What is vernacular architecture?
Vernacular architecture is an architecture characterized by the proper use of materials and knowledge of the region, in most cases it does not require the intervention of a professional of the established boom as architects, builders or engineers. Vernacular constructions are usually simple and practical, both in residential houses and for different purposes.
Despite the fact that it covers 90% of the world's built-up areas. Vernacular architecture often goes unnoticed even in historic design traditions. It is not a specific style, so it is not possible to distill it into a series of easily digestible patterns, materials or elements.
Because of the use of traditional construction methods and local builders, vernacular-era buildings are considered part of a regional culture.
Contemporary vernacular architecture can be contrasted with elite or complimentary architecture that is characterized by aesthetic design elements deliberately incorporated for aesthetic purposes that go beyond the functional requirements of a building.
Etymological origin of the term vernacular.
It is a very specific issue of the country or region of the person in question, which comes from the Latin "vernaculus" which was used to refer to everything related to a country. This Latin word, in turn, comes from "vernus", which translates as "indigenous", this word from "verna", was used to refer to a domestic slave who within the historical context had only come to be born.
Therefore, one must consider what is known as vernacular architecture. This is the one that comes to identify a specific region, which is one of the most traditional and significant of the place and has the particularity of being original when the natives of a land are in the need to build to live.
Definition of vernacular architecture
Tropical vernacular architecture is defined as an environment of buildings that are adapted to local needs; and is defined by the availability of materials from its region; thus reflecting local traditions and cultural practices.
The study of the origins of vernacular architecture traditionally did not analyze the architects formally instructed in this kind of adaptability and management of vernacular architecture, which only gave importance to the experts in design and tradition of the builders of the area, and who were rarely given any attribution for any work.
Recently, the purpose of vernacular architecture has been studied by designers and the construction industry in an attempt to generate more awareness of the importance of energy with contemporary design and construction as a fundamental part of a broader interest in sustainable design for future generations.
Vernacular or popular, folk, traditional, common and ordinary architecture is sometimes used interchangeably. On the other hand, Allen Noble, a U.S. Academic and Methodist minister, wrote an extensive discussion of these terms in Traditional Buildings.
In a Global Survey of Structural Forms and Cultural Functions, he presents a diversification of scholarly opinions on folk building or folk architecture built by "persons not professionally trained in building works of art"; where vernacular architecture is substantially part of the common people, but can still be built by later trained professionals.
Traditional vernacular architecture is that which is transmitted from person to person, from generation to generation, especially verbally and, at any level of society, not only by the common people.
Chicha" architecture is the only hope to redeem vernacular architecture. Jorge Burga Bartra
Vernacular architecture and current culture represents an extensive concept that comprises fields of architectural study that include autochthonous, indigenous, ancestral, rural and ethnic architecture that contrasts with a more intellectualized architecture called respectful, structured or academic architecture, in the same way that folklore contrasts with the fine arts.
Material used in vernacular constructions
Since the beginning of time, wood has been one of the fundamental and most used elements of vernacular architecture in this type of housing, which we find as the only material in all these vernacular buildings, wood is associated with other materials of vegetable origin such as cane walls, yaguas and vines covered with palm leaves (guano), and also with other natural components such as earth and stone.
Vernacular architecture is governed by the local environment and the construction materials it can provide. The areas rich in wood is the characteristic that identifies and develops a vernacular language with the use of this material, while in the areas without much of this material they substitute it with the use of mud or stone.
The vernacular architecture in California uses water tanks built with a redwood lining, redwoods are a type of long-lived evergreen tree, these tanks were part of the homes of the vernacular boom as an autonomous domestic water system powered by wind energy.
In the Far East the most commonly used material that defines vernacular architecture in this place is bamboo, as it is abundant and versatile. Bamboo, almost by definition, is sustainable, and will not deplete local resources. And of course if it is not sustainable, it is not suitable for its local context, and cannot function and define authentic vernacular architecture.
The construction elements and materials used in vernacular boom constructions are known to be the following:
- Adobe: Adobe is one of the oldest building materials still in use. It is a low-cost and easily accessible building material since it is made by local communities. Adobe structures are usually self-built, because the traditional construction technique is simple and does not require additional energy consumption.
- Wind collectors: Wind collectors provide natural ventilation to the interior of a building and can take various forms. They consist of a covered tower with one side open and facing the prevailing wind. In this way, the wind tower is directed downward, providing a natural flow of air that cools the building.
- Cob: Cob is a building material that is composed of clay, sand, straw and common earth mud. Cob is very similar to adobe and tapial (modern adobe lime), having approximately the same proportions of constituent materials.
- Mashrabiya: It is an architectural element typical of traditional Islamic residences. It is a kind of window projected outward, closed with latticework and located on the second floor of a building or a higher floor, often covered with small stained glass windows.
- Mud: Mud, like wood, is a good preservative material since mud maintains the wood and the vegetable substances inside it. Mud constructions are durable and can be preserved for centuries if properly cared for and maintained.
- Straw: Straw is a material that, due to its thermal properties, is very suitable for use as a thermal insulator.
Characteristics of vernacular architecture
The following points are some of the characteristics of vernacular architecture:
- Orientation: The way in which buildings of this nature are oriented produce favorable thermal conditions according to the area in which it is located.
- Shading: In a building, including its exterior walls and openings, it is exposed to the sun and water. In vernacular architecture, the overhanging eaves or overhang functions as protection.
- Ventilation: The relative humidity of the building is regulated by cross ventilation. It is important especially for cabins located in hot and humid climates.
- Shape: Some of the factors such as form and spatial organization help control the overall performance of the building.
Historical context of vernacular architecture.
The concept of "vernacular" was used in the 19th century. Sometimes vernacular architecture and sustainability is used as a derogatory term, suggesting something that may be quaint, but is derivative and has not been "properly" designed by an architectural professional.
It was then that during the first quarter of the 20th century, some high profile architects such as Adolf Loos, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier began to contextually extol the virtues of vernacular architecture. However, it was not until 1964 that a successful exhibition by Bernard Rudofsky entitled "Architecture without Architects" popularized this distinguished branch of architecture that has evolved and changed the perspective on modern vernacular architecture.