Shaker style Architecture

January 19, 2015
Goforth Gill Architects

The Shakers are universally admired for their architecture and handcrafts. Shakers believed that they served God by approaching every task with care. This care resulted in a distinctive Shaker style of architecture, furniture and decorative arts characterized by traditional Shaker values of simplicity, utility and fine craftsmanship. The Shaker sense of order and neatness is reflected in the clean lines and lack of ornamentation of their designs. Shakers were pioneers of the principles of form and function advocated later by architects and designers such as John Ruskin and Louis Sullivan.

Shakers understood the effects of the physical environment on the life of their communities. The society headquarters at Mount Lebanon established written orders and rules, or Millennial Laws, in 1821 (revised in 1845 and throughout the 19th century) which prescribed proper conduct of Shakers' lives. This doctrine included architectural standards that lead to commonalities of design throughout the geographically dispersed villages. This recorded doctrine clearly dictated the physical characteristics of an earthly paradise. Each community's location would include a site of great natural beauty for worship and rejoicing. Simple buildings were to be constructed in a linear arrangement with carefully tended walkways, roads and fields. Form and color were dictated by their Millennial Law that stated "odd or fanciful styles of architecture may not be used among Believers." Instead, Shakers focused on creating efficient and easily maintained buildings that would inspire a sense of serenity and grace-apropos for the "heavens on earth" they were striving to create. They turned to traditional, rural vernacular buildings as inspiration for their own buildings, the form and symmetry of which were representative of the Federal and Greek Revival styles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However, the distinctive Shaker settlements were set apart from neighboring communities in their layout, orderly landscapes and the clean profiles and details of their buildings.

Four-story brick Brothers' Shop -characteristic of those found in many Shaker communities

Source: www.nps.gov
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