In architecture and city planning, a terrace(d) or row house or townhouse (though the latter term can also refer to patio houses) is a style of housing in use since the late 17th century, where a row of identical or mirror-image houses share side walls. The first and last of these houses is called an end terrace, often larger than those houses in the middle.
In England, the first streets of houses with uniform fronts were built by the Huguenot entrepreneur Nicholas Barbon in the rebuilding after the Great Fire of London, but Paris had led the way in the Place des Vosges (1605 – 1612). In Parisian squares, central blocks were given discreet prominence, to relieve the façade, but the Georgian idea of treating a row of houses as if it were a palace front, giving the central houses columned fronts under a shared pediment, appeared first in London's Grosvenor Square (1727 onwards; rebuilt) and in Bath's Queen Square (1729 onwards) (Summerson 1947).
Early terraces were also built by the two John Woods in Bath and under the direction of John Nash in Regent's Park, London, and the name was picked up by speculative builders like Thomas Cubitt and soon became commonplace. It is far from being the case that terraced houses were only built for people of limited means, and this is especially true in London, where some of the richest people in the country owned terraced houses in locations such as Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.
By the early Victorian period, a terrace had come to designate any style of housing where individual houses repeating one design are conjoined into rows either long or short. The style was used for workers' housing in industrial districts during the great industrial boom following the industrial revolution, particularly in the houses built for workers of the expanding textile industry. The terrace style spread widely in the UK, and was the usual form of high density residential housing up to World War II, though the 19th century need for expressive individuality inspired variation of facade details and floor-plans reversed with those of each neighboring pair, to offer variety within the standardized format. Post-World War II, housing redevelopment has led to many outdated or dilapidated terraces being cleared to make room for tower blocks, which occupy a much lower area of land. Because of this land use in inner city areas could theoretically be distributed further to create greater accessibility, employment or recreational or leisure centres. However botched implementation meant in many areas (like Manchester or the London estates) the effects of wind channeling and poor follow up development led to the towerblocks offering no real improvement for rehoused residents over their prior terraced houses .
In the UK terraced industrial district housing has enjoyed huge price rises since around 2001, with prices in most areas (outside London) having more than tripled by mid-2005. In affluent areas terraced houses are often called 'townhouses'. In the 1960s and 1970s areas of affordable terraced housing were often quickly colonised by artists, gay men and young professionals, this being the early stages of the gentrification that happened in parts of many British cities.
In 2005 the English Heritage report Low Demand Housing and the Historic Environment found that repairing a standard Victorian terraced house over thirty years is around sixty-percent cheaper than building and maintaining a newly-built house. In a 2003 survey for Heritage Counts a team of experts contrasted a Victorian terrace with a house built after 1980, and found that:
In Australia and New Zealand, the term "terrace house" refers almost exclusively to Victorian and Edwardian era terraces or replicas almost always found in the older, inner city areas of the major cities. Modern suburban versions of this style of housing are referred to as "town houses".
Terraced housing was introduced to Australia from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. Large numbers of terraced houses were built in the inner suburbs of large Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, mainly between the 1850s and the 1890s. The beginning of this period coincided with a population boom caused by the Victorian and New South Wales Gold Rushes of the 1850s and finished with an economic depression in the early 1890s. Detached housing became the popular style of housing in Australia following Federation in 1901.
Terraced housing in Australia ranged from expensive middle-class houses of three, four and five-storeys down to single-storey cottages in working-class suburbs. The most common building material used was brick, often covered with stucco. Many terraces were built in the "Filigree" style, a style distinguished through heavy use of cast iron ornament, particularly on the balconies and sometimes depicting native Australian flora. Many Melbourne terraces featured a unique style of polychrome brickwork, influenced heavily by the early work of local architect Joseph Reed.
In the first half of the twentieth-century, terraced housing in Australia fell into disfavour and the inner-city areas where they were found were often considered slums. In the 1950s, many urban renewal programs were aimed at eradicating them entirely in favour of high-rise development. In recent decades these inner-city areas and their terraced houses have been gentrified. Terrace houses are now highly sought after in Australia, and due to their proximity to the CBD of the major cities, are often expensive.
With artificial urban boundaries, new townhouse type developments often nostalgically evoking old style terraces in a post-modern style returned to the favour of local planning offices in many suburban areas.
The earliest surviving terrace house in Melbourne is Glass Terrace, 72-74 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (1853-54). Royal Terrace at 50-68 Nicholson Street Fitzroy, completed three years later is only slightly younger and is the oldest surviving complete row.
Multi-storey terraced housing became prevalent in the Melbourne suburbs of Middle Park, Albert Park, East Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, St Kilda, Balaclava, Richmond, South Yarra, Cremorne, North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Port Melbourne, West Melbourne, Footscray, Hawthorn, Abbortsford, Burnley, Brunswick, Parkville, Flemington, Kensington and Elsternwick. Freestanding terraces and single storey terraces can be found elsewhere within 10 kilometres of the Melbourne city centre.
Although Melbourne retains a large number of heritage registered terraces, many rows were substantially affected by widescale slum reclamation programs for public housing during the 1950s and 60s. Later private development of walk-up flats and in-fill development has further reduced the number of complete rows. As a result, streets and suburbs which contain large intact rows of terrace housing are now fairly rare. Suburbs such as Albert Park, Fitzroy, Carlton, Parkville and East Melbourne are now subject to strict heritage overlays to preserve what is left of these streetscapes.
