In the American South, the residential porch frames a rich set of protocols governing gender, familial, and neighbor relations, not conveyed by a simple deck or terrace. For instance, custom once dictated that a woman who porch-sat facing the street was available for visitation. If she sat perpendicular to the street, only close acquaintances were welcomed, and with her back to the street she was unavailable for visitation. The protective roof establishes a liminal zone with varying degrees of interiority amidst a public realm. Shadows really are necessary.

The following study explores a taxonomy of house porches, which for the most part lack an architectural pedigree. As the interface between public and private, urban and architectural, it is the porch, rather than the house, that holds the greatest promise for recapturing the art of good neighborhood design.

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AuthorMatthew Petty