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vernacular architecture & globalisation
Hi all,

I am currently about to start my dissertation and my interest is in vernacular architecture and globalisation. Underneath are few thoughts.

Vernacular architecture is not an old or new way of designing and therefore cannot be labelled as a past thing. But the way it used to be in past and is interpreted and rebuilt today is different. Before people built for themselves within a particular context and culture it had a strong identity, whereas today in globalised world it is mere a copy of physical forms and shapes- the whole idea of “for culture and community” is lost mainly due to globalisation.Today the vernacular is mere physical abstraction of past without a soul.

Could there be a solution to this?

The problem I feel is due to non existence of such ‘similar cultural settlements’ but again it is the way it is and we cannot enforce a change on this. The settlements today are more mixed and from diverse cultural backgrounds so what is the possible solution if one wants to give it a vernacular form ?
Tulsi Patel
Responses
 
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Tulsi, English is a mongrel language made up of a mixture of languages from Northern Europe and Southern Europe. Given that the majority population of the Anglo-Saxons were virtually enslaved after 1066 by the French and Latin speaking Norman invaders, then "Vernacular" would be used by the Norman elite, but the English (Anglo-Saxons) would use "home-grown".

Given that most of the world was populated and built upon before the arrival of machines powered by fossil-fuels; then most domestic buildings were literally expressions of what was locally available in terms of materials and manpower. Similarly, people forget that that most public civic buildings were usually built and paid for over several generations.

For myself, such vernacular building was and is sustainable and therefore better than the use of concrete in endless rows of anonymous buildings.
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Thanks Frank. I too feel vernacular is sustainable without doubt. But the question is how do we take that further given that there are some resources which are depleting like wood, plus the availability of today's material at cheaper rate not many opt for traditional ones + the maintenance cost and all.

What my question is that how should we carry on our traditional vernacular further? in terms of space layout, forms, materials being different for different cultures.Today community is no more territory bound so its so difficult to create such settlements as it existed in past. For example take Poundbury as an example- they have recreated the traditional buildings with modern space use - I feel in a way it is fine. Other way I think it is a mere physical copy of past. Because people living there are not all English, some may be from different part of world and may have different way of living. If we just leave culture part (which cannot be done) than that is a good example - sustainable as well.

Can there be a solution to this kind of situation? Or do we have to accept this and move with it?
Tulsi Patel
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Tulsi, The bottom line for all design is whether or not it is habitable and sustainable. As you say, natural resources like wood are becoming scarce and therefore more expensive because where there is a finite resource then with more people means that there is less per head.

Concrete (with reinforcement) is a plastic material that can be shaped and used all over the world, as a cheap alternative to wood, etc.

What I object to is the way concrete tends to be used in unimaginative ways and this means that what is built is not respected by people and in a sense this disrespect of their habitat and disrespect of their environment leads to feelings of alienation, discontent, frustration and antisocial behaviour.

This is a vicious circle, because the less people respect their environment, the less they care for other people; and eventually their environment and habitat becomes degraded and a slum.

Similarly, where community and culture are disrespected, because so-called popular mass-media have taken over and appears to be more interesting than real life, then real life begins to decay in parallel with the habitat.

In fact, globalisation is a `smoke and mirrors` drug for which people will sell their souls, but which will never satify because their reality can not match the fake world of mass-media.

I can see a future where people will exist in windowless cells of bare concrete with no furniture, but will be "happy" glued to their holo-TV set in a wonderful technicolour fantasy world of mass-media virtual reality.

In other words, in such a future, there will be no need for buildings, design or architecture.
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Frank, thanks for your response. That is so true. But for now are there any such examples which could be taken as examples for a better development? I have actually started doing my thesis on this topic - impact of globalization on vernacular settlements. But as I read more I feel its getting even wider. I am wondering how to narrow it down? any suggestions would help....
Tulsi Patel
vernacular architecture & globalisation
I feel there is a need for architects to understand that culture even when it is changing (modern/ transnational), one needs to design keeping them in mind but not build generally....like mass housing- it does not work efficiently as its users are not involved in the process. This is also one aspect of globalisation, which needs to be addressed today. Can anyone suggest good and bad examples to study this issue.
Tulsi Patel
vernacular architecture & globalisation
hi dear Tulsi.
i have already seen and read your chat with frank about the topic even though it happened 2 years ago. i interest in too and want to know about your dissertation as i have already started the same topic.
I need your help.
Best regards.
Mehdi Ghafouri
vernacular architecture & globalisation
m a student of architecture from bombay,i am planning to do sustainable architecture ,was choose a thesis topic based on suatainablity with green buildings...suggest me some topicz
Reshma Nair
vernacular architecture & globalisation
I was reading my way through the posts today and came across one long post which I rather enjoyed and thought here is someone who thinks like me...

