Civil Engineering and Architecture Vol. 3(1), pp. 22 - 30
DOI: 10.13189/cea.2015.030104
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Confronting Classifications - When and What is Vernacular Architecture?

Neasa Hourigan *
Architecture and Civil Engineering, School of Planning, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland


The study of the vernacular in architectural research seems to wage a continuing battle against accusations of antiquarianism, romanticism and simply the questioning of its relevance and boundaries. Some theorists have proposed that vernacular architecture could be more usefully defined through consideration of usage patterns that occur after the completion of the built form rather than the study of the original building intent. This non-reliance on original objectives is somewhat in conflict with researchers who would situate vernacular architecture as irredeemably domestic and contend that it was in an effort to make buildings ‘great’ from their first conception that architecture as a formal discipline evolved.[1] Vernacular, primitive, traditional, folk and the description of architecture as ‘ordinary’ or ‘every day’ are terms that have all been used to denote ‘non pedigreed’ architecture since Marc-Antoine Laugier’s work of the eighteenth century.[2] It is the aim of this paper to explore the many, and sometimes contradictory, classifications of the vernacular and what lies ahead in this field of research. Successive academics in the field, from the earliest studies of the vernacular, have agreed that this type of building is one that does not remain static and is often characterized by its ability to adapt and transform itself to new usages.[3,4] The vernacular maybe shaped over time by the utilitarian requirements of its occupants and indeed all functioning cultures concomitantly synthesize both tradition and innovation in everyday life as a necessary component of development.[5] However if we characterize the vernacular as belonging to a place we must surely omit the strip malls of the present; typifying them as ‘everyday’ prohibits the inclusion of the handcrafted, lovingly maintained home and if we require that such buildings evidence adaptation by occupants we must ignore the developer kit houses mushrooming up all around us. It is the authors conclusion that the concept of vernacular is fundamentally linked to the social, economic and environmental history of a given region or nation. As a result it is vital that regional interpretations of the vernacular are preserved and allowed to be fluid across academic spheres in a manner not dissimilar to the subject matter itself.

Architecture, Vernacular, Classification, Traditional, Ordinary

Cite This Paper in IEEE or APA Citation Styles
(a). IEEE Format:
[1] Neasa Hourigan , "Confronting Classifications - When and What is Vernacular Architecture?," Civil Engineering and Architecture, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 22 - 30, 2015. DOI: 10.13189/cea.2015.030104.

(b). APA Format:
Neasa Hourigan (2015). Confronting Classifications - When and What is Vernacular Architecture?. Civil Engineering and Architecture, 3(1), 22 - 30. DOI: 10.13189/cea.2015.030104.