Chart of the Week: Timeline+Segmentation+ Scatterplot

Vernacular vs. Polite Architecture (from Brunskill, 1971)

Ver­nac­u­lar vs. Polite Archi­tec­ture (from Brun­skill, 1971)

Information-​dense charts show mul­ti­ple rela­tion­ships in data in a sin­gle, chart. They take more time to read/​review, but pro­vide deeper insights. This week’s exam­ple from R.W Brun­skill’Illus­trated Hand­book of Ver­nac­u­lar Archi­tec­ture shows the evo­lu­tion of “ver­nac­u­lar archi­tec­ture”. Ver­nac­u­lar archi­tec­ture ” will have been designed by an ama­teur, prob­a­bly of the occu­pier of the intended build­ing and one with­out train­ing in design; he will have been guided by a series of con­ven­tions in his local­ity, pay­ing lit­tle atten­tion to what will have been fash­ion­able on an inter­na­tional scale”.

This chart shows mul­ti­ple dimen­sions of data:

  • Ver­nac­u­lar vs. Polite build­ings over time (top chart line shows demar­ca­tion between ver­naular and polite architecture)
  • Pro­por­tion of Ver­nac­u­lar vs. Polite (Pro­fes­sioned ) over time
  • Sur­vival of ver­nac­u­lar build­ings over time and size (lower line on chart)
  • Num­ber of ver­nac­u­lar build­ings by suze and time period (cen­tury) (dots)

What can we learn from the chart?

  • Most of the sur­viv­ing build­ings sur­veyed are are from 1700 — 1900 and small or large houses. Great houses were built mainly before 1500
  • By 1700, all the great houses were cre­ated by pro­fes­sional archi­tects (“polite archi­tec­ture”), after 1800, most large houses were done by pro­fes­sional archi­tects also.
  • Few cot­tages sur­vive before 1800; in gen­eral there are few exist­ing at all
  • By 1900, most houses were built by archi­tects and not ver­nac­u­lar architecture.
  • The results need to be taken care­fully as it is based on the sur­veys taken — how com­plete they are, what was miss­ing or no longer extant would impact the chart.
  • The author mod­i­fied the two curves , flat­ten­ing the top (ver­nac­u­lar vs. polite) curve based on schol­arly research avail­able, even if the entire houses were not in exis­tence. He deails them with the chart:

How could we improve the chart?

  1. Add bet­ter def­i­n­i­tions of the terms “polite”, “ver­nac­u­lar”, along with the cri­te­ria for the sizes (what is a great house). These are cov­ered in the bo0k but a sum­mary for the chart woul dbe useful
  2. Add a data table with cross ref­er­ence to iden­tify which are the spe­cific houses shown (if inter­ac­tive, with mouseover, it could show the house information)
  3. Bet­ter data labels on sec­tions of the chart to make it self-​evident.

Here’s an improved version:

bbq_vernacularBrief Take:
This chart com­bines a time­line, grouped scat­ter­plot and trend line, and data table. It’s use­ful for show­ing how data seg­ments change over time

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