In the Unites States, many people once lived in large two-and-three-story homes. Today many people would like to live in such dwellings, but most people can't. They don't have enough money to buy them or even to make the first down payment. So, many people rent from month to month.
But some Americans really want to live in a house of their own, so they build their own home or they buy a house that is situated in a vicinity where homes are cheaper. It is better to reside in a bad part of town, they think, than not to live in a house at all. Or they buy an old house and removed it. Then they decorate it with antique furnishings. Sometimes, they can make an old house look more beautiful than a new one.
Usually, it is not difficult for people to find an old home to buy. Many older people decide that they don't need a spacious home after their children leave. So they sell their house and move to a cozy apartment.
But when people move into a house, they sometimes have problems. Home-owners have to do their own maintenance. For example, if there is a problem with the plumbing, one can't ask the landlord or landlady to fix it. On the other hand, people can remodel their homes in any way they want without having to be afraid of being evicted by the owner. Overall, most Americans would probably prefer to live in a house rather than in an apartment.
Ex.17. Translate the text and make up a plan for its discussion.
1. Think of the types of houses you have in your country.
2. In what way can they differ from those in the last century / in other cultures?
3. What do you think the shape of the house can be influenced by?
The primitive of many native tribes are often little more than shelters of mud, skin, or wood, hardly deserving the name of "house". It's only in settled civilizations that permanently constructed houses have been developed. Their forms differ widely according to the life people live, the climate, the materials available for building, and the skill with which these are used.
The shape of the house is strongly influenced by the climate. Where it is warm as in the Mediterranean and Arab countries, the plan of the house is open, with the rooms often arranged round a country and which admits air but not too much sun. In the north, houses are more compact so that they can be more easily kept warm in winter; where there is much rain, they have steep roofs to throw it off; but where there is much snow and frost, as in Switzerland, they generally have flatter roofs where the snow will lie, making a warm blanket over the house.
The shape of windows is also dependent on the climate. They are large in the north to admit sunlight, though not so large as to make the rooms too cold; in the south, windows are small so as to keep the house as cold as possible inside, and are often shaded from the direct glare of the sun by balconies or verandahs which provide a cool sitting place in the open air. Shutters outside the window also provide protection from the sun. Windows are placed facing away from the sun in hot countries and, where possible, towards the sun in cold countries to let in as much light and warmth as possible. Chimneys are a prominent feature of the exterior of the northern house.
The materials of which houses are built play a large part in giving character to the scenery of different countries. In England, before modern transport made it possible to carry cheap bricks all over the country, and before standardized building materials were made in factories, every region had its characteristic building material. Because old houses are built of local materials they fit into the landscape, and their color and texture harmonize with it. Efforts are still made, therefore, to build as far as possible in local materials, especially in country districts.
Other countries, especially those less highly industrialized than Britain likewise retain many traditional materials and building methods. In Mediterranean countries the prevailing building materials are white-washed brick and plaster, with roofs on half-round Roman tiles. In many parts of central Europe the prevailing material is timber, though nowadays in towns timber is used less because of the danger of fire. In Holland and Denmark red or yellow brick is used, with roofs of red pantiles or plain tiles.
In Oriental countries houses are most commonly built of local sun-dried brick or timber. Japan is probably the country where the houses have retained their characteristic structure and appearance with fewest changes. The traditional house has a timber frame and the walls and partitions are light screens of paper, bamboo, or similar material. Such a light construction is situated to a climate and is less dangerous in earthquakes than heavy materials would be.
The shape and size of the Middle Ages, when people spent most of their time outdoors, rooms were few and barely furnished. But as indoor activities increased, there was more emphasis on indoor comfort, and rooms were set apart for different purposes. Nowadays, in the West, the desire for privacy has led to small houses or flats with small rooms,
so that each family can have a separate living place and each person a separate room. But not all people want privacy; in the Arab lands of the eastern Mediterranean and in Mexico, China and elsewhere parents, children, grandchildren and other relatives all prefer to live together in the same house, forming one large household. In warm countries people live much more out of doors than in the north, and consequently, the houses are simpler and more barely furnished. In Japanese houses the dimensions of all the rooms are based on those of the mats with which all the floors are covered. The mat is always of the same size, so that each room is so many mats wide and so many long, thus making all houses consistent in scale and proposition.
In the USA houses have changed as social customs changed. At first, American houses followed the patterns brought from Europe by the early immigrants, but, since timber was the most easily obtainable material, boarded walls and single roofs largely replaced birches, and tiles. Lately, different regions have evolved their own methods of house building to suit local conditions; for instance, a low, rambling house with widely spreading eaves, extending into lodgings and terraces, is typical of the Pacific coast. In addition the plan of the house has begun to change as the American way of life has diverged more and more from the European. Houses are less formal and rooms merge one into other, providing more space for general family life and fewer rooms for special purposes.