Contrasts between the Sagebrush and the Evergreen State
Bollards, although simple in construction and concept, come in a wide diversity of styles. In the busy summer construction season, thousands of bollards of all types are shipped across the country. Watching loaded trucks leave we wondered: are there subtle trends between different states? Are some bollards favored in hotter climes vs. colder ones? Do architectural trends influence site furnishings? Nevada’s interest in bollards has recently increased, with pedestrian-protecting traffic posts installed along the Las Vegas strip. We were curious about what look site designers were choosing for these projects. For good contrast, we compared Nevada bollards with Washington’s orders: The Western states are not too distant from one another, yet they are geographically and architecturally distinct.
Nevada: climate, population, and vernacular architecture
Nevada is a hot, dry state filled with arid desert or semi-desert zones. For thousands of years, the geographical area was home to Indigenous tribes that moved over wide ranges, including into non-desert biomes, managing scarcity through movement. Nevada was founded in 1864 but the hot, dry climate kept it sparsely inhabited for many years. Advances in climate management have allowed the population to grow rapidly for the past five decades—the fastest growing population of all the states—but Nevada still only features 25.9 people per square mile. Most of that population is gathered in the metropolitan statistical area around Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is known for its architecture: ambitious casinos and hotels capturing the design of the world. Yet most people don’t live or work at the Luxor. The look of Nevada is not the exceptional architecture of the Strip, but instead is captured in the average buildings of non-tourist areas. This “vernacular architecture” has its roots in the history of settlement in the area. Housing styles first develop based on land and material on hand, and then codify and grow common: those designs go on to influence the look of larger structures like strip malls and shopping centers.
The sprawling western landscape and its slow settlement gave rise to the ranch-style house still prominent in Nevada today. Settlers built one-story shacks due to material constraint and climate. They were low to the ground and windowed on both sides, yet shaded with deep overhanging eaves to help block the sun’s intensity at midday. Their simple, unornamented shapes meant these shacks were easy to add to, with new extensions put on in a way so as not to block windows. Large lots could hold homes with a large “footprint.”
In the 1930s and 40s, details were added to give the rancher its current familiar look. Non-functional shutters sometimes highlight windows. Porches and sliding glass doors are often characteristic. In the 1960s, a population boom in Nevada meant that lot size dwindled, and ranch houses became multistory. However, the rectangular, deep-eaved look of the home remained recognizable in the ranch style. The familiar profile inspires many of the commercial developments in Nevada: strip malls, gas stations, and low-rise office buildings.
The Pueblo style is a creole architecture comprised of Spanish mission and indigenous building styles. Originally, pueblos would have been built out of adobe, with distinctive wooden beams often protruding from the walls or used as framing inside. These were often used sparingly due to lack of wood, while still providing structure. In modern pueblo-style buildings, these elements may be added decoratively, rather than structurally, with more modern building materials standing in for adobe, but painted to remind of the original style. Pueblo buildings are often flat roofed and have rounded corners, recalling when they were constructed partially of clay.
Pueblo style also influences commercial and public architecture, showing up in restaurants, art galleries, and places of worship.
Settler styles: Spanish Villa, Tudor, Italian, and Mediterranean styles
Nevada’s ranch and Pueblo styles were adapted from the land they grew out of, but Nevada’s settlers came from many places in the world and brought building traditions and preferences with them. The traditions that flourished were, unsurprisingly, those that echoed what was already in place. Very simple English Tudor style features exposed structural beams that echo the Pueblo: this English building style is more likely to be seen in Nevada than a tall, ornate Victorian.
Stucco is another common, practical element. Like adobe, it provides a layer of insulation that allows cooler nighttime temperatures to be preserved through the heat of the day. Spanish, Italian, and Mediterranean villas with stucco exteriors and terracotta roof tiles easily fit into the existing Nevadan landscape.
These details are found in many types of commercial architecture, from rental buildings to banks.
Washington: the styles of the Pacific Northwest
The opposite of Nevada, Washington state has areas of temperate rainforest and moderate to heavy yearly precipitation in much of the state. The area is rich in natural resources: the climate allows for lush plant growth and wildlife, and the ocean traditionally supported active fisheries. Before settlers from Europe arrived, it was already a populated area, with some Indigenous populations able to survive in permanent settlements. Resource richness brought people. Washington state was founded in 1889, 25 years after Nevada, but is much more densely populated today, with 101.2 people per square mile.
Housing styles reflect this. Ranchers, built for sun and space, are available in Washington, but they are less common than two-story houses built on narrower foundations. In contrast to sprawling desert buildings that manage sun and heat, the smaller lots and structures of Washington huddle against the rain. In the late 1800s, ornamented Victorian homes or tall, boxy row-house Edwardians were constructed out of plentiful timber. The 70s saw split-level homes built from coast-to-coast, and Washington was no exception. Cape Cod homes were a brief building fad. Yet there are a few designs that stand out as particularly popular in the Pacific Northwest.
