How to look at houses (like an architect): Base
Starting at the Base
In this first installment of How to look at houses… (like an architect), we’ll train our eyes on the exterior of houses, starting with the base. Every house elevation has a base, middle and top. The base, which incorporates the foundation, addresses how a house meets the ground.
The most straightforward bases consist of a plain poured concrete or block foundation. These foundations may be dressed up with a veneer of stone or brick.
The addition of a water table trim or element, designed to deflect water away from the foundation, is also an important feature of the base on many homes. Water tables can be modest or pronounced. A sophisticated base treatment might include a prominent water table, a foundation of dressed stone, as well as a band of rounded rocks at the base of the foundation to facilitate drainage and further tie the house to its site.
An extended stone nosing or windowsill can also act as a water table above a foundation. Likewise, a shingle flare-such as those seen on shingle-style homes-can be used in place of a water table to deflect water.
The concept of a base is not confined to wood-sided houses. Even if side walls are made of brick, it’s still a good idea to indicate a transition to base. Granite blocks can effectively set off the base on a brick home. Specialty bricks can also be used to create a pedestal of sorts that signals the transition to base.
Communicating an intention about a home’s base is one of the ways we lend home elevations a sense of order. The fundamental hierarchy of base, middle and top helps organize how we perceive buildings. Often, the more complex-yet legible-the order, the more satisfying our experience of it.
Watch more videos in the how to look at houses series.