Remember the Alamo? Before it was a landmark it was a Spanish mission, and its distinctive parapet is the hallmark of Mission style architecture.
Mission or Mission Revival house plans share the stucco walls and red tile roofs common to the other architectural styles indigenous to California and the American southwest, but they have one distinguishing feature: at least one curvaceous parapet adorning the façade. A parapet is a wall that extends above the roof, and that roof may be the roof of the home or the roof of one element of the home, like the porch or a dormer window. Some Mission home designs have more than one of the characteristic parapets, and some even boast another special feature of a Spanish Mission: a bell tower. Most Mission house plans have a portico or full-width porch supported by arches.
The fanciful shaped parapets are the primary decoration on Mission home plans, but quatrefoil windows and intricate tilework are not uncommon. The Mission home is a romantic interpretation of the simple Spanish structures of colonial America.