The “Seattle box” is also known as the Seattle Foursquare, a variation on a popular American design with four rooms on the main floor (foyer, living room, dining room, and kitchen) and four bedrooms on the floor above. These boxy little homes often have deep porches with blocky columns and protruding windows on the second floor. Although this home was popularly built for a short time in the early 1900s, it influences other designs that continue to be built today in the PNW. The wood-and-windows look, built on a small foundation, is especially echoed in storefronts in small town main-streets.
Any town in Washington State is sure to have its share of Craftsman homes. Coming after the “Seattle box,” they have some similar features. Craftsman homes usually are made of wood and feature large windows, both flat and bay windows designed to scoop the watery light. Deep eaves are supported by “knee braces,” the brackets that mark this distinctive style.
The shapes inherent in the windows and gables of these buildings echo the mountains and create a line that holds its own amid the trees and other foliage. Locally-sourced stone often girds foundations and heavy pillars that frame the front porch. Craftsman are often painted in strong colors with complimentary trim, echoing the complexity of color of the foliage around them but also standing out against the greys of rainy skies. This bungalow design influences everything from stand-alone grocery stores to grouped buildings in a campus or community center.
The minimalist, modernist styles likely to be found on the pages of Dwell magazine stand out in Washington state. Smooth-walled homes with plain geometric forms are created to prioritize function over form. They often are built to maximize effective living space, featuring open plans and large frameless windows. Exterior decoration tends towards the simple: light colors, few textures, very little trim. These houses often contrast sharply with the riot of vegetation around them.
Many commercial developments follow modern or minimal architectural styles.
Comparing Nevada’s bollards to Washington’s bollards
Washington’s architecture runs to the more classical and ornate, whereas Nevada often features simpler lines and fronts. We thought this might be reflected in their bollard sales as well — but first, we had to look at our bollard lines.
Our popular R-75XX line covers a wide range of decorative and architectural bollards, which can be used as bollard covers over security posts, or stand-alone adding distinction and visual guidance. Options range from distinctive marine bollards to more familiar cannon-barrel or Doric column-inspired shapes. These bollards are often preferred with classical architectural styles.
In comparison, the R-79XX line focuses on sleek, less weighty, columnar bollards. Although this series provides style and accent to an area, R-79XX bollards are more understated than their decorative counterparts. Due to their lighter weight, these bollards are often installed with removable mounts, allowing them to be taken down to change vehicle access to the area they protect.
Based on these differences in these two popular lines, we thought the sleek R-79XX line may be more popular in Nevada than in Washington. We guessed that Washington, with its historical building styles, might prefer the decorative bollard line. We scrutinized the data to see if our theory bore out.
Here’s what we learned:
Traditional (R-75XX) by % of total units
Traditional by % total number of orders
Modern (R-79XX) by % of total units
Modern (R-79XX) by % of total number of orders
23% of items shipped to either state were traditional, decorative bollards, making them a popular choice in both states. By number of orders, it is clear Washington had some large decorative bollard projects, whereas Nevada had small projects well distributed.
The data also surprised us: it showed Washington with an active interest in our modern, low-profile bollard. 25% of the items shipped to Washington come from the R-79XX line, with less than 10% of Nevada’s orders from the same. Nevada’s other orders are distributed evenly throughout our catalog, showing no one strong preference in our other stock lines.
A bollard for every vista
Our popular bollard lines ship to every place in North America, with a wide range of styles and adaptable mountings that are designed to provide the look, access control, and impact resistance needed. The difference we see in style-preference from state to state is more an indicator of what is being built now than of overall suitability.
Washington has a lot of classical architecture well suited to our decorative R-75XX bollard line, but it is also currently building many modern glass and stainless steel high rises, as part of densification and an ever-expanding property boom. These tall modern buildings are complimented perfectly by our more modern, sleek R-79XX bollards—not to mention our new stainless steel bollard cover line. Many of these columnar bollards have removable and retractable options, which can allow Washington designers to create variable access to spaces in densely-populated neighborhoods.
Nevada is also growing quickly, yet more spacious footprints for buildings and complexes are still possible. Attractions and businesses built to draw tourists support their look with a varied range of site accessories. In some places, the R-79XX bollards are invaluable, but a range of development means a range of purchases.
Whenever a bollard leaves our warehouse it is on the way to create safety and place, and we are curious about where these little posts will end up. It is interesting to watch and compare what states are growing in which ways. They provide a little insight into the sorts of architectural projects being worked on in each state, a strange small set of data that tells a story of the whole.