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2, 277-303 (1983)
A Theory of Architectural Design
RANDALL H. MCGUIRE
Anthropology, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York 13901 AND
MICHAEL B. SCHIFFER
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
226). to a certain extent. Design is a social process because compromises between goals are effected within and between social groups. each acting in its own best interest to maximize goals. some families or task groups specialize in construction. In the compromises reached during the design process. these activity sets and their attendant goals become increasingly associated with different social units. such as the Navajo (Jett and Spencer 1981: 17) and the Tarahumara (Pennington 1963:223. production. the family that will use and maintain a structure often also builds it.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 279 structures. separate task groups have arisen that specialize in design. and maintenance cannot all be maximized with respect to a particular structure. production. architecture must remain responsive to the developmental cycles of households and institutions. maintenance. the definition of the range itself) depends on the compromise (or trade-off) between production and maintenance . 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. and maintenance. Residential mobility has a direct effect on utilitarian requirements. Among societies with limited differentiation. and maintenance. Increased differentiation associates each activity set with a different social collective. Even in the simplest case where a single family or institution participates in all three activity sets. the design falls within a particular range (and. goals relating to use are usually accorded a high priority (Allsopp 1977:81-95). in the most differentiated societies. such as our own. there is often appreciable social distance between those who made and maintain the structure and its users. such as the Samoans (Goldman 1970:255). We will be stressing the trade-offs between production and maintenance goals. In this case. Since the goals of production. Use goals establish a series of requirements with attendant ranges within which the design must fall. construction. Finally. and constrains the investments that can be made in architectural symbolism. while others-the occupants-use and maintain the structures. use. However. such as anticipated uselife. The separation of these activities among different groups increases the potential for conflict in the design process. 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 context of these other factors. . and even demolition of structures. where. As societies become more differentiated. the potential for conflict grows. sometimes with assistance from other families. In more differentiated societies. and may be exacerbated by imperfect communication between social units. precisely.
Saile 1977). quantitative terms may be difficult given our present knowledge. For example. Although there is a vast body of literature on the mechanical and decay-resistance properties of lumber. Even a mundane requirement. pinyon. Rathje and Schiffer 1982:67.280 Goals of Use MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER The goals of use can be partitioned into utilitarian and symbolic functions (cf. trees that have little or no commercial value today are not well represented (e. To carry out these general functions. such as the maximum load that a wooden roof must bear. which can be enumerated in terms of specific material factors. an oversimplification. the delineation of use goals and material factors in highly specific. This dichotomy is. mesquite. cannot be translated into quantitative terms for many of the construction materials used in vernacular architecture. and season of performance of activities as well as the size of the social unit lead to minimum floorspace needs (cf. Powell 1980. the diversity. Clearly. admittedly. Bodig and Jayne 1982). if one wishes to specify and compare behavioral requirements for prehistoric construction materials. seasonality. 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.. and ironwood in the .g. From the standpoint of the archaeologist. we cannot yet reliably specify the minimum space requirements for any particular prehistoric case. but it is nonetheless a useful one for present purposes. stemming in part from the nature and diversity of the activities and social groups that use the space. see Hassan 1981). McGuire 1981. a great deal more work is needed to discern the influence of activity patterns. Schiffer 1972). and other factors on the floor-space requirements of dwellings (cf. Schiffer 1973). such as juniper. built environments must meet certain requirements. Thus. spatial extent. 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. specific formulations of floor-space requirements must be regarded as highly tentative . 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). Until these studies are carried out. 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. A few examples underscore these problems.
Rathje and Schiffer 1982). Symbolic functions and requirements of architecture. We propose that the structural investment in symbolic functions increases in response to greater social differentiation. depending on their functions. use of rare or expensive materials. 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. Indeed. it may be necessary to carry out new experiments. with little structural investment in symbolic function. remains a structure whose design-expediently constructed from earth. but rather with how symbolic requirements enter into the design process and influence the physical form of architecture. building on a grand scale. symbolic elaboration of architecture is needed to project to potential clients and stockholders a corporate image of “success”: reliability. despite its heavy symbolic loading (Jett and Spencer 198151-105). stone. In the absence of such data.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 281 American Southwest. can acquire extensive symbolic content (Kent 1980). employing a certain shape (such as the cruciform plan of a basilica). even after an institution’s economic base has eroded. Wobst 1977. Buildings with predominantly utilitarian functions. and use of particular construction techniques. there is a need to communicate ever more information materially (cf. Furthermore. as social units become increasingly specialized. Hodder 1979. however. 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). few structures are built totally without symbolic investment. as Rathje (1982) has noted. In societies having more groups and more social distinctions. which facilitate the workings of ideology and social structure. and permanence (Duffy 1980). we are not concerned with how a structure becomes imbued with meaning. it may still make seemingly irrational investments in material symbols. 1982. The Navajo hogan. In highly differentiated societies. Although banks and insurance companies in our own society have mainly economic functions. . but some have more than others. arguments (such as our own below) necessarily rest on a very insecure footing. such as Navajo hogans. or woodis mainly utilitarian. It is obvious that societies vary greatly in how much is invested in such symbolism. In discussing symbolic functions. wealth. and the question is why. then its investment in architectural symbolism should be relatively greater than if its functions are primarily economic or technological. These investments take the form of decoration. If the function of an institution is primarily ideological or social. are not as concretely definable as utilitarian functions.