...Then I found it was a post written by myself on June 2nd 2011. :)))
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Dear Tulsi, Why are you obsessed with using the word 'vernacular' - break it down and see what you are dealing with - it is at the end of the day architecture of a context with a particular set of parameters which include climate, material, craft skill, pre-existing trends and other factors that shape the context. Just rethink and shuffle your thoughts to check if you are or not proceeding with a close ended thought- as in you to ratify some idea you harbour and not argue something rationally
And one more thing - please try to rethink the role of chronology or dating of 'people`s architecture' ... technically its in continuum/evolving every day, where the materials have changed but do look at the layout of spaces .... it is only when the change takes place in the relation between the spaces that one can say its a changed or new form ... also please read on architectural anthropology - you`ll need it to free yourself from the 'loop of inbred thinking'...
just a thought form my side - hope it helps
Somi Chatterjee
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Somi, I only wish more people were obsessed with vernacular architecture, not only because vernacular architecture is the exact opposite of globalisation, but because vernacular architecture is what gives identity and therefore dignity to peoples and cultures all around the world.

"One size fits all consumerism" or "Globalisation" is Post-Modern neo-colonialism, which makes a virtue of envy and greed and which thoughtlessly tramples upon the right of peoples and cultures to their own identity.

Here in the West, dignity and respect between people is being wiped out and replaced with POMO AntiSocialism under the banner of Schadenfreud-ism. Therefore nothing is respected and nothing is valued.

Adolf Loos` is remembered for his mantra "ornament is crime" but what he meant was "culture is crime" and as vernacular architecture is a part of any vernacular culture, then "vernacular architecture is crime". In other words, today it is not only acceptable, but expected, that people hate culture, because it is the dirt of human systems.
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Footnote: Adolf Loos lived between 1870 and 1933, a period from between 143 years and 80 years ago. I assume that his adult years were the more important, so he was active between 122 years and 80 years ago.

Therefore the viewpoint of this Avante Garde that culture was crime is now well past its `sell by date` as if culture is crime then the very act of being human is a crime.
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Dear Frank - I wouldnt ratify being be obsessed with anything one thing in particular because everything has a shelf life and time. I agree to your points on globalisation and the resultant 'smothering' of architecture to the point of erasing identity.Unfortunately in the east - where the pace of development is like the whimps of an adolescent - we will make the same mistakes .... Moreover, to rediscover contextual architecture, a paradigm shift is needed where architects first be educated to educate the client to demand something in consonance with their context. ... The process has to start somewhere ...
Somi Chatterjee
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Somi, I really, really, like your term "contextual architecture" because contextual is implicit in both vernacular and traditional architecture and yet does not have the negative meanings which are usually applied to vernacular and tradtional architecture. :)))
Frank John Snelling
vernacular architecture & globalisation
I appreciate very much that this discussion was taken up again and agree with most what was written. Besides available material, know how, climate etc I want to ad two more aspects:

1. Response to disaster loads like earthquake, cyclone or tsunami. What was traditionally done under this aspect was normally better than what was during colonialism introduced as modern buildings. Examples: The Ache house on stilts which is still in my opinion the best solution, but still not fully understood by modern designers. Or the wooden reinforced masonry ( Bhatar) common in the Arabic world, easy to make more sustainable with modern means (simple steel sheet strips) but long time ignored during the Northern Pakistan Earthquake reconstruction . You could read more in the chapter traditional building technology in the internet publication “ Non- Western Technology” edited by Heline Seline, Springer. Unfortunately the access is very expensive, but in an University library, it should be available
2. The influence of fashion, prestige, believes etc. . The form of the Pyramids resulted from religious believes. In the Gujarat post Earthquake reconstruction people wanted slab roofs, although they were more expensive, uncomfortable and not long lasting, as there was no good water proofing. Those roof had a high prestige and one key advantage: no tile flew away during strong winds . After we solved this with simple roof hooks, the traditional tile roofs were accepted.
In consequence one should understand vernacular architecture first from its pros and problems. And then one can keep, what works well ( mostly room concept and climatic design) and then try to improve the week points with modern technology. We diid this for rural sholls in Northern Pakistan, starting from Mud Buildings and living rooms in houses. With a few reinforced concrete elements, the earthquake loads could be taken care of and modifying some details eliminated practically all traditional weaknesses. Its much liked by the users, but nor by the authorities/ politicians, as it has not enough modern material and it is not recognized in the architectural community, where more spectacular things are expected, although they have hardly an impact in the building practice, as they are not repeated.
Norbert E. Wilhelm
vernacular architecture & globalisation
Norbert, I have made another topic to answer your post of May 25th 3013 =

"Vernacular vs Globalisation II"
Frank John Snelling
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