“Folk building growing in response to real needs, adjusted to the environment by people who knew better than anyone else what fits and with a patriotic feeling.”

Frank Lloyd Wright
arquitectura vernácula
Credits: arquitecturaydiseno.es

The vernacular architecture does not respond to a specific architectural style such as, for example, the minimalist architecture. But it is the architecture that has been developed in a particular region using local materials and techniques.

The importance of this architecture lies in the fact that it is a reflection of the culture and demographic context of each region. Thus, the vernacular buildings of the Asian continent are not the same as those of the African continent, but neither are those of different regions of the same continent.

Throughout this article we will delve into what is vernacular architecture, what elements constitute it and everything you should know about this type of constructions, which are born from the human need to adapt to a specific environment.

What is vernacular architecture

The term vernacular means “domestic, native, indigenous”, referring to something that comes from a certain culture or that has features specific to that culture.

When we speak of vernacular architecture we speak of traditional types of construction that are born in certain towns in an autochthonous way and are characterized by having local materials and autonomous forms of construction.

casas colmena de harran

From the Hive Houses of Harran in Turkey, to the traditional Malay Houses found in Southeast Asia.

What makes these buildings different from others is that the solutions adopted are an example of adaptation to the environment. It is the users themselves who, supported by their  community and the knowledge of ancestrally inherited building systems, give life to these constructions. 

Many have been modern architects who have studied vernacular buildings to draw inspiration from them, including aspects of it, in their designs.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright describes vernacular architecture as:“folk building growing in response to actual needs, adjusted to the environment by people who knew better than anyone else what fits the native feeling.”

On the other hand, Henry Glassie, university professor emeritus at Indiana University in Bloomington, sees vernacular buildings as those that have gone from being underappreciated to being of great interest. This growing interest is undoubtedly due to the fact that they are the perfect example of sustainability and optimization of resources, in addition to being a fundamental part of the cultural heritage of different groups.

This type of architecture has always been related to sustainability and localization in the face of globalization processes. Why? We tell you. 

What are the elements of vernacular architecture?

The materials of vernacular architecture that are used for its construction are materials of proximity such as wood, bamboo, natural fibers or stones, among others.

arquitectura vernácula
Credits: Pexels

Normally, the soils of these buildings are sandy or clayey. For the construction of the roof the most commonly used are tile, thatch, tejamanil, palm and sugar cane leaves.

Local materials can be diverse depending on the location, climate and needs of the inhabitants. For example, areas rich in trees feature wooden dwellings, while in the East bamboo is essential for constructions.

In the example of the “Beehive House” from Turkey, mentioned above, we observe a construction in adobe, brick and stone. All of them, typical materials of the area.

Its vaulted shape facilitates the construction and keeps the heat in the coldest months.

However, today we can find examples of vernacular construction in modern architecture. But what is modern vernacular architecture? Architects today are trying to make more sustainable designs.

The massive use of production building materials has forced to look for alternatives for the architectural project.

Contemporary architecture therefore uses materials and techniques inherited from vernacular architecture. Passive solar design, siting techniques, the elevation of rustic work, and the use of local natural materials are inherited from ancestral vernacular architecture.

This is how vernacular constructions are created, which are works perfectly integrated into the environment and are absorbed by the landscape.

 Examples of vernacular architecture

Vernacular architecture has left its mark all over the world, but in some regions its existence is more evident. Let’s look at some examples of it:  

Bamboo houses in Ecuador

These houses are located in a rural area in the coastal zone. It is precisely in this area where they have the presence of large expanses of bamboo, and two mountains of rainforest surrounding the land.

casa de bambú
Credits: Pexels

It became the ideal setting to be enhanced through the project and generate the link that the owners required with the landscape. In addition, it incorporates traditional elements of the Ecuadorian coastal constructions.

Traditional Malay houses of Southeast Asia

casas malayas tradicionales arquitectura vernacula.

These houses can be found in the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo. In most of these houses, wood and bamboo predominate. However, they have variations depending on the region in which they are located.

As is typical of vernacular architecture, the dwellings are designed to be reused in the future.

All of them were built on stilts, in anticipation of withstanding floods, protection from thieves, wild animals and improved ventilation.

The roofs are usually designed to gable and some of them present ornamentations, as in the whole facade. 

The stilt houses

arquitectura vernácula ejemplo de palafito

This type of construction can be found in many regions of the world, such as in South American countries, the Caribbean area and on the Asian continent. However, it is known that in Europe, stilt houses also existed in the Alps area.

The stilt houses are characterized by being built on lakes, lagoons and streams. Although they are also established on the seashore, as in Chile, or on dry land.

They are supported on stakes or wooden pillars, at a certain height so that, if the water rises, the house is not damaged. In addition to wood, straw is also used.

The Igloo

arquitectura vernácula ejemplo de iglú

The igloo is one of the best known and most typical buildings of the Arctic and Alaska. Its name means “house or building” and also “snow house”, since they are built from blocks of ice.

Their dome shape is given by the circular base, and the igloo is built from 

in an ascending and spiral fashion. This means that progressively more ice will be placed in the ice.

What is never missing in these constructions are the entrance tunnel and a hole at the top to ventilate the interior. Sometimes, they also usually have a window above the entrance.

Therefore, vernacular architecture could be understood as the architecture specific to each area. 

If you like vernacular architecture and want to discover great projects like the ones mentioned above, we invite you to follow the account @_archidesignhome_ a paradise for architecture lovers at all levels.