282 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER Clearly. an unhappy compromise is often struck between production and maintenance. 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. low maintenance cost is achieved by greater manufacture cost. 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. compromises-sometimes quite painful onescharacterize the design process. symbolic investment. At the most basic level. and expertise. The main factor from social structure is social inequality. A primary goal of production is to minimize the cost of the manufacture process (Wilson 1971:26). As such. the goals of manufacture and maintenance come into direct opposition. (2) more variability in the production costs of architecture. For example. and the design of architecture. whereas the principal goal of maintenance is to minimize the cost of keeping a structure functional during its uselife (Keiser 197856). and low manufacture cost tends to inflate the cost of maintenance (Keiser 197856). with the goals of maintenance-and sometimes use-sacrificed. For both manufacture and maintenance. Access to resources determines the ability of a social unit or institution to mobilize materials and labor for production. As a result. McGuire 1983). a change in goals or in the use requirements of a social unit or institution will lead to changes in the meaning. These consequences of social inequality can be expected for a number of reasons. the poorwho live on a day-to-day basis-have little call on resources and can establish no foundation for sizable investments in production. In most real situations. the elite . cost is defined in terms of energy expended. Not only can wealthier groups afford to make more favorable trade-offs between production and maintenance costs. Because of this reciprocal relationship. which is conveniently viewed as relative access to resources (cf. Usually. and (3) more advantageous trade-offs between production and maintenance costs for the structures of the elite and of wealthy institutions. 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. with respect to vernacular architecture. Goals of Production and Maintenance The major goals of production and maintenance are set forth with comparative ease. value of materials. but they can also invest relatively greater amounts to fulfill the symbolic goals of use.
Clearly. As . the greater investment in manufacture. with attendant reduction in maintenance costs and extension of uselife. the more benefits obtained from a greater investment in production. The interaction of uselife with other factors that affect design is complex. for the mass of population that is relatively deprived of resources. these lags should be detectable. For example. When societies are highly mobile. Anticipated uselife is the critical variable that links social and adaptive factors in the decisionmaking process. may also occur. 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. structures may meet utilitarian goals only minimally. large groups of people become dependent on the elites for their livelihood. These in part determine a structure’s anticipated uselife. Schneider 1974). as Netting (1982) establishes cross-culturally. As social inequality changes. Such displays may take the form of “over-” building. settlement longevity is generally quite short. the fortunes of the elite relative to the rest of society may decline without being immediately reflected in architecture. Indeed. 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 longer the expected uselife. they would need to construct larger dwellings (see also Whiting and Ayres 1968:122-123). either in terms of scale or substantialness. which helps to maintain the elite’s preeminent position (cf. In an archaeological time frame. In this manner. In many historic societies and those known archaeologically. We propose that the anticipated longevity of a settlement. so too should a society’s architectural designs. Because elite structures tend to have longer uselives. a case can be made that social inequality in England is somewhat less today than that indicated by variations in domestic structures. many of which were built centuries ago by families that are no longer affluent. as is the case with most hunter-gatherers. as determined by a society’s basic adaptation. certain lag effects. However. Conversely.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 283 can define and reinforce architecturally their dominant positions in the social system (Webster 1976:816). Finally. is reflected in what often survives in good condition for investigators to study: structures of elite social units and wealthy institutions. depending on the uselives of a society’s structures. 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. is the most important causal influence on the minimum acceptable uselife of structures. thus. some of these mansions are now being converted into museums. wealthier households tend to have more members. but some relationships can be posited.
