History has Vernacular architecture's record of being the most primitive form of architecture and perhaps the most alluring as well. Ironically, it somehow lost its appeal with the superimposing of myriad layers of time and technological advances.
Architecture that feeds on local materials, inherited construction techniques and never dying traditions collectively sums up the bare minimum style. To imagine that the architecture of yesteryear functioned in the absence of the architect is absurd. Tagged by titles like folk architecture, ethnic architecture, rural architecture and non-pedigree architecture that originated in different parts of the world, vernacular architecture is one for all. The early 16th century saw the evolution of vernacularism as a hot topic of discussion which developed into a concrete form of design with the ringing in of the 1800s.
This triggered off a sudden burst of interest with leading architects like Adolf Loos, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier to make it part of conventional architectural design. A photographic representation of vernacular structures as presented by Bernard Rudofsky in his venture of Architecture without Architects was to create an awareness in relative fields of design.British folklorist Paul Olivers efforts to unravel the little known environmental, technological and social aspects of Vernacular design in the year 1960 as well as his publication of the encyclopedia of vernacular architecture of the world helped lay a foundation for the building of this novelty in design.However, what started out from an attraction soon became a necessity in late 19th century when building construction was provoking environmental degradation and loses of valuable fuel. As vernacular buildings are built using available materials and techniques with low dependency on energy resources, inspired designers looked to simplifying the methods of construction.
Eyeing some of the earliest illustrations of the vernacular style, the Ksar Ouled Soltane located in southern Tunisia is a quirky looking organic structure purposed for storing grain. Built by the Berbers-a North African ethnic group, the granary is located on a hilltop to fortify the structure from frequent raid of the village food supply. The 15th century old conformation is a conjoined series of structures constructed in true adobe style with a seamless vaulted roof atop.
The multi-storey cellular structures or Ghorfas circumference two central courtyards, linked by a palm wood pathway. Rising 4 storeys high and housing 400 Ghorfas, the Ksar sustained an entire community of people secured through a single entryway. The clay, sand and straw adobe structures kept the food cool and dry. The settlements did undergo repair with a cement patchwork on the traditional mud and brick facade in 1997, presently occupied by local residents. Featured in one of the many star wars movies, the Ksar Ouled Soltane is now a tourist destination still resonating its former architectural calling.
The Living root bridges nested in the tropical forest of Meghalaya is one of natures many gifts to man. Sinuated by a local tribe, taking advantage of the climate suitable for plant growth, the root bridges are an ingenious solution to do away with corruptible bridges like wood specifically during the prolonged monsoons, typical to the region. The Khasi tribe have trained the roots of the rubber trees proven to be sturdy and mature in strength with time. The initial 15 years required for the wrought structure is an undeniably long tenure but it has the muscle power to withstand a live load of people crossing over and over the organic bridge formation.
Hundred year old and over, the root bridges are molded in hollow cane shells of the areca nut palm to reach the end of the bank, requiring a decade or more to develop and withstand heavy loading. The solid, maintenance free network of roots form the substructure to perhaps the worlds first of its kind living bridge that has a shelf life to last for generations to come.
While we see plenty of ingenuity in the crafts of the pure vernacular at work in structures of old, the modern spin off is quiet an endearing one. Falling in the temperate zone, the Casa Costa Azul near San Salvador - a metropolitan city in Central America is governed by the centuries old phenomenon of the courtyard conceptualized by Cincopatasalgato Architects.
With the kitchen and the day areas facing the central court, the remnant spaces maintain an indoor - outdoor connect with the exterior landscape elements. The uninterrupted free flow of natural light and ocean breezes within the core owing to the glass facades and the overhead skylight within the massive thatched roof is the cynosure of the vivacious oceanfront residence.
Envisioning the two styles, disparate and yet tied up in structural and visual harmony is what New York based firm Cadaval & Sola Morales were committed to bring together in the Guinovart Florensa residence. The house at Pyrenees is one such amalgamation of an old mountain home- a byproduct of vernacular architecture that seeks to adapt with its growing surroundings and time leaps. The new designed home incorporates a planar separation of the dry stone walled house supported on verticals that lend to a comely vertical continuity in the house.
The point of conjecture lies in the fact that we either wholly adopt the principle of vernacular building or create a hybrid design out of the two.
Images via Home Adore, Wikimedia, The Week, Panoramio, Happy Trips, SGustok Design, Free York, Travellenz, Ytimg