The Front Door


Peruvian Door. credit Pixie Me sq

Peruvian Door. credit: Pixie Me

One of the many regrettable characteristics of Modern architecture is the lack of attention to the front door.  If in a modernist building you can even find the front door! Yet a phenomenon from Peru speaks to the fundamental importance of the front door.  


Front, Pirate's House

The Old Pirates House, Savannah, Georgia, 1754. credit: M. Curtis

When a penniless peasant arrives in the squatter camps on the far-flung outskirts of Lima, his first step in settling is to mark out a lot parcel with bits of rock, bricks, old bottles, and whatever bits of debris he finds. That done, he begins construction on a large richly ornamented front doorway out of carved wood and masonry.  Behind this imposing front doorway the resident and his family may live for years in tents as he accumulates the funds and materials to build his house on the lot behind it. The house generally does get built, and in time, a whole neighborhood of masonry houses arises in a similar fashion, and along with them the city authorities install streets and utilities, and presto – a whole new village has been created!  And the seed from which this neighborhood grew was the front door. 


Russell House Front Door

Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston, South Carolina, 1808 . credit: M. Curtis

In a similar manner, our forefathers here in America could only afford simple wood clapboard houses. Yet humble though these were, the finest carpentry and most elaborate carving was lavished on the front doorway. These early settlers, struggling to just survive in a harsh alien world, often imported expensive carpenters’ guides, such as Gibb’s Book of Architecture, or domestic guides, such as The American Builder’s Companion, by Asher Benjamin, for doorway designs. 


Savannah Front Doors

Savannah Front Doors. credit: M. Curtis

So clearly the front door is more than just an entrance, the front door is hardwired into humans. Indeed, the front door appears to be of existential importance and should be treated as such. Modernism’s ignoring of the front door is yet another of its many shortcomings. 


First impressions matter.


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Featured image: The Front Doors of London and New York, Tony Z.

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Innes Front Door Milton Grenfell Architects

Innes Front Door, Milton Grenfell Architects