lightweight materials of irregular shape (Whiting and Ayres 1968: 124-125). of course. If people anticipate using a structure for long . and they may be made of flexible. several cross-cultural studies have shown a relationship between floor plan. precisely that claim was made by the counterculture builders of the late 1960s in our own society (Kahn 1978:200-201). These relationships between settlement mobility and uselife of dwellings make good sense in terms of trade-offs between production. the more nomadic the society. indeed. have little need to express social inequality or social differentiation architecturally. The ephemeral nature of housing for most archaeologically documented hunter-gatherers is. use. Nor do these societies have to maintain structures for long periods of time. and maintenance. domed dwellings require less material to construct (Swanson 1981:vii-viii). The Znjluence of Cultural and Maintenance and Adaptive Factors on Production. Indeed.). Domes fit the utilitarian housing requirements of mobile groups almost perfectly.d. 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. These advantages seem to imply that domed buildings are a universally optimal form of structure. In addition. and degree of residential mobility (Robbins 1966.284 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER one might expect. Whiting and Ayres 1968. domes have a number of disadvantages that make for bad compromises between production. use. Rafferty n. cf. However. hemispheric structures have a lower wind resistance than rectangular buildings (Keiser 1978:21). Flannery 1972. substantialness of dwellings. well known. Use. the uselives of such structures are generally short. Because of a greater ratio of volume to surface area. the more likely it is to construct domed dwellings with round or oval floor plans. which tend toward very low social inequality. and maintenance under other conditions. structures are expediently constructed and ephemeral (Sahlins 1972:3). Generally. As a result. factors relating to the basic adaptation and social structure of mobile groups favor expedient construction of dwellings. 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. and they heat up and cool down more slowly than rectangular structures of equivalent size (Evans 198050). These characteristics permit people who build domes to achieve their basic utilitarian goals of shelter at low cost. Thus. Highly mobile groups.
In sedentary settlements. do not always undergo developmental cycles.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 285 periods of time. as Kahn (1978:200-201) also points out. Privacy. or brick. Households in all societies go through developmental cycles: an individual or couple founds a new household. privacy is recognized and valued to some degree in all societies (Rapoport 1976). 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). friends. growth of the household is dealt with by building a larger dome in the next settlement. Even though nonresidential social groups. relatives. like task units or religious societies. Hemispherical structures cannot respond well to these changes. obtain privacy in part through economic and social activities that often take individuals away from home for long periods. they often experience temporal variation in size (cf. whereas rectangular buildings easily accommodate expansions and additions. defined as control of unwanted social interaction. which usually have larger populations and perform most activities within a day’s radius of home. which is more important to settled peoples. Still other reasons. rectangular structures can grow along with the expanding social unit. domes are difficult to subdivide. nevertheless. In more long-lived villages. privacy may be achieved by dividing structures internally. especially a full generation or more. and it provides better privacy for the building’s occupants. then they will benefit from low maintenance costs. and this is a distinct liability for less mobile groups. 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). As the example of domed . 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). Rathje and Schiffer 1982). which grows by the addition of other members such as children. Architectural design must reflect and adapt to these variations in social units and their architectural needs. When the composition or size of social units changes. and servants (Wilk and Rathje 1982). It is difficult to build a dome out of stone. Mobile populations. 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. Although domes provide more volume per unit of surface area. Moreover. Internal partitioning of structures facilitates storage (Hunter-Anderson 1977). can be found for why domes are not always good solutions to the housing problem. pertaining to social organization. adobe. their activities (and thus requirements for space) often also change. if we may generalize from the Navajo (Kluckhohn and Leighton 1962:91). is a culturally variable concept. In such cases of high mobility.
in one way or another architectural design must be responsive to fluctuations in the size and composition of social units. This model. Consequently. expectably. some Kekchi villages contain substantial edifices associated with various institutions. seemingly permanent institutional structures-ballcourts and platform mounds (not to mention canals)-were built (Haury 1976. suggest that this situation results from an agricultural adaptation where labor. we must also examine the relationship between residential mobility on the household level and the uselife of buildings. societies should put greater emphasis on portable goods or animals as symbols to express social inequality and differentiation. disputes within family groups are easily resolved by the migration of one party to another settlement. 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. 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 Sedentary period Hohokam occupied shallow. in these same settlements. then the costs of elaboration above utilitarian requirements would have to be paid on a recurrent basis. is the scarce resource. occupied like Snaketown for centuries. but it also interacts with adaptive variables in the design process to influence utilitarian requirements. 1981). Because individual survival does not depend on maintaining ownership of specific plots of land. Kekchi settlements themselves are not mobile. build houses that sacrifice maintenance goals to minimize production costs. The degree of residential mobility in an adaptation also affects the extent that investments are made in structures for symbolic purposes. Wilk and Rathje (1982:633-637). curvilinear pithouses that were well suited for relatively mobile households. The effects of settlement longevity on architectural design are just part of the picture. we suspect. Wilk and Rathje 1982) points out that households of the Kekchi Maya in Belize move often and. Wilcox et al. not land. Wilk (1981. For example. principally the Catholic Church and the government of Belize. Yet. insubstantial. may also fit other prehistoric societies. generalizing. rather it is the households that move frequently within and between settlements. The latter institution administers large tracts of land within which households periodically shift their residences. In these cases of high mobility. Social differentiation not only affects the symbolic functions of architecture. If structures are not utilized for long periods of time. Greater differentiation of tasks among individuals and the concomitant specialization of technology lead to in- .286 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER houses shows.
