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Traditional Construction Patterns: Design and Detail Rules-of-Thumb Paperback – October 11, 2004

ISBN-13: 063-9785504658 ISBN-10: 0071416323 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional; 1 edition (October 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071416323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071416320
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Putting the ideas of Modernism into the hands of average architects" and builders has resulted in "architecture done wrong for the past half-century." Architects Mouzon and Henderson explain their "sense of unease" and illustrate a range of do's and don'ts that "give people the tools for getting it right again." In 14 chapters they discuss architectural details ranging from the classical orders to roofs, site work, and signage. Powerful opening chapters set the stage by succinctly discussing architectural history, theory, themes and patterns. The Roman architect Vitruvius is cited, and his themes of commodity, firmness, and delight are expanded for application in reviving the lost language of architecture. The remaining eight chapters are clearly laid out with brief essays on architectural features; these are interspersed with excellent black-and-white photographs. All elements are examined using a technique incorporated into architecture: the transect, an organizing device for developing proper patterns. An illustrated lexicon is also included to educate laypersons in the language, but it is too detailed and selective to be as effective as desired. This is a great companion to Jonathan Hale's The Old Way of Seeing (1994) and the National Park Service's The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation (rev., 1990). Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers: upper-division undergraduates through professionals; two-year technical program students. -- L.B. Sickels-Taves, Eastern Michigan University (Choice)

From the Back Cover

"Steve Mouzon ... has produced a manual that is clear, easy to use, and targeted to the most common errors ... Traditional architects can now sweep their own house clean." -- Andres Duany, Architect & Planner

Looking at a building and seeing a building are two very different things. To truly understand traditional architecture you must train your eye to see the difference between the Dos and Don'ts. Steve Mouzon's beautifully illustrated book provides an essential resource for anyone seeking this knowledge." -- Marianne Cusato, Author

"... to see a town or a building through the eyes of a gifted architect like Steve Mouzon is to truly experience it ... this book is an inspiration to building our world better again ..." -- Kristen Payne, Southern Living

...absolutely essential ... a new town or new neighborhood is simply more profitable when the architecture is correct ..." -- Nathan Norris, Developer

"... the first book in my library and the only book I take into the field ..." -- James B. Wagnon, Jr., Historical Home Crafters, Inc.

This book explains, in layman's terms, the vague sense of unease we've all had with traditional architecture done incorrectly for the past half-century, and provides the tools for doing it right again. The first tool is a fully illustrated Lexicon of nearly 240 terms we should all know, but probably don't. It's hard to ask for something if you don't know what to call it. It's also hard to say it if you don't know how to pronounce it, so the Lexicon provides pronunciation of all of the words that are not obvious.

The primary tool, however, is a collection of 108 patterns illustrated as Dos and Don'ts with diagrams and photographs. These patterns represent the most common errors of traditional construction, and are the things we really need to start getting right if we hope to build more of the most-loved places again.

More About the Author

Steve Mouzon is a principal of the New Urban Guild in Miami, which is a group of architects, designers, and other New Urbanists dedicated to the study and the design of true traditional buildings and places native to and inspired by the regions in which they are built: Involving a number of designers brings authenticity to a place that simply cannot be achieved when all buildings are designed by a single hand, no matter how skilled that hand may be. The Guild was instrumental in the creation of the Katrina Cottages concept, and continues to foster the movement, including sponsoring the website ( Steve's Katrina Cottage VIII, which is the first design of the next generation of Katrina Cottages, was awarded a Charter Award by the Congress for the New Urbanism. The Guild Foundation is the non-profit educational arm of the Guild; it sponsors the Original Green initiative:, plus a number of workshops, tours, and seminars that fill several of the gaps that previously existed between theory and practice. It also sponsors the Guild Tool Foundry, which is a growing collection of place-making tools that can be downloaded free of charge.
Steve is also a principal of Mouzon Design, which produces a number of town-building tools and services. His house plans have been featured repeatedly as Home of the Month in Southern Living and Coastal Living. Steve is Town Architect at several new hamlets, villages and neighborhoods around the country, using a unique method that communicates principles, not just particulars. Mouzon Design's Premium Tools Collection is a subscription service to robust new place-making tools that heretofore were unaffordable when commissioned by a single development. A Living Tradition is a framework for a new type of pattern book that is principle-based instead of taste-based, and therefore contributes to the creation of new living traditions.
Steve has authored or contributed to a number of publications in recent years, including Biltmore Estate Homes (Southern Living), Architectural Elements: Traditional Construction Details (McGraw-Hill), 1001 Traditional Construction Details (McGraw-Hill), Traditional Construction Patterns (McGraw-Hill), Gulf Coast Emergency House Plans, A Living Tradition [Architecture of the Central Gulf Coast], and the award-winning A Living Tradition [Architecture of the Bahamas]. Steve is also continuing to shoot new editions of his Catalog of the Most-Loved Places. The Catalog typically includes every structure built before about 1925 in various historic towns or districts. There are currently dozens of volumes in the Catalog with several more soon to be released. The Catalog began in the American South, but has expanded in scope to include notable Most-Loved Places in Europe, North America, and Central America. Steve lectures frequently across the country and abroad. He is a board member of INTBAU-USA, and is the author of the Original Green Blog and the Useful Stuff blog. His Original Green Twitter stream is @stevemouzon.