Some of the more notable examples of terrace housing in Melbourne include the heritage registered Tasma Terrace, Canterbury, Clarendon Terrace, Burlington Terrace, Cypress Terrace, Dorset Terrace, Nepean Terrace and Annerly Terrace (East Melbourne), Blanche Terrace, Cobden Terrace, Holyrood Terrace (Fitzroy), Rochester Terrace and the St Vincent Gardens precinct (Albert Park), Royal Terrace, Holcombe Terrace, Denver Terrace, Dalmeny House & Cramond House, and Benvenuta (Carlton), Marion Terrace (St Kilda) and Finn Barr (South Melbourne).
In contrast to the British practice of the day, where dozens or even hundreds of houses were constructed by a developer as a single housing estate, Sydney practice was normally to build a short run of houses, an interesting example being the "Castle Terrace" in Paddington. Consisting of five houses, the middle one has been given a distinctive treatment.
Most Sydney terraces are firmly anchored into solid sandstone, which provided an opportunity to follow the British practice of constructing a basement storey below street level, reached by a flight of stairs down from the street. Many examples of this are to be found in Paddington. In the suburb of Balmain, there are examples of houses actually constructed from local sandstone, rather than bricks covered with stucco.
For reasons given above, terraces are extremely rare in Brisbane.
The planned city of Adelaide, South Australia has perhaps the most terrace houses of any other capital city, Marine Apartments in the suburb of Grange, is particularly notable, as it is a large three storey filigree terrace.
Tasmania, being one of the oldest European settlements has a number of good examples despite the relative size of its major cities in comparison to mainland cities. Inner Hobart has some good examples of terrace housing. Launceston has some great examples as well (mostly in the Central Business District and East Launceston), including Alpha Terrace, which has striking similarities to many of the terraces in Sydney's hilly suburbs.
Outside of Sydney in New South Wales, Newcastle has a fine collection of 1890s terraces. Almost all of them be found in a conservation area just east of the Central Business District on The Terrace, Wolfe Street, Tyrell Street, Bull Street and Watts Street, including Buchanans Terrace (c1890). Surprisingly, the Western New South Wales city of Dubbo has examples of Victorian terraces and semi-detached houses close to the city centre, mostly in the Darling Street area.
Some other smaller provincial Australian cities also have rare pockets of terrace housing.
Terrace housing in American usage generally continued to be called townhouses in the United States, with a distinctive type found in New York City, among other cities, called a brownstone. Some newer row houses, which are especially prominent in neighborhoods like Middle Village, Woodhaven and Jackson Heights in Queens and Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Canarsie and Marine Park in Brooklyn are commonly referred to locally as "attached houses"
In historic Philadelphia, almost the entire city is populated with various types of row houses. Many of Philadelphia's row houses date back to colonial times. The style and type of material used in constructing Philadelphia's row houses vary throughout the city. Most homes are primarily red brick in construction, with stone and marble accent. There are some communities in the city where the homes are built of solid granite, such as Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia and Mt. Airy in Northwest Philadelphia.
In much of the Southern United States, they are referred to as row homes. In the United States the term commonly describes a two story, owner-occupied housing unit that shares a wall with one or more neighboring units.
The manner in which the buildings were designed varies by their location in an urban area. Derivatives located within city centres may also utilize their space for both commercial on the ground floor and residential use on the first floor and above (accurately known as shophouses, also similar to Lingnan buildings). Inner city terrace house design tended to lack any frontal yard at all, with narrow street frontages, hence the building's structure directly erected in front of the road. One of the reasons behind this was the taxing according to street frontage rather than total area, thereby creating an economic motivation to build narrow and deeply. A five foot way porch was usually laid out at the ground floor for use by both the residents and pedestrians. Alternatively, the porch may be sealed from the rest of the walkway to serve as personal space. Such designs became less common after the 1960s.
Terrace houses located on the outskirts of city centres were less restrictive, although the design of the building itself was not unlike those in the city. Certain homes tend to feature longer front yards, enough to accommodate cars. Others strictly serve as a small garden. This design remained in demand throughout the twentieth century, and a construction boom of the house design occurred in Malaysia since the 1940s, with numerous housing estates consisting of terrace homes sprouting in and around cities and towns. In the process, the design of the building began to diversify, with various refinements and style changes. Generally, the building's floor space and yards become larger and more elaborate through time, as is the modernisation of exterior construction and facade.
Certain older terrace houses tend to be converted for various new roles; some are converted into shophouses or business premises (including clubs, hotels and boarding homes–especially pre-independence houses–and kindergartens). Others have remained in use as residential units, are abandoned, neglected, or razed. Significant expansions are also common on all terrace homes; roofs and additional rooms may be added within the floorspace of the house's lot. Concerns are also raised with the limited maintenance and monitoring of deserted terrace homes, which potentially become hiding places for rodents and snakes (in yards with overgrown grass), and drug addicts.
Earlier variations of the terrace house were constructed with wood, later replaced with a masonry shell holding wooden beams to form foundations for the upper floors and tiled roof. Contemporary variations are primarily held together with reinforced concrete beams, which are later completed with concrete slabs, brick walls and tiled roofs.