equipment associated with specialized tasks may demand particular architectural forms. and to promote privacy. thereby giving structures market value in addition to use value. Specialists. as in our own cities. for example. for example. it can serve as a framework for proposing tentative but testable explanations for specific instances of architectural variability and change. one of several in use. the costs of replacing and repairing structures go up. This furnishes additional incentives to escalate the investment in production. It requires us to consider as well the linkage between adaptive factors and factors relating to social structure as mediated through anticipated uselife. In settlements of great longevity. in its undeveloped state.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 287 creasing differentiation of architectural design. In other regions. we now turn to a familiar archaeological instance of architectural change. is feasible because investments in rectangular architecture have reached the point where the uselife of structures exceeds the lifespan of households. Under those circumstances it is not surprising that a single household often builds several structures to accommodate various activities. 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. To this point we have outlined the basic parameters of the design process of vernacular architecture. In the tropics. stone may be inaccessible to relatively sedentary societies of low complexity. households may again become mobile. such the Kekchi. And it prompts us to consider possible raw material and technological constraints on the design process. whereas in our own society we erect substantial houses that last many generations. Windmills furnish an early industrial example of such a structure. To illustrate this potential of the theory. Even so. including storage. often need sheltered work areas unintruded by other activities. This strategy. construct expendable. the transition from pithouse to pueblo in the American Southwest. 1981). These effects of differentiation interact with uselife. similarly. The provisional theory we have set forth requires both elaboration and thorough testing. thus. relatively mobile populations. In some situations raw material or technological constraints can lead to the construction of dwellings that do not meet the minimum acceptable uselife. 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. As architectural production-and later maintenance-is increasingly delegated to specialists. reusing structures that have an appropriate size (and symbolic content) for each stage (Schiffer et al. . stone may be available but a technology to work it cheaply is lacking. partitioned rectangular houses.
in an increasing population and in shifts from lineage to clan-type organizations (Chang 1958. aboveground masonry or adobe pueblos. Most scenarios find ultimate causality. not from an immigration. Martin et al. This hypothesis. The variables we consider. This shift is not a sudden substitution. in today’s frameworks of explanation. on the Colorado Plateau. but from the adoption of hard cradleboards (Wormington 194759). however. In a discussion of the change in dwellings in the Dolores area. Hammack and Hammack 1981:62). between A. that the difference in skull forms resulted. 700 and 900. several researchers proposed that the “idea” of aboveground construction diffused to the Colorado Plateau from elsewhere (Martin 1939469). a suitable antecedent would not furnish an adequate explanation for why the Anasazi or any group actually adopted a new design for their dwellings. was rather soundly dismissed. Nor is the transition total: pithouses continue to be constructed long after the introduction of rectangular surface rooms (Cordell and Plog 1979:408. Subsequent research demonstrated. Many of the earliest explanations for changes in Anasazi dwellings have been or can be discounted.288 EXPLAINING MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER ARCHITECTURAL CHANGE: PITHOUSE TO PUEBLO During the later prehistory of the Southwest. semisubterranean pithouses to rectangular. suggested that a population of broad-headed people moved into the area and introduced the new architectural form (Kidder 1962:329-330). Gilman 1981). Plog 1974. We prefer to isolate cause in a more proximate fashion. share the general belief that population growth per se explains the change in architecture. Hunter-Anderson 1980). Recent explanations for the pithouse-to-pueblo transition have emphasized various interacting adaptive and social variables (cf. however. focusing on several factors that are more immediately relevant to explaining outcomes of the design process. but rather a process of change occurring in slightly different ways and at different times across much of the Southwest. Wendorf 1950:92-l 15. Most attempts to account for the architectural transition have focused on the Anasazi (cf. We do not. One explanation. too. The pithouse to pueblo development appears to have taken place first among the Anasazi. however. which may be determined in part by demo- . over 50 years of intensive archaeology in the Southwest has failed to reveal pueblo-type structures earlier than those built by the Anasazi. Gillespie 1976.D. and we shall too. Gilman 1981. popular among early workers. At approximately the same time that the immigration hypothesis was overturned. 1957:129. Whalen 1981). The present discussion seeks to integrate many common concerns into a broader theoretical framework. there is a shift in dwellings from dome-shaped. Moreover. Lipe and Breternitz (1980) anticipated many of the present paper’s emphases on the relative costs and benefits of pithouses versus pueblos.
