Mission architecture, for the most part, needs considerable modification for use to-day, because those early monks and missionaries who reared the picturesque buildings for their churches and monasteries were sadly handicapped in building facilities.
Virtually all the work had to be performed by their own hands, with but little assistance from their new converts, so that it was necessarily crude.
There is, however, a distinct element of architectural sincerity per se, quite dissociated from the romantic interest naturally associated with the early missions.
There were beautiful proportions, charming cloisters and, in general, a marked degree of appropriateness in these buildings. Some brick was used in their construction, and a little stone.
Adobe, the natural local clay, was a material ready to hand and easily worked. Wood was little used, and nearly always with quaintly crude carpentry.
Wall surfaces were plain, and roofs were of the corrugated tile familiar in Spain.
It is a little remarkable that the early Spanish missions are not more widely proclaimed as one of our most picturesque and available types of American architecture.
Spanish-American, perhaps, yet essentially appropriate to that locality, as inspiration for the architects of our entire Pacific Coast and Southwest.
Pacific Coast architects have availed themselves of this peculiarly interesting local type to some extent, A type of dwelling derived from the Spanish and Spanish Colonial hacienda, with severe interior, iron-milled windows and an inner garden court, or patio.
“Mission” simplicity is also apparent blending with it many elements more directly derived from Spain and from Italy, and have also developed a distinctive type in which a strong Japanese influence is apparent, especially in the handling of exposed woodwork.
Much interesting work is yearly added to the residential architecture of the Pacific Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, and the danger most to be feared, as in other parts of the country, is the danger of a lack of architectural unity.
In American architecture, caprice is constantly militating against consistency, especially in the matter of local styles.
Consistency need not mean monotony, for there are endless and interesting variations to be played upon every architectural theme to which we have fallen heir.
Most public buildings of the Pacific Coast, as well as banks, theaters, and the like, show few local traits differing conspicuously from similar buildings in other parts of the United States—local peculiarities, mostly very interesting and promising, seem confined to domestic architecture.