“Vernacular”

“Vernacular”

04-06

In the spirit of Virgil Abloh we put quotation marks around the word “vernacular,” asking students and architects to reevaluate a concept just as vague as it is in vogue. Often used in conjunction with “primitive” and “traditional,” the definition of “vernacular” architecture has long been confined by its regressive associations, admired but held apart from the formal Architecture of modern discourse and practice. Part of this issue seeks to reset the boundaries of “vernacular,” challenging the fast-and-loose manner in which we reduce and instrumentalize the architectures of entire cultures.

At the same time, we hope to use this space to look at narratives of the “vernacular” that may have escaped our unquenchable Pinterest appetites. This issue presents opportunities to learn from “vernacular” design that may not have made it into our textbooks. In an inverse exercise, we take a look at overexposed examples of “vernacular” architecture, questioning their ubiquity in architectural education. What are the implications of considering Laugier’s primitive hut as the basis of architecture? What is left out or unquestioned in the adherence to this origin myth and the canon from which it stems?

“No one can say what will become of our civilization when it has really met different civilizations by means other than the shock of conquest and domination. But we have to admit that this encounter has not yet taken place at the level of an authentic dialogue. That is why we are in a kind of lull or interregnum in which we can no longer practice the dogmatism of a single truth and in which we are not yet capable of conquering the skepticism into which we have stepped.”
– Paul Ricoeur (Universal Civilization and National Cultures, 1961)

Decades into the process of decolonization, we remain in a lull. But until the imbalances of architectural history are acknowledged, engaged with, and adjusted, skepticism must reign.