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. To explain the pithouse-to-pueblo transformation. Finally.D. 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. and a synopsis of this change may be abstracted from their work (Roberts 1929. the pithouse.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 289 graphic changes. 900-1050 the surface structures are transformed into masonry roomblocks containing habitation and storage rooms that perhaps were used throughout the year. and the establishment of institutions that have varying emphases on ideological and utilitarian purposes. Daifuku 1961. the shift from circular to rectangular floor plans. 800-900 these jacal rooms are being used for seasonal residence. a theory must account for the evolution from subterranean forms to surface dwellings. Lipe and Breternitz 1980. Evidence indicates that by A. which sometimes have antechambers. the change from wood to stone or adobe building materials. 700 the pithouses are consistently attaining a more squarelike shape.D. The foregoing synopsis and dates apply primarily to the Mesa Verde area (Lipe and Breternitz 1980). to a lesser extent. 550. The exact events of this sequence and their timing vary from place to place on the Colorado Plateau. By A. Basketmaker pithouses. greater investments in the symbolic functions of structures. social differentiation and inequality. the survival of the pithouse as a ceremonial structure. More importantly. 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. are household mobility and settlement longevity (and their effects on anticipated uselife) and. pithouses continue to be constructed in some areas well into the thirteenth century. In the next few centuries. and a row of jacal (wattle and daub) surface storage rooms apparently replaces the antechamber (and semisubterranean pits). Pithouse architecture first becomes common (or at least archaeologically more obtrusive) on the Colorado Plateau at about A.D. continues to be built.D. Morris 1939. Around A. Several authors have described the sequence of architectural change among the Anasazi. sometimes attaining the size of the massive Pueblo Bonito of Chaco Canyon or Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace. increased inequality should result in greater variability in the pro- . The former habitation structure. masonry roomblocks and kivas are combined into larger aggregrations. Martin 1939). 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. Increasing differentiation should also lead to rectangular floor plans.
Along with the reduction in household and community mobility is some evidence for increasing social differentiation and inequality (Cordell and Plog 1979. the studies required to infer changes in these variables rigorously from the prehistoric record of the Southwest have not been carried out. Cordell and Plog 1979.D. not because we believe they are correct in all respects. Researchers disagree over how large a dependence Basketmaker III populations had on agriculture (cf. however. Although some well-dated pueblo sites. Changes in Anasazi dwellings conform to our expectations. will establish the requisite inferences at a high level of reliability. 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. were inhabited for only one or two generations. in presenting our scenario of architectural change. perhaps oriented in part toward disconfirming our scenario. 900-1000 in most areas the primary subsistence resources-is widely believed (e. settlement longevity. we will necessarily rely on conventional wisdom about changes in subsistence base. sedentism and long-lived settlements seem to be correlated with degree of dependence on agriculture and with population density (Spicer 1962: l-20). Unfortunately. Thus. Plog 1974. Schiffer 1972). thus. whereas some Pueblo III masonry rooms are known to have been in use for a century (e.290 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER duction costs of structures and in higher investments in their symbolic functions. in this example. Rohn 1971:25). Among aboriginal groups in the historic Southwest. We fall back on extant inferences. The trend toward greater social inequality peaks on the Colorado Plateau in Chaco Canyon between A. such as Betatakin and Kiet Siel (Dean 1969). The dome- . Specific analyses suggest that pithouses were occupied for less than a generation (ca. but because to do otherwise-in the absence of intensive data analysis-would be arbitrary. we will not emphasize symbolic functions.. the general trend toward reduced mobility of households and probably communities from Basketmaker III to Pueblo III seems to be established. Grebinger 1973).. From Basketmaker II to Pueblo III. 25 years) (Lipe and Bretemitz 1980:27). and social structure. We expect that future studies of change in Anasazi societies.D. population. Eddy 1966:471-505). Ideas regarding the symbolic requirements of Anasazi architecture are most controversial. that domesticated plants were more important in the diet-becoming by about A. Stiger 1977.g. the general trends appear to be toward greater dependence on agriculture and increasing population density (Hunter-Anderson 1980). 1000-1150: burial data suggest a “ranked” society with marked differences in access to resources (Akins and Shelberg 1981).g.
