The Tower of the Winds in Athens, constructed around 300 BCE, is the oldest standing building shaped like an octagon. Over the centuries, architects often incorporated the octagonal shape into religious structures such as monasteries and temples. In the U.S., historical octagon homes such as the Loren Andrus House in Washington Township, Michigan, have been preserved as museums. Modern architects may now spark a revival in the form, thanks to design packages that take full advantage of the efficiencies inherent in octagon homes.
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The Legacy of Octagon Homes
Orson Squire Fowler touted the idea of octagon houses in the mid-19th century. Before long they sprang up in towns all over the United States. The trend did not continue for long, but some lovely examples of the style have survived into modern times. Fowler's book "The Octagon House: A Home For All, or A New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building" was published in 1848. Today a number of architectural firms sell plans and ready materials to construct octagon houses.
Construction and Energy
According to Orson Fowler, an octagon house was cheaper to build. Its shape consumed less exterior space and therefore required fewer construction materials. The space was less expensive to heat in winter because rooms opened into one another around central foyers. The house was easier to cool because the windows provided cross ventilation.
More Interior Space
One advantage of an octagonal design is that it provides about 20 percent more indoor space than a square building that has the same perimeter, because an octagon encloses more space than a square. The interior space also has fewer space-wasting corners. Early octagonal homes were often built without hallways, relying instead on a central foyer for access to interior rooms. This increased the usable space within the octagon.
Designers can assign any type of facade to an octagonal home, from brick and stucco to rustic redwood or modern glass. Windows can look out from every side and level. Designers of late 19th-century houses often built porches wrapping around the octagon or made use of spiral staircases. Octagonal houses offer more options for where to locate the house on a property.