Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on architecture by designer and vernacular architecture

A "Plantation Cottage" style building on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. This is a vernacular architecture style developed in Hawaii in the epoch of sugar cane plantations.

One of the most common assumptions is that ¨architecture articulates intent,¨ that is, each building consists of attributes shaped by the designer´s will and the technical features dictated by universal laws of physics and economy. General categories or architectural knowledge or criteria determining value in a building are rooted in this belief. Thus, for example, a famous contemporary or historical monument of architecture is expected to be one in which the intellectual work of its creators has perfectly synthesized ideological issues of its place and time. It is supposedly the brilliance of the designers -architects and enlightened patrons- that produces an emblematic expression of high culture. Their ability to bring together abstract issues and solve technical problems results in a unique conceptual integrity, which symbolizes, they say, a superior understanding of that cultural reality.
Opposing that perspective is vernacular architecture, which is supposedly determined by climate, local materials, and available techniques, its consistency resulting from the refinement of unavoidable solutions. People who create such buildings do not aspire to self-conscious understanding of their culture but rather approach constructed environments as an integral part of life. They do not need formally trained designers or theories of architecture, yet their knowledge is cumulative, refined through generations and broadly shared. While technical experimentation informs the construction of vernacular buildings, their meaning tacitly belong to common symbolic practices, customs, and spatial rituals. In this way the concept of vernacular architecture complements the notion of high culture and affirms the duality of will and necessity as primary components of architectural solutions. Together, monuments of architecture and vernacular buildings determine how technical knowledge and artistic creativity suffice to define what architecture is or is not. In this epistemological model, buildings lacking this kind of clarity are inferior and deserve less attention.

PIOTROWSKI, Andrzej. Architecture of Thought. University of Minnesota Press. 2011 Excerpt from the introduction

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