A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PHILADELPHIA ROWHOUSES

These images were digitized from sets of measured drawings of Philadelphia rowhouses made by first-year architecture students at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. Over five years, 149 houses were surveyed and recorded. They are the product of a joint assignment for the introductory studio and drawing courses supervised by John Blatteau and Paul Hirshorn.*

Pairs of students were assigned to survey two houses, and then to record a single dwelling in a standardized format combining plans, sections, elevations, and details at comparative scales. (For an expanded discussion of the pedagogical purpose of these exercises see Paul Hirshorn, “Comparative Rowhouse Study,” Journal of Architectural Education, July 1983, pp. 14-17.) The drawings were then checked for accuracy in terms of drawing conventions, and accurate description of the houses. The drawings were then reproduced at exactly 1/3 size (to allow for accurate scaling) so the results of the surveys of the class, and all the classes before them, were available as reference material for the student’s first design problem -- the design of a block of rowhouses.

The form of some of the houses drawn, particularly the newer ones, was very close to that which they took when built. Most of the drawings, though, especially of houses more than a few decades old, reflect significant changes made since initial construction, and represent a snapshot of accommodation to new domestic norms, especially in the reconfiguration of kitchens and bathrooms.

There were some exceptions, especially in the first year, that brought in about 11 houses beyond the urban core, including three in the suburbs, that would not be classed as rowhouses, along with nine twins. The focus of the great majority, some 127 of them, was on the rowhouse, making this collection a valuable resource documenting the wide range of forms within the type. The block-long frontages also record parts of the city in a way not commonly seen.

To access these images from a list ordered by geographical area and then alphabetically by street name within them, click here. In addition, through this link to an overlaid Google Map, one can access 95 of these (not quite all) via a zoomable map interface devised by Daniel Kent, Haverford College '12. We hope you will find this a helpful resource.


*The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Design has agreed to make digital surrogates of these images accessible via the web exclusively for consultation by researchers, students, educators, and others pursuing their curiosity. No item may be reproduced, redistributed, or republished in any way without the express prior written permission of the The University of Pennsylvania School of Design. You must agree to accept these conditions in order to use this website.
http://www.brynmawr.edu/iconog/rowhse/frontpage.html; last rev.= 6 Mar. 2016. pmh and jc