these problems intensify. such as dampness. and may have caused pithouses to be abandoned long before they became structurally unsound. those ofjuniper perhaps IO-30 years. reconstructed Hohokam pithouses at the Gila Heritage Park showed considerable deterioration. Earth-loaded dwellings. Insofar as use is concerned. especially with internal posts. 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 new maintenance problems-brought on by the rotting of the wooden membercarise. For example. they have uselives-as dwellings-of about 6-10 years (Jeffrey S. pithouse dwellings do not easily accommodate the increased storage requirements of a more settled agricultural population. Moreover. It should be noted that these figures document the durability of upright posts bearing little or no load. and the insulating and heat-retaining qualities of earth-loaded construction. In a U. Forest Service study. 1981:9-11). exhibit definite disadvantages. as pithouses age. 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. Round and oval structures. untreated juniper fence posts were shown to have a uselife of 32-37 years (DeGroot and Esenther 1982:231). Actual durability under conditions of heavy earth (and winter snow) loading would be considerably less. nor the changing space demands of developing households. pithouses would have provided their inhabitants with ample protection against the cold winters of the Colorado Plateau. Navajo hogans in the same environment suffer serious insect infestation. With their good surface to volume ratio. Clearly. Despite the favorable thermal properties of pithouses. when not built of waterproof materials. 1981). to increase uselife beyond more than about a generation. Anasazi builders addressed the need for more storage by adding ante- . personal communication. Not only do the insulating qualities of earth reduce heat loss through infiltration.S. are difficult to partition and expand. Even in the more arid Hohokam area. Insect infestation usually begins rapidly. as a result. Bodig and Jayne 1982).THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 291 shaped. vermin and insects. semisubterranean Basketmaker III pithouses would have served quite well for relatively undifferentiated. users periodically would have had to rebuild and refurbish their pithouses. Ranchers report that untreated pine fence posts last about 5 years. Wood that supported the roof was in contact with the ground and would have decayed in short order. including insect infestation. 1982). the need for differentiated activity space. after a single year (King 1983. and observations of the junior author). mobile populations. and difficulties in keeping the structure clean (Ahrens et al. Dean.
unlike pithouses.292 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER chambers to their dwellings. 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. Gillespie 1976:201. indeed. can be readily expressed in the medium of pueblo architecture. or in some cases adobe. befitting a more differentiated society. 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. Lipe and Breternitz (1980:23) suggest that the energy budgets of pithouses and small pueblos in the Dolores area were comparable. Rectangular structures are easily subdivided and. Lipe and Breternitz 1980:27). 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). Tree-ring studies. In contrast to pithouses. for example. but is it also true for the masonry structures of Pueblo II? We suggest not. masonry styles. Room size. Needless to say. 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. then. and other design features (cf. If. Thus. Several authors have suggested just the opposite. document pueblo rooms in use today that were built 250 years ago (Ahlstrom et al. eminently testable. Pueblo architecture. Saile 1977) could have been manipulated to express differences in the nature and wealth of social groups as well as to channel social interaction. but did not facilitate their expansion to fit households at different developmental stages (cf. as Lipe and Breternitz (1980) . can be added to with little difficulty to accommodate households at different stages. Anasazi builders pragmatically discovered this principle. if one includes the possibility of multiple stories. A shift to rectangular pithouses may have made internal subdivisions more feasible. techniques of construction and plastering. This may have been true for jacal rooms that appear in Pueblo I. that pithouses were more costly to build than surface structures (Cordell and Plog 1979:418. is that pueblo rooms require a greater expenditure of resources and labor to build than pithouses. pueblos-with minimal maintenancecan last indefinitely. Built of stone. Lipe and Breternitz 1980:27). pueblos can be modified to fulfill a variety of utilitarian functions. they have few or no organic structural members in the zone of rapid decay near and in the ground. Pueblo rooms also represent a favorable compromise with respect to maintenance goals. Symbolic functions. and then by erecting rectangular surface rooms better suited to a more differentiated use of space. A crucial assumption of our scenario. 1978).
