American Colonial: Spain

More than other colonist, the Spanish use impressive buildings to establishand emphasize, collective, or church authority and power. Building designers, who are often priests, are more aware of current architectural developments than are English colonists. However, these styles are interpreted in a provincial way as planners contend with local conditions, material, and labor forces ( mainly Native Americans). Thus, missions develop a unique regional architectrual style that combines Spanish and Native American traditions.


Typical features include towers, columns, estipite, niche-pilasters, zapatas, scrolls, garlands, swags, and foliated windows.





Public Building -New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California

Types include mission and parish churches, which are the main surviving building types in the United States. Churches , civic structures, and public places are more common in the Caribbean, Mexico, anf Latin America.


Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Floor Plans- Church plans vary from simple elongated rectangles to the Latin cross. The convento, which is a monastry, commonly adjoins the church. An atrio, which is an enclosed courtyard for burial grounds and outdoor service, is common in southwestern churches.

Material- Although stone is available, southwestern missions adopt the adobe construction of the Native Americans who consturct them. Wood is scarce and its use is limited to door and window frames and roofs. Typical woods available locally include pine, cottonwood, juniper, and red spruce.  

Facades- They maintain a general Spanish/European appearance with towers, parapet walls, and surface decoration that contrastwith plain walls. They may combine Gothic, Islamic, Renaissance, and Baroque characteristics.

Windows- Most windows are rectangular casements or sashes, particularly  in New Mexico. In Texas, Arizona, and Cailfornia, elaborate quatrefoil or foliated windows highlight facades and emphasize important interior spaces such as chapels.

Doors- THey are typically of carved wood. Doorways are arched or rectangular with simple surrounds in New Mexico. Some areas have complicated carved decoration surrounds the entrances.

Roofs- The roofs are flat in adobe buildings, while stone structures have gabled or hipped roofs or domes. Early missions have thatched roofs which were later replaced with fireproof clay tiles.

Private Building- Mainly Southwest United States

Floor Plans- For protection and distinctive of the Spanish influence, both casas and simpler dwellings have linear plans with a single row of rooms on one side of or around one or more patios. In California houses often have two stories on three sides that border a patio.

Materials- Southeastern dwellings and palaces are of adobe, while other areas use stone. Some very early houses and missions are half-timbered. In California, adobe ranch houses feature carved wooden grilles and balcony supports.

Facades- Early facades are plain with few widows and doors. Later examples more outward looking with windows, doors, porches, and portals with zapatas.

Windows and Doors- Casement windows appear first, but sashes replace them in the 18th century. Vertical plank exterior shutters are common in the 18th century. Doors are vertical planks or carved wood on grand houses. Wood latticework also accents openings.

Interiors-Public Buildings

Materials- Taxas, Arizona, California, and Mexican stone churches use barrel and groin vaults and domes at crossing and at the arms of transepts. Thay may use pilasters, engagedcolumns, moldings to articulate and accenturate the architecture.

Color- Contrasting colors of different types of stone may accent architectural features. Colors, such as red, yellow, blue, and green, are highly saturated,

Lighting- Designers use of Baroque device of indirect and unexpected light source to create drama and mystery in churches. Artificial lighting includes a corona, tourchers, and lanternas.

Floors- They may be of stone, hard-packed earth, or unglazed clay tiles.

Walls- They may be of plaster, adobe, or stone. Some feature murals of Christian subjects, architectural  details, and/or decorative paintings.

Ceilings- Heavy cross beams or logs supported by carved wooden brackets compose ceilings in New Mexican churches. Some Mexican churches feature high-style ceiling painting in the European Baroque manner.

Interiors- Private Buildings


Types- The main spaces in the larger homes are the sala, chapel, dining hall, and bedchamber.

Materials- Until the British occupation, S.Augustine, Florida, houses have no fireplaces but are heated with charcoal braziers. Conical, corner fireplaces are typical in the Southwest.

Lighting- Iron, brass, or silver chandeliers and candle stands, and iron torcheres provid light.

Floors- hard-packed dirt or clay or unglazed clay tiles are typical for lowers floors even in wealthy houses. If there are upper floors, they are of wood planks.

Walls- White walls are of plaster, adobe, or stone. Rarely are they decorated with architectural details or paintings except in palaces. Dark wood beams, trim, and furniture contrast with whitewashed walls.

Textiles- Jergas, flat woven woolen rugs in a twill weave with two colors, become common in the 19th century.

Ceilings- Beamed ceilings are typical and may feature painted and gilded decorations. Vigas are common in adobe structures, particularly southwestern Spanish governor’s palaces.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts

Types- Typical of the Spanish Rennaissance and include seating, chests, tables, and beds.

Seating- Chairs and benches are most common types of seating.

The Spanish Frailero Chair

The Equipal

Tables and Stroage

Wooden tables with rectangular tops and iron supports are typical throughout casas and simpler homes.  The most important storage pieces are the chest, amario, and varqueno.









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