Architecture on the Road

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Please enjoy the this “throwback” podcast, which served as the inspiration for our post below. 

Summer vacations, road trips, and visiting family often lead to exploring new cities and enjoying new experiences. Being on the road is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the unique architecture of the places you visit or pass through. Sign up for a local architecture tour or do a little online research before your trip and plan your own  ciity or location tour. Following the suggestions in posts like our own Architectural Interests Dallas is an interesting way to learn about a location and fall in love with its distinct culture and history. In this post, we’ll explore what to look for when traveling somewhere new to find unique and interesting architecture.

What Architecture Teaches Us

In many cases, architecture can be very distinctive to an area depending on its own history, climate, cultural influence, and location. When you learn about an area’s architecture, you naturally learn about its history and what happened to cause the specific design choices to be made. Over time, other influences can continue to have an impact on the architecture in the area.

For instance, New Orleans is well known for its Creole style of architecture. Many people mistake the unique style of homes and other buildings in New Orleans to be a French Colonial style. However, this is a common misconception. Rather, the Creole style of architecture in New Orleans represents a blending of the French, Spanish, and Caribbean styles used in a way to meet the specific demands of the city’s very hot and humid climate.

How to Learn About a City’s Architecture

There are two primary ways to learn about a city’s architecture while you’re traveling: guided tours and self-guided tours.

How to Find Interesting Guided Tours

Many local organizations that lead guided architectural tours have an online presence where they post information about events and the services they offer. You probably will be able to register online for a walking tour before you get to your destination.

If you contact an organization to learn more about possible tours and resources for learning about the architecture in an area, there’s a good chance that they will know who to contact if their organization doesn’t offer such tours. Additionally, some organizations may have printed guides already about the architecture in the area that you can have as a souvenir of your trip. Many such guides are free.

Some organizations that frequently offer guided tours include:

  • Visitors Centers
  • Visitors Bureaus
  • Local Convention Centers
  • Historic Preservation Organizations
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local AIA Chapters
  • State Architectural Organizations
  • City Hall
  • Historic Districts

Most cities have a historic district, which will have its own story about how the town developed into what it is today. This can be a good place to start your search on guided tours, as there could be a tour you could sign up for on your trip.

How to Create Your Own Self-Guided Tour

If you want to create your own self-guided tour, the first step is to simply do some research about your destination and what’s on your route along the way. There is so much information about each area’s architecture online that it is simple to pick out a few spots of interest before your trip.

Be sure to check out the websites for any points of interest if they’re available. There might be an off-season when it’s closed or schedule changes for maintenance. So before heading to the Statute of Liberty, make sure it isn’t closed and covered in scaffolding for a maintenance project during the time you want to visit.

You can also look online for that area’s local events and news. There might be a tour focused on locals listed in the newspaper or news of the opening of a brand new building downtown. These might be things to do during your visit.

Don’t forget mobile apps that can help you learn about architecture. If you like modern architecture, for example, you could download the House Architecture app to help you learn more about modern architecture in the cities you visit. It could show you where to go and what to look for.

Ways to Capture Your Thoughts and Experiences

As you check out the architecture on your trip, it can be a good idea to have some methods available to capture your thoughts and experiences. You can invest in an inexpensive notebook to serve as a travel journal. You can take notes from your tour or even draw pencil sketches of what you see.

If you don’t fancy yourself a sketch artist, grab your mobile phone and a tiny printer. There are a variety of mini printers that you can use with your phone or camera, such as the HP Sprocket or the Canon IVY 2 Mini Photo Printer. With one of these devices, you can print pictures, label them, and take notes during your trip. If you visit these buildings again in the future, you can take new pictures to see what has changed over time.

Visiting historical buildings gives you a deeper understanding of their heritage. When and how were they built, for what purpose, and how their current purpose has been shaped over the years. Every building and street tells its own story and taking the time to seek it out will enrich your trip by adding interest and education to your visit.

For more information about learning about architecture while traveling, listen to episode 8 of The Architecture Happy Hour Podcast which you caan find at the top of this post.

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VP, Architect, hpd architecture + interiors
Laura Davis is a Texas and Colorado registered architect and interior designer, and a co-founder of hpd architecture + interiors. With a diverse portfolio spanning residential, commercial, retail, and historical projects, Laura’s heart lies with her specialty in Historic Preservation. She loves to revitalize older properties, cherishing their character and the stories they hold. Her true passion lies in understanding her clients deeply, uncovering their desires and motivations, and crafting designs that turn houses into cherished homes.

Laura Davis is a registered architect and interior designer in the state of Texas and Colorado, and a founding member of hpd architecture + interiors. Laura's extensive experience includes residential as well as commercial and retail projects.  She also has a particular interest in restoration, holding a certificate in Historic Preservation. She is energized by the character of older homes and the stories of those who have lived there. Responding to the needs of the current owner, while also honoring the personality of the original home is a delicate process to be enjoyed.

Laura Davis

Vice President, Architect, Interior Designer Principal , hpd architecture + interiors


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