especially forked-stick hogans. and laying rock for a masonry room. and are found in or near most areas that were occupied prehistorically. provide a more appropriate timber for pueblos. Straight pieces of juniper and pinyon occur but Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. . straight members for both primary and secondary beams. structurally resemble Basketmaker III pithouses (McGregor 1965:216-217). Because these latter species are found in more scattered locales. Archaeologists have long noted that Navajo hogans. Dean (personal communication. and are easier to erect. 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. whereas pueblo rooms require long. and estimates that 26. Wood requirements for the construction of Navajo hogans are much less stringent than those for pueblo rooms (Jeffrey S. expertise. Vivian and Mathews (1964:lll) estimate that an average of 15 timbers would have been needed to construct one room at Chetro Ketl. Gnarled specimens of juniper and pinyon are not useful for constructing pueblo rooms (Jeffrey S. much of the Anasazi population would have had to travel greater distances. Dean. some styles of hogan can be built from odd shaped and branching pieces of wood. and materials. personal communication. hauling. Experiments reported by Coles (1973) and by Erasmus (1965) for various construction activities using neolithic tools provide data relevant to part of this question. compared to rectangular buildings. surface structures are more versatile than pithouses.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 293 imply. These two species usually grow in bent and branching shapes. The most ubiquitous trees on the Colorado Plateau are juniper and pinyon. 1982) would double this figure. why did the Anasazi ever build pithouses? Resolution of this issue will require much more experimental research.6 m3 of earth could be excavated per person-day using digging sticks. to obtain these materials. 1982).000 trees were cut to build Chetro Ketl. We have been unable to identify any grounds for the belief that excavating a pithouse required more work than quarrying. shaping. Whiting and Ayres (1968124-125) note that. sometimes over mountainous terrain. It should also be noted that a pueblo roof requires a considerable amount of wood. On a more general level. 1982). Dean. Erasmus found that 2. Recent studies on Navajo and Pueblo wood use are instructive in this regard. domed structures have less demanding requirements for construction materials. the comparable figure for Europe. personal communication. which generally grow at higher elevations on the Plateau or in restricted canyon settings. Because of their basically domed or conical forms. Experimenting in Sonora. have similar energy budgets. For example.
Even if these figures were the same. It is also apparent that more skill is involved in laying masonry walls than in digging pits. We stress that comparisons of pithouse and pueblo costs must include the entire range of activities. Although we cannot assert that Anasazi kivas were used exactly like more recent kivas or that Basketmaker III and pueblo kivas had identical uses. are required. Clearly. Finally. one might inquire: How do kivas fit into the picture? Kivas. 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. the kiva could . As a pit structure.3 person-days (from Coles 1973:73) or 34. were pithouses that continued to be built in pueblo villages. Erasmus’ data on quarrying.4 m3. 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). the basic conclusion would not change: the effort to build a pueblo room was generally greater than that needed for an Anasazi pithouse.5 person-days are required to erect each cubic meter of masonry. had important nonutilitarian functions (Dozier 1970). Excavating a pit of the same dimensions would require either 64. The arguments and evidence presented above are in no way conclusive regarding the relative production costs of masonry pueblo rooms and pithouses. which is doubtful given the different materials used. after all.6 person-days (Erasmus 1965). and laying of stone indicate that in the neighborhood of 8. These experimental data permit us to offer very coarse estimates on the relative expenditures of labor for pithouses. Most Anasazi pithouses were of course a great deal shallower. and thus required less labor. there is little doubt from the archaeological evidence that kivas served some kind of integrative function prehistorically.294 MC GUIRE AND SCHIFFER reported by Coles. 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. Despite the lack of fully appropriate experimental data. constructing masonry walls 0. is 1. perhaps using Anasazi tool kits to replicate pithouses and pueblos. At this point. and masonry houses of similar size. The institution that occupied the kiva. Coles (1973:57) suggests that a structure with 90 m2 of floor space could be built in about 150 person-days. at least in historic pueblos. Regarding wattle and daub construction. from procuring materials to the last stage of construction. shaping. jacales. many more experiments.25 m thick to enclose the same volume or space would have involved about 114 person-days. 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.
