Welcome to the blog for An Introduction to Architecture and Visual Communications.

Please use this blog to post your glosses.

post titles uncapitalized!!!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The word vernacular has many definitions, but the most commonly used definition as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is the “native or indigenous language of a country or district”[1]. The word originated from the Etruscan word vera (circa 1600), meaning home-born slave, native[2], which later evolved into Latin vernaculus: domestic, native, indigenous[3]. In addition to evolving into modern English, the root also evolved into Italian vernacolo and Portuguese vernaculo[4].

Vernacular served an important role during the protestant revolution in the 16th century when the Bible, originally written in Latin, was translated by Martin Luther into the vernacular of the Germanic states. People were now able to read the Bible and take their own interpretation, reinforcing a main principle of Protestantism, Sola Scriptura – by scripture alone, which contributed greatly to the success of the Protestant Reformation.

The word vernacular can also be applied to architecture. Vernacular architecture originated when humankind was forced to provide themselves with a comfortable shelter through the materials and resources found in close proximity[5]. Vernacular architecture addresses the basic domesticity and functionality of the buildings with environmental, cultural and technological factors.  The society’s geographical location determines the climate which the structure must endure, as well as the local resources available. However, sometimes culture overrides environmental factors when dictating the design. For instance in Bangladesh where social status is more distinguished, village people use the materials of walls, staccato brick or puddle mud, and roofs, tin or thatched, to differentiate the social classes[6]. In addition, the technologies available to the society may also affect vernacular architecture. When settlers first came to North America, wood was an ideal building material due to its abundance; most houses built in the 17th and 18th century had wood as the primary building material, including the shingles on the roof. However in more recent times, technological advances discovered metal shingles to have higher durability and energy efficiency, thus replacing the wood shingles in rural North America.

Technological advances have also allowed architecture to become more global as materials can travel across the globe. However, the same advances have led to other issues such as the depletion of natural resources and destruction of the natural environment. Architects are now returning to the principles of vernacular architecture as a solution to reduce the energy consumption in the building industry. Through the use of local resources, energy consumed in the transportation of materials is reduced. In addition, vernacular architecture is responsive to climate, which reduces energy required for heating and cooling. For example, Mediterranean vernacular architecture often have courtyard, creating natural ventilation. These methods of adapting to climate are the result of trial and error, and have withheld the test of time. Thus, rather than inventing new technologies, architects should embrace vernacular architecture as a solution for a sustainable future.

[1] "vernacular, adj. and n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/222608?redirectedFrom=vernacular (accessed November 06, 2012).
[2] Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology, “vernacular”, accessed November 17, 2012, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=vernacular&allowed_in_frame=0
[3] "vernacular, adj. and n.".
[4] "vernacular, adj. and n.".
[5] Edwards , Sarah . "Vernacular Architecture and the 21st Century" 12 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 07 Nov 2012. http://www.archdaily.com/155224
[6]  Glassie, Henry H. Vernacular Architecture (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2000)

No comments:

Post a Comment