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Vernacular Architecture: Types, Characteristics, and Takeaways for Students (2023)

Updated on:
June 20, 2023
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Vernacular architecture is a centuries-old building, but it is still relevant today. You may be wondering: "what is vernacular architecture?" In the simplest terms, it is a building designed and built by people without formal training. They are typically constructed using local materials like wood and stone. These buildings are often found in rural areas or small towns across the globe. They can vary significantly from region to region based on climate, terrain, access to materials, etc.

Vernacular architecture is a form of design philosophy architecture that's based on local materials, traditions, and climate. It's also usually built by unskilled laborers or artisans. The term "vernacular architecture" was coined by the American architect A.J. Downing in 1850. He used the word to describe buildings that were designed and built with no formal training or professional help from architects—which describes most structures throughout history!

Types of Vernacular Architecture

Architects don't design vernacular architecture; instead, everyone from individual homeowners to architects themselves uses vernacular designs to build their own homes and the other structures they use daily. These structures are not part of any larger scheme set forth by a central government or corporation—people choose based on what materials are available to them at the time and how much money they have to spend. There are several different types of vernacular architecture. These include:

  1. Folk architecture is constructed using simple materials and methods that rely on human labor and hand tools. The main goal of folk architecture is to create a structure that its builders can quickly reproduce.

  1. Artisanal architecture is the product of skilled artisans who use traditional building methods and materials. Artisanal buildings often have distinctive designs that distinguish them from other buildings in the same area.

  1. Rural building typologies are buildings constructed in rural or semi-rural areas by local builders with limited access to materials or skills. Rural building typologies and urban structures are quite distinct due to their isolation from more advanced technology and culture.

What are the Characteristics of Vernacular Architecture?

Vernacular architecture is a building built by a community over time. It does not follow a specific style but reflects the needs and materials available in a particular place. Unlike modern architecture, vernacular buildings are usually built from local materials and do not use complicated or expensive construction methods or materials.

Vernacular architecture is not limited to one specific style; however, there are common traits shared by all forms of vernacular design. For example, most vernacular structures include arches or columns made from concrete blocks stacked on top of each other—these features are often used to support roofs made of corrugated metal sheets. Additionally, many vernacular structures feature large windows that allow natural light into dark spaces like kitchens and bathrooms (which would have naturally had little exposure during early morning hours).

Takeaways for Students

Vernacular architecture is still relevant today. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized and as we face challenges such as climate change, the right architecture thesis topic can help us understand how people in the past adapted to these challenges. We can then use that knowledge to improve our cities today. Vernacular architecture is also an excellent way to learn about history and culture—you'll see how people over several centuries have found creative ways to build homes using what was available (and sometimes not even that).

To take advantage of the lessons learned from vernacular architecture, students should consider studying at least one site in their area where typical buildings have been preserved or restored by local societies or other organizations dedicated to protecting their heritage. Students should also consider looking at sites with examples of modern adaptations of traditional building materials. It includes: 

  1. Wood frame construction with adobe infill walls; 
  2. Straw bale construction; 
  3. Shipping container housing
  4. Earthbag dome structures; 
  5. Rammed earth walls; 
  6. Cob houses made out of clay soil mixed with mud, held together by water pressure during compaction

While vernacular architecture has been around for centuries, it remains a strong force in today's built environment. Its intimate relationship with people, places, and cultures makes it an essential part of our evolving society. Vernacular architecture is still incredibly relevant today and can offer valuable lessons to students studying the subject.

End Note

It is a great time to be learning about Vernacular architecture. It's been around for centuries, but many believe this building can still offer valuable lessons for students today. It's important to remember that the characteristics of Vernacular Architecture are specific only to certain cultures or regions. Therefore it's important not only how buildings were built but also why they were built in those ways so that we can learn from past mistakes without repeating them!

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