then they should be found near pueblos and should be inhabited for only a brief period just before them. In the Southwest. if these pithouse villagers were following a more mobile adaptation. continue to be occupied well into Pueblo III times (Cordell 1978). size and mode of construction could carry a heavier symbolic load. With the differentiation of structural designs for various uses. large areas within the northern Rio Grande region in New Mexico are marginal for agriculture (Cordell 1978). For example. in puebloan society. or round rooms built into square architectural spaces. seemingly dependent largely on hunting and gathering.e. perhaps living on the margins of Anasazi society. Our theory would suggest that pithouses might survive as dwellings in three situations: (1) as temporary shelters used during pueblo construction. often involving the most sacred aspects of a society’s ideology. Previously. in pithouse villages. and (3) as the homes of poor people who cannot afford the greater production costs of pueblos. whereas symbolic functions. Lipe and Bretemitz 1980:27-28). subterranean masonry rooms. and the persistence of the ceremonial plaza at Zuni Pueblo (Ferguson and Mills 1978). Perhaps . The survival of extinct dwelling forms as sacred structures may be a common pattern. because of altitude or aspect. pursuing a more mobile. short growing season or paucity of arable land) and should yield evidence for greater dependence on foraging. We suggest that the remaining two possibilities probably account for the late pithouse villages. On the other hand. then their settlements should be located in agriculturally marginal areas (i. older adaptation. Another issue to be considered with respect to the pithouse to pueblo transition is the contemporaneous use in one area of pithouses and pueblos. If they were temporary shelters. the survival of the traditional Piman Ki as a ceremonial wine house among the Papago (Underhill 1946). In addition. These expensive variations are entirely understandable. It is probably no accident that in some of these areas pithouse villages. and the apparently “late” adoption of pueblo architecture in some areas. changes in utilitarian functions demand new forms. 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.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 295 contrast with domestic pueblo architecture to indicate symbolically the discreteness of that institution (cf. size alone set off kivas from dwellings. remain tied to the past. given that symbolic functions are heavily weighted in the design process of kivas. there are at least three other examples: the construction of Navajo hogans for ceremonial use in HEW housing tracts (Jett and Spencer 1981:232). many of the later pit-kivas are in fact very costly round. (2) households..
a period of research and development took place that enabled the Anasazi to advance technologically....e. These patterns of variability deserve closer scrutiny in the future. the rich architectural record of the Anasazi. the extent of residential mobility.” Similarly. any factor that affects the degree of agricultural dependence.g.. Stuart and Gauthier (1981) have suggested that the degree of complexity reached in certain Anasazi areas. perhaps reflecting the need to experiment with new building materials (e. It is noteworthy that when the pithouse-topueblo change occurred in the Mogollon region. appropriate wood for roofing pueblos is quite scarce in the Hohokam area. Clearly. 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. like other investigators. Braun and Plog 1982). On the other hand. the Chaco phenomenon). a period of architectural diversity is evident. tied into the modern calendar through tree-ring dating. such as population pressure. 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. An additional consideration relates to further challenges to our theory and to other theories of architectural design that may be proposed in the future. However. such as LargoGallina.g. necessarily emphasized the extreme points of this developmental process. A final issue concerns the effects of raw material availability on the . construction of pueblos may have required considerable experimentation with local materials and with long-distance procurement of better timbers. In examining the pithouse to pueblo transition we have. it was relatively rapid. 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. These various hypotheses to account for apparently anomalous developments need to be examined critically with extant and newly gathered data. adobe and calithe) having different characteristics that were ultimately used in the construction of Hohokam “pueblos. Schiffer 1979). environmental potential.g. a few centuries later when the Hohokam underwent the transition. there is a clear need to build into theories of design various factors pertaining to the costs of innovation and experimentation (cf. Clearly. Brew 1946). because they undoubtedly have the potential to furnish information about how new technological knowledge is acquired by and applied in nonindustrial societies. was in part a function of their mode of integration within regional systems (i. or the amount of social inequality (e.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. Additionally.
While the Anasazi could have built log houses. Theory building on that level ought to be most congenial to archaeologists. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS A great many people have contributed to the present paper by supplying ideas and leads to sources and by furnishing comments on drafts. the ready availability of tabular sandstone blocks in most areas provided a better alternative. the Anasazi gradually arrived at the cost and behavioral parameters of various architectural designs. 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. archaeologists can expect to learn more about how various factors interact in a social context to influence design decisions. Some sedentary groups do build rectangular. 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. ethnoarchaeological. 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. masonry pueblos usually won out. Clearly. For this important assistance we thank . involves the give and take of social interaction that occurs against a broad backdrop of environmental and social processes. In another environment. our scenario should not be uncritically accepted. Architectural design. who on a daily basis deal with artifacts. however. surface. and prehistoric contexts. As efforts to refine and test it continue. Indeed. 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. wooden structures that readily decay and have high maintenance costs. 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. with more suitable wood resources and less tractable stone-thus different procurement and processing costs-the outcome could have been very different. in this instance architecture. By processes of trial and error. this explanatory sketch furnishes myriad implications for future research in experimental. If we could explain why they vary and why they change (Schiffer 1979). Until such research is carried out.THEORY OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 297 pithouse to pueblo transition. CONCLUSION The discussion of the pithouse-to-pueblo transition illustrates the productivity of the general theory of architectural design. we suggest.
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