Customer Reviews

Excellent resource for design professionals.
Dan D.
The Do's and Don'ts sections clarify immediately the differences between details which are well done and those which are "Git-R-Done".
A. Christian Mercker
The only problem with reading this book is that now when I look at our house I see all the things I did wrong.
i love norge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Watkins on September 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an EXCELLENT resource. As the Town Architect for a number of new traditional neighborhoods that have decided to continue building in the traditional styles of their region, I review the work of architects, designers and contractors alike for consistency with that tradition. This book never leaves my side.

Some may view its contents as elemental and they would be right. The problem is that too few architects receive this elemental training before receiving their license--as is clearly evident by what gets built around us.

One reviewer expressed disappointment that the book did not contain actual construction details (glad to see the determination to build it right!). Mr. Mouzon's earlier book, 1001 Construction Details, is great--with the accompanying CD, anyone that wants to get these details right should be all set.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful By reviews again on January 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've stopped writing reviews on Amazon due to their idiotic review policy, but once in a while an item comes across my desk that pushes it just too far.

In this case, it seems like someone needs to put a different spin on this publication.

I've given it ONE star because there is some decent (but limited) information however, both authors and publisher should be ashamed of themselves for even trying to charge a penny for it. After a first section of some drawings of traditional architectural elements, the rest or some 75% of it is DONT's and DO's supported by horrible black and white pictures that might do in the 30's, but should be considered trash for ANY publication, including a daily paper.

Then the DONT's cover some of the ugliest examples in existence and most certainly not worth devoting that much space to it. They are indeed so ugly, that I can't think of any one in the market for a publication of this kind, who would need to see it.

Then you have a chapter 4 on Classical Orders. Makes me wonder what school these authors went to and apparently never heard of a "golden ratio". Not a mention anywhere I can see. At least please, stop calling it a "Classical Orders" chapter, if you don't know the most important find in the name of "classical proportions".

Then they have a go at asphalt shingles and clay tile. Here they display a complete ignorance on the subject, stating for example the ONLY asphalt tile of acceptable shape would be of a diamond shape, and in clay tile they apparently been only to Miami. Gee, people take a trip somewhere, you don't know what you've been missing.

There is of course NO index. Why bother. In fact an index would feel out of place in here.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on January 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Modernism has been the dominant language of architectural schools since the late 1930's. Modernism has never caught on with most of the people who commission architects to design buildigns. They want more traditional buildings that are grounded in America's architectural history. Unfortunately, most architects were not taught to design traditional buildings. As a consequence, America's suburbs are brimming with grotesque Tudors, misshaped bungalows and ackward colonial revival homes.

In this volume, Stephen Mouzon assembles a thousand photographs of architectural details. By concentrating on specific building details, he gives examples of designs that are done correctly and others that are completely fouled up. At times, it is humorous and even a bit tragic to see just how illiterate an architect can be.

I am not an architect. My hobby is to look at architecture. When I come across real train wrecks, it is easy for me to understand why they do not work. However, I often come across buildings that don't work and I have problems putting my finger on what is wrong. This volume is a field guide to all that can go wrong.

Stephen Mouzon's target audience is architects. I would hope that any architect contemplating designing a traditional building will purchase this book. A little bit of study can help spare this country further examples of embarassing architecture. I only wish this book had been written sixty years ago.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gregory M. Richard on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Stephen Mouzon's book is a milestone work that summarizes the "do's and don'ts" of traditional architecture in a clear and precise manner. In an era when traditional architecture is enjoying a resurgence, this book is long overdue.

Although, at first, it may look like a primer the book seems to be written for both architect and contractor, professional and amateur alike...anyone who really wants to get the details right. I could see giving this book both to my architectural colleagues and my favorite contractor's alike. The work reminds me of the 19th century pattern books written by Asher Benjamin, who wrote his works just for the same purpose, to educate the master builders of his time.

Even as a practicing architect with years of traditional residential experience, I found many examples of details that I have been doing incorrectly. But now I know! Studying the work made me want to go back and tear out the embarrassments, and do it all over again. That's why I'd really recommend this book to the beginner just so they could avoid the same mistakes.

Though the book is easily read and the drawings well illustrated, I did find some of the photos difficult to clearly read, a minor complaint for such a seminal work.
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