Why vernacular architecture inspire many modern architects and designers?

M’Zab Architecture

Vernacular architecture is identified by its design, function and technique that respond to the needs of the local people and their way of living, it’s constructed by local materials, This type of architecture is directed towards specific place and time and it’s not functional in another place. In past centuries, vernacular architecture trained architects to learn more by many skills and expertise of local builders.

The development of vernacular architecture focuses on the functions. The design generally evolves over time, becoming more refined and suited to the contexts in which it exists, including :

  • Local culture: the lifestyle of the occupants greatly influences the shape of the building. This can include family size, how the building is used, social conditions, local customs, religious values, etc.
  • Economic conditions.
  • Historical influences.
  • The environment: near water, wooded, desert or mountainous sites, etc.
  • The climate: sunshine, humidity, rain, wind, temperatures, etc.
  • The availability of resources, skilled labor, etc.

The majority of the older houses you see are probably vernacular structures. Vernacular architecture is constructed with local builders and without architect, in fact they know better their way of life that is why majority of this type of architecture is built by local people using local materials and inspired by the surrounding of the building.

Vernacular architecture encompasses cultural and traditional building that have been passed down through generations. As styles and techniques evolve, each vernacular structure is modest, profitable, and enduring. These houses have been around since people started to build primitive structures.

As an idea and a principle, the word “vernacular” became very much used in the beginning of the nineteenth century, in conjunction with western colonial invasion of countries and continents, the vernacular architecture were being discovered, it’s a term used to define something less valuable, or something is strange to the eye or designed with unprofessional way.

However, in the first years of the 20th century, many modern architects started to study and show the value of vernacular architecture like Frank Lloyd Wright, Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier. In fact, Le Corbusier was so inspired by the vernacular architecture of M’Zab valley, one of rare sites that are listed in the UNESCO world heritage, located in Gherdaia one of Algeria’s states.

The advantages of vernacular architecture are :

  • Capitalize on local knowledge and traditions.
  • Buildings that can be specifically designed taking local climatic conditions into account and often perform well.
  • Leveraging local materials and resources, which means energy savings and sustainability.
  • Provide a connection between humans and the environment in which they live.

The concept of vernacular architecture is constructed by inhabitant and for inhabitant, the design and the concepts of the vernacular architecture are adopting simple style and according to their way of living with local materials. This architecture is less focused on aesthetics and concepts but it is for creating something easy to live in.

There is many characteristics to define vernacular architecture from other designs:

  • Builders use cheap materials and design with utility. The materials were generally affordable and locally sourced. The design was intended to emphasize function rather than beauty.
  • The design reflects the climate. For example, builders can consider which direction the house is facing when positioning windows. Specific materials can be used to help get through the winter, etc.
  • Design evolves. Local builders were learning from their experiences and modifying the houses to reflect that experience.
  • Homes often embrace culture and social conditions. Similar materials used or similar design styles which can be a mishmash of other more styles. You may also see houses clustered closer or apartment complexes in densely populated areas. Some houses may exhibit religious customs. Houses with poorer residents were smaller and less elaborate.

Since most houses built today are made under the direction of an architect, it is difficult to build an authentic vernacular house these days. However, you can choose to build a house in a vernacular style true to your location. In the United States, for example, there are dozens of subsets of vernacular architecture. Here are some of the most common examples that have arisen over the past two centuries across the country.

Shotgun house – New Orleans

Shotgun houses in the late 1800s: This type of house or apartment is very narrow and long, with each room facing the next. Many of these Shotgun homes were built in the South in cities like New Orleans.

Sears Homes

Sears Homes in the Early 1900s: Sears Homes were built in the early decades of the 20th century. A handful of companies produced catalogue homes during this period, but the Sears company was one of the most popular to do so.

Bungalow Homes

Bungalow Style Homes of 1920s : Bungalow style homes can represent several different house types. In the United States, they typically encompass one-leve or one-and-a-half-level homes with a very functional floor plan.