Like other species, humans have long exploited the natural features of a landscape to provide shelter from the elements. Caves, cliffs and forests provided protection for prehistoric man. Humans ultimately learned to manipulate environments and produce temporary shelters in more exposed situations. Such specialized structures ranged from lean-tos and tents to wigwams and igloos and were often used when pursuing game and or other seasonal resources. The beginnings of agriculture encouraged the development of more permanent buildings. The form and sophistication that these habitations took depended on many factors, including the local landscape, climate, building materials, existing technology, social organization and other available resources. According to place, humans developed a staggering variety of dwellings.
This survey of domestic architecture explores that rich tradition from ancient to modern times. The scope is world-wide, and each period-oriented volume is covers developments in five regions: the Americas, Africa, East Asia and Australia, Europe and West and Southwest Asia. The first volume, covering prehistory through the late Middle Ages presents a number of traditional styles. The authors explore environmental and cultural influences on building practices and functions. From Knossos, Mycenae and Rome to Angkor Wat, Anasazi and Machu Picchu, selected archaeological sites are used to illustrate developing technologies and styles, as well as the dramatic difference in the homes of those at opposite ends of the social scale. The second volume, tracing innovations from the Renaissance through the mid-Eighteenth century, provides more examples of surviving architectural forms. These include traditional styles in Bali, Zanzibar and Vietnam, as well as the adobe, log and sod adaptations of European pioneers in North America. Attention is also given to decorative developments and the increasing sophistication of interior designs. The final volume, covering from the Industrial Revolution to the present, examines themes of standardization, cultural borrowing and theoretical focus on domestic design. From Le Corbusier to Frank Gehry, the contributions and influence of dozens of architects are demonstrated. While this tour is necessarily selective, Steele does an excellent job of providing a global view. This balanced history is recommended for academic and public libraries.