This chapter explores the notion of vernacular architecture. Comprising an immense variety of diverse building traditions, vernacular architecture makes up a significant part of the built environment of the world. Because of its rootedness in place, culture and tradition, it often plays a central role in processes of cultural, national and political identification. Vernacular architecture has frequently served as an inspiration for contemporary design, while at the same it has found itself subject to processes of appropriation, folklorisation and commercialisation. In recent decades, many forms of vernacular architecture have been heavily impacted on by the combined forces of globalisation, conflict and environmental change.
Vernacular architecture has emerged as a significant area of architectural research during the twentieth century. This research has traditionally involved the documentation of the vernacular architecture of specific people, cultures or places. But in the last few decades in particular, in line with developments in cultural theory more generally, more dynamic and active approaches that engage with issues around the definition, analysis, representation, appropriation and sustainable development of vernacular architecture have also begun to emerge.
This chapter explores the history and development of the discourse on vernacular architecture. It will indicate the key authors, approaches, publications and debates that have helped shape the field of vernacular studies, using a variety of examples to illustrate key themes. A central argument of the chapter is that vernacular architecture is a residual concept that has served to define a category of architecture in opposition to ‘capital A’ architecture, in order to define and validate the architectural canon. Its continued use in architectural discourse raises important questions about the way in which the latter values and represents the architectural traditions of other peoples and cultures in a time of increased globalisation and multiculturalism.
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School of Architecture
Year of publication: 2023Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-08-02
"This is an accepted manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in The Routledge Companion to contemporary architectural history on 31 July 2023, available online: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Contemporary-Architectural-History/Lu/p/book/9781138940178."