Overall page navigation start option: INTRODUCTION: What is the Historic Character? STEP ONE: Identify the building's overall visual aspects STEP TWO: Identify the close range visual aspects STEP THREE: Identify the interior visual aspects Introduction to Identify the Historic Character QUIZ
A distance learning site by Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service
This graphic number 1 is non-navigational Look at the Building From a Distance: Identify the Overall Visual Aspects
This is an image of the Johnson Wax Corporation Building, Racine, Wisconsin. Photo: HABS Collection, NPS.
Follow the Links...
Look at the Building's Shape
Look at the Building's Roof + Roof Features
Look at the Building's Openings
Look at the Building's Projections + Recesses
Look at the Building's Exterior Materials
Look at the Building's Trim + Secondary Features
Look at the Building's Site
Visual Character Check List checklist

This first step involves looking at the building from a distance. Identifying the overall visual character of a building is nothing more than looking at its distinguishing physical aspects without focusing on its details. Such a general approach to looking at the building and site will provide a better understanding of its overall character without having to resort to an infinitely long checklist of its possible features and details. The major contributors to a building's overall visual character are:

• its shape

• its roof and roof features, such as chimneys or cupolas

• openings for windows and doorways

• the various projections and recesses on the building, such as porches that extend outward, or arcades that appear as voids

• the exterior materials with their color or patterning

• the trim and secondary features, such as decorative scrollwork

• and, finally, the building's site, that is, its immediate yard.

Some buildings will have one or more sides that are more important than the others because they are more highly visible. This does not mean that the rear of the building is of no value whatever, but it simply means that it is less important to the overall character.

Navigational graphic with Next

Walk Through Historic Buildings
Identifying Visual Character HOME | TPS HOME
Identifying Visual Character