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What gives home ‘good bones’?

Few architects achieve such design by accident

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Now and then, you've probably heard people describe some interesting old house as having "good bones." But what do they really mean by this? What gives one house better "bones" than another? The answer lies in an aspect of architecture that's little appreciated and even less understood: composition. Many people assume that the way a house looks from outside is just the inevitable consequence of the room layout within. But this is a modern conceit brought on by the idea -- equally modern -- that "form follows function." For all the modernist talk about buildings reflecting their internal functions, though, modernist architects were even more attuned to the need for artful composition than their predecessors were. They were fastidious in arranging the purportedly functional features of those otherwise stark facades -- juxtaposing big window against small, high roof against low -- to wring more drama out of their compositions. In truth, any archi...