Someone once quipped that nowadays the purpose of architecture schools is to graduate tortured geniuses who design one-of-a-kind buildings which have no relationship to their surroundings. There is a lot to analyze in that observation, but I am going to focus on "no relationship to their surroundings."
Prior to the invention of air-conditioning, architects had to figure out ways to keep people cool and ventilated through design rather than through the action of refrigerants and compressors. I can remember walking into an upscale late 19th century home with an open tower just off the foyer, a foyer connected by large openings to the rest of the house. To stay cool, the residents would simply open the windows. The hot air would flow upward into the tower and rush out the open windows at the top, thus pulling air in through the ground floor windows. This created a constant internal breeze in the heat of the summer.
Other methods of beating the heat included:
- Single-room-width homes which promoted cross-ventilation when owners opened windows on each side.
- Wraparound porches which shield the interior from the sun and allow open windows even during rainstorms.
- Tall ceilings that allow hot air to rise above the people in the room.
- Sleeping porches for outside sleeping, sometimes screened in. (My boyhood home had one of these just off my parents' second-floor bedroom.)
- Transom windows which allow circulation between rooms when the doors are closed (popular in apartment houses and hotels).