Edit: Originally I asked this question about "houses" in general, but several comments made it clear to me houses was too broad a scope. So I've edited this question to restrict it's scope to a certain type of dwelling, and I will ask further questions in series about other dwelling types in the future.

Say that humans are generally nocturnal, save the occasional day lark, and they have cat-like eyes which allow them to see clearly in bright and low-light conditions, though their maximum sight range is less in the dark than it is in bright light. For the purposes of this question, they receive vitamin D and other sunlight-borne health benefits from a special adaptation that isn't relevant to their architecture.

For this question, let's focus on a singular type of dwelling: the European manor house. Ightham Mote

It's the seat of the lord of the manor, an important cog in the feudal system, found in the country, overlooks (hopefully fertile) grounds, and may or may not benefit from notable material affluence. Several different classes of nocturnal humans live here. The lord himself is a busy guy but is generally found at home administering his estates. So too, the lords family, who lead fairly comfortable lives with a lot of time spent at home. The lord has several servants who live in the manorhouse or nearby on the grounds and spend a lot of time in the manorhouse and surrounding yard. There are other tenants and workers of the land, but they live elsewhere and their dwellings don't factor into this question.

With all else equal to diurnal humans, what architectural innovations do nocturnal humans develop in their manorhouses to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of nocturnality? Do they use more or less windows? Do they build in different areas than diurnal humans would? Do they structure or furnish the homes differently? What innovations to they develop to maximize the utility of moonlight and starlight? Is directionality as important as it is for diurnal human homes that try to maximize the utility of sunlight? What security concerns may they have about their home, being generally asleep during midday and most active during midnight? How do they alleviate those concerns?

Below are some assumptions/deductions I've made regarding the above slew of questions. Ideal answers should fact-check and correct or expand on this list.

  • Windows and directionality are probably still important. We diurnal humans use these tools to manipulate not only light, but temperature too. Also, we like being able to see outside places from inside places, you need windows for that, and the direction a window faces is important for seeing the outside places you are most interested in. I can't imagine why windows would take many different forms than normal, or that directionality would focus on a different axis than normal (it seems to me that the heat-modulating benefits of directionality aligned with the sun's course throughout the day are more important than the light-modulating benefits of directionality aligned with the moon's course throughout the night, but I may be wrong). Perhaps skylights would be more prominent to maximize the utility of moonlight and starlight.
  • To the best of my (layperson's) understanding, colors would be dim to indistinguishable at night, even with night sight. We might assume then that differing texture and pattern is more important in furniture, so that different objects in a room can be more easily distinguished between.
  • For similar reasons as above, homes may favor wide, open floor-plans with fewer confounding visual elements. Very chic.
  • $\begingroup$ Given the amount of diversity in non-nocturnal human houses what makes you think that there's a single specific answer to this question? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 2 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think you're dead right about temperature. All animals (that I know of) follow the same pattern of lowering metabolism - and body-temperature - during sleep. As to the day/night cycle, It depends rather on what the houses are used for during waking hours, how much time is spent in them and doing what. Can you tell us more about their habits and lifestyles? $\endgroup$ Oct 2 at 4:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Escapeddentalpatient I've edited the question to focus on a single historical dwelling type with indications of the inhabitant's behavioral patterns. Hopefully that makes it more clear how much time they spend there and what sort of work they are doing. $\endgroup$
    – Fictotum
    Oct 2 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ This might not be relevant, but can you tell us why they are nocturnal, if their sight is still better during the day (and there are a lot of other benefits to diurnal life)? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Oct 2 at 13:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @joachim You're right that it's not really relevant. I don't want to include information about my setting because it will just confuse the question. They're nocturnal, just how it is. $\endgroup$
    – Fictotum
    Oct 2 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


Minor differences likely.

I am an architect and familiar with such residences and structures.

One needs to keep in mind that the major reasons why these types of houses are the way they are is for social, political and economical reasons. Behind architecture often exists a large amount of cultural and ritual reasons that determines its final form.

This is of course not isolated to only Manor houses, but also in all homes even today.

In the early 1800's these types of houses were usually the pinnacle of local hierarchy, being one of (if not the main) residence of a local Lord or important person, and designed accordingly. Often featuring multiple levels, spires, turrets, atriums and entrance halls, these homes are primarily intended to display wealth, give a sense of stability to local subjects, a sense of security to inhabitants, and impress local and regional dignitaries.

All of these factors are actually independent of whether your society is Nocturnal or not - if in your world English-style Manor Houses of the early 1800's exist, they exist with similar political, wealth and security imperatives, which informs their form, fenestration and articulation.

On a practical level, these homes were actually not that pragmatic. They often were cold and draughty, water leaks common, required copious maintenance, and were expensive to build. They were also dark (although later Manor houses rectified this with lots of glazing) requiring constant artificial lighting to internal rooms. In your case, as they would likely be used more at night than during the day, one can imagine small changes to their layout and configuration (requiring less exterior lighting), and perhaps more consistently opaque drapery, but most other features would likely remain the same.


Drab decor

Nocturnal animals tend to have poor colour vision, and that would probably be true of your humans too. Their wallpapers, rugs and drapery wouldn't have much colour, but they might like patterned designs. They would still have ancestors' portraits on the walls, but probably not other kinds of paintings. They might prefer drawings and sculptures for art.

The gardens would not be adorned by bright-coloured flowers, instead there would be plants that grow in interesting shapes, and possibly some white flowers that glow in low light.


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