Southern vernacular architecture is celebrated in Buchanan’s drawings and constructions. While the following short descriptions of several types of houses may enrich understanding of her work, keep in mind she creates out of both memory and inspiration of actual shacks. The more abstract renderings tend to focus on the activities within the confines of the shack, such as parties, funerals, games, births, and everyday life.
Single Pen has a single room, one door and a few windows; often a single chimney is placed at one of the gable ends. A tenant farmer might have a front porch, a sharecropper might not.
Double Pen is two single pens joined gable to gable with a chimney at each end, often a family living in each half of the house.
Saddlebag is a double house with the chimney in the middle. The two families are separated by a wall, but share the same chimney.
Dogtrot has two parts separated by a central outdoor hall or breezeway, a large shade porch spanning the front of the house, and sometimes rooms added to the rear. It is normally raised above grade, often has large windows in the two front rooms, and doors often face the breezeway.
Shotgun houses are one room wide and three or more rooms deep with the gable end in the front, and a front porch. Opening the front and back doors allows breezes to pass through, thus cooling the house. The name may be because of the possibility of shooting a shotgun through the house without hitting anything, or as artist John Biggers suggests, it may be a corruption of a Yoruba word meaning “God’s house”.