are in fact very costly round. (2) households.

Clearly. adobe and calithe) having different characteristics that were ultimately used in the construction of Hohokam “pueblos. like other investigators. A final issue concerns the effects of raw material availability on the . These various hypotheses to account for apparently anomalous developments need to be examined critically with extant and newly gathered data.. such as LargoGallina. such as population pressure. These patterns of variability deserve closer scrutiny in the future. the extent of residential mobility. or the amount of social inequality (e. one may reasonably infer that the experimentation done centuries earlier by the Anasazi-and embodied in their pueblos-was expeditiously applied by Mogollon groups as their residential mobility decreased.e. Clearly. Stuart and Gauthier (1981) have suggested that the degree of complexity reached in certain Anasazi areas. In examining the pithouse to pueblo transition we have. It is noteworthy that when the pithouse-topueblo change occurred in the Mogollon region.. However. a period of research and development took place that enabled the Anasazi to advance technologically. and the nature of the cultural environment) could ultimately be responsible for causing changes in vernacular architecture by altering anticipated uselife and the mix of symbolic and utilitarian functions. Brew 1946). perhaps reflecting the need to experiment with new building materials (e.g. because they undoubtedly have the potential to furnish information about how new technological knowledge is acquired by and applied in nonindustrial societies.” Similarly.. environmental potential. the rich architectural record of the Anasazi. was in part a function of their mode of integration within regional systems (i. tied into the modern calendar through tree-ring dating. it was relatively rapid. appropriate wood for roofing pueblos is quite scarce in the Hohokam area. the Chaco phenomenon). necessarily emphasized the extreme points of this developmental process.296 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER pueblos are finally built after the development of instititional mechanisms for evening out spatial and temporal variability in agricultural production (cf. Braun and Plog 1982). any factor that affects the degree of agricultural dependence. On the other hand.g.. Schiffer 1979). there is a clear need to build into theories of design various factors pertaining to the costs of innovation and experimentation (cf. Additionally.g. construction of pueblos may have required considerable experimentation with local materials and with long-distance procurement of better timbers. An additional consideration relates to further challenges to our theory and to other theories of architectural design that may be proposed in the future. reveals in fact an era of experimentation lasting over a century where diverse architectural forms as well as various combinations of those forms were built for short periods of time in (usually) restricted areas (e. a period of architectural diversity is evident. a few centuries later when the Hohokam underwent the transition.

CONCLUSION The discussion of the pithouse-to-pueblo transition illustrates the productivity of the general theory of architectural design. Indeed. In another environment. who on a daily basis deal with artifacts. ethnoarchaeological. For this important assistance we thank . The above scenario for explaining changes in Anasazi architecture is based on many untested-but eminently testable--hypotheses about differences between pithouses and pueblos in costs and in their suitability for performing various functions. If we could explain why they vary and why they change (Schiffer 1979). Some sedentary groups do build rectangular. with more suitable wood resources and less tractable stone-thus different procurement and processing costs-the outcome could have been very different. Clearly. in this instance architecture. the ready availability of tabular sandstone blocks in most areas provided a better alternative. and prehistoric contexts. our scenario should not be uncritically accepted. surface. Theory building on that level ought to be most congenial to archaeologists. The theoretical framework presented above specifies causality at the appropriate scale: individuals and social groups making decisions and effecting compromises in order to achieve various goals. this explanatory sketch furnishes myriad implications for future research in experimental. then we would be in an advantageous position to use material evidence to provide more rigorous and incisive explanations for human behavior of the past and the present. By means of such a theory-middle-range theory in the correct usage of the term-archaeologists can link up large-scale adaptive processes to the characteristics of specific artifacts. it will take many more years of archaeological research and experimentation until our knowledge of building materials and costs is as extensive as that developed by the Anasazi more than a millennium ago. Architectural design. involves the give and take of social interaction that occurs against a broad backdrop of environmental and social processes. the Anasazi gradually arrived at the cost and behavioral parameters of various architectural designs. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS A great many people have contributed to the present paper by supplying ideas and leads to sources and by furnishing comments on drafts. While the Anasazi could have built log houses. wooden structures that readily decay and have high maintenance costs. masonry pueblos usually won out. however. archaeologists can expect to learn more about how various factors interact in a social context to influence design decisions. we suggest. Until such research is carried out.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 297 pithouse to pueblo transition. As efforts to refine and test it continue. By processes of trial and error.

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