The term beat generation was introduced by Jack Kerouac in approximately 1948 to describe his social circle to the novelist John Clellon Holmes.
The canonical beat generation authors met in New York: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, (in the 1940s) and later (in 1950) Gregory Corso. At Columbia University, Jack Kerouac met Lucien Carr, who introduced him to Allen Ginsberg. In the mid-50s this group expanded to include San Francisco area figures such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen and Lew Welch.
Carr was associated with David Kammerer, a closet homosexual and former teacher of his who had a crush on Carr and was following him around the country. Through Kammerer the circle met William S. Burroughs, an older, privileged gentleman who knew the New York gay and junk scenes. Through Burroughs the circle was introduced to Herbert Huncke, a Times Square hustler. The oft-neglected women in the original circle are Joan Vollmer and Edie Parker. Their apartment in the upper west side of Manhattan often functioned as a salon and/or crash-pad, and Joan Vollmer in particular was a serious participant in the marathon discussion sessions.
Soon the group was all caught up in trouble. Ginsberg was involved in a high speed car chase at the behest of Huncke. Soon after, Carr killed Kammerer in "self defence". Kerouac helped Carr dispose of the weapon, becoming accessory to the crime when Carr turned himself in the next day.
Kerouac's parents refused to bail him from jail. The wealthy parents of his girlfriend at the time, Edie Parker, offered to put up the money, but only if he promised to marry Edie and live with them in Grosse Pointe. Kerouac accepted and found life in Grosse Pointe as miserable as jail.
Meanwhile, Ginsberg wound up in a mental institute from the car chase. There he met a surrealist named Carl Solomon, who changed his life profoundly. Shortly after being released, Ginsberg took poetry to the next level (something most serious historians thought to be impossible).
In 1950 Gregory Corso met Ginsberg, who was impressed by the poetry Corso had written while incarcerated for burglary. Then during the 1950s there was much cross-pollination with San Francisco area writers (Ginsberg, Corso, Cassady and Kerouac all moved there for a time). Ferlinghetti (one of the partners who ran the City Lights press and bookstore) became a focus of the scene as well as the older poet Rexroth, whose apartment became a Friday night literary salon. Rexroth organized the famous Six Gallery reading in 1955, the first public appearance of Ginsberg's poem Howl. A short fictional account of this event forms the second chapter of Jack Kerouac's 1959 novel The Dharma Bums.
Perhaps equally important were the less obviously creative members of the scene: Herbert Huncke, a drug addict and petty thief met by Burroughs in 1946; Hal Chase, an anthropologist from Denver who in 1947 introduced into the group Neal Cassady.
Cassady was instantly seen as the "proto-beat", the living example of everything the clan (Kerouac especially) strived for. He was known for "rapping" the loose spontaneous babble that later became associated with "beatniks". He was not much of a writer himself, though the core writers of the group were impressed with the free-flowing style of some of his letters, and Kerouac cited this as a key influence on his invention of the spontaneous prose style/technique that he used in On the Road (the other obvious influence being the improvised solos of Jazz music). Cassady was immortalized by Kerouac in the novel (under the name "Dean Moriarty") as a hyper wildman, frequently broke, largely amoral, but frantically engaged with life.
After going on wild cross-country driving adventures, Kerouac wrote the 'beat manifesto' on a speed rush in 3 weeks. The MS was on one giant sheet of paper, in one continuous paragraph. This was the beginning of the "Modern Spontaneous Method", a new style of writing that Kerouac perfected over the years. It was written shortly after the success of "Go" and Burroughs' happiness with the "Junky" MS. The novel was called "On the Road", but it was nearly another decade before it was published (1957) and actually became the "beat manifesto". But Kerouac had found his great vision, and he began to write prolifically for the rest of his short life.
Beatniks hated materialism, so they would have lived in simple apratments of homes. There is no specific architecture connected to the Beat Generation.