A romantic architect makes a house expressive not only by designing the house according to lay of the land but also by controlling the way you move through the land to get to the house and by controlling what you see of the house as you do. Like designers of picturesque gardens, romantic architects prefer to keep the house from revealing itself in its entirety until a magic moment arrives; the buildup is almost like a striptease. A small part of the home is revealed from a distance; then a bend in the driveway may reveal a different, slightly larger part; and finally at another turn, the visitor sees the house in its entirety—dead on or at an angle, depending upon the results desired.
The seemingly pretentious movie scenes that feature an architect crouching down, wandering this way and that, and climbing a tree, trying to get the “feel of the land,” are less exaggerated than you might think. A romantic architect wants to gain an intimate knowledge of the contours and qualities of the site and to control the approach. Ultimately, the approach is often laid out according to one of two models. The formal model calls for the entire house to be seen head on; in this method, the entrance is obvious. The picturesque method calls for the house to be seen from an angle or to be partly obscured. The entrance has to be searched for or is revealed subtly.
The picturesque approach is cinematic, and it enhances the qualities of the home and the property as a whole. It calls for imagining all the different experiences that a person could have on the way in. This might include giving the visitor a view of a garden gate with no house in sight, followed by a path that seems to lead to just a corner of the house, and then a spot where a big tree blocks the path, forcing a turn that reveals the front porch. Such experiences can be orchestrated on surprisingly small parcels of land leading to the most modest of homes.