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Vernacular architecture

Parent categories: vernacular - architecture

Related: postmodern architecture

The difference between architecture and building is a subject matter that has engaged the attention of many. According to Nikolaus Pevsner, European historian of the early twentieth century, "A bicycle shed is a building, Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture."

Las Vegas in the late 1950s
Image sourced here [May 2005]


Vernacular architecture is a term from academic architecture to categorize structures built outside of academic tradition. The definition can include a wide variety of domestic and agricultural buildings, industrial buildings, commercial structures, etc. The distinguishing feature of traditional vernacular is that design and construction are often done simultaneously, onsite, by the same people. At least some of those who eventually use the building are often involved in its construction or at least have direct input in its form. Vernacular building shapes, floorplans, materials, construction techniques, and other characteristics are often generated from centuries-old local patterns. These patterns are continually changing, but do so slowly. The new houses built from old patterns physically manifest, and then perpetuate, cultural norms and accumulated building craft. Vernacular buildings have been praised by many writers for their sophisticated adaptation to their environment and users' needs.

Vernacular buildings have made up a large portion of the built environment throughout human history because the profession of architect is a relatively new invention, because academic architecture has tended towards a narrow range of acceptable styles and forms, and because even today architects are involved in only a small percentage of built structures.

Once seen as obsolete, vernacular architecture is now the subject of serious academic study, and is increasingly considered a potential component of sustainable development for its quality of adaptation to the local environment. An early work was Bernard Rudofsky's 1964 book "Architecture Without Architects: a short introduction to non-pedigreed architecture", based on his MOMA exhibition. The book was a gentle reminder of the legitimacy and "hard-won knowledge" inherent in vernacular buildings, from Polish salt-caves to gigantic Syrian water wheels to Moroccan desert fortresses, although it was considered iconoclastic at the time. The most comprehensive work is the "Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World" published in 1997 by Paul Oliver of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development. Oliver has argued that vernacular architecture will be necessary in the future to "ensure sustainability in both cultural and economic terms beyond the short term." Christopher Alexander attempted to identify adaptive features of traditional architecture that apply across cultures in his book A Pattern Language.

Some extend the term to include any architecture outside the academic mainstream. The term "commercial vernacular", popularized in the late 1960s by the publication of Robert Venturi's "Learning from Las Vegas", refers to 20th century American suburban tract and commercial architecture. Unlike traditional vernacular, however, the design and construction of these types of buildings is remote from their eventual users, and they do not represent long cultural traditions; those who study traditional vernacular architecture hold that these characteristics define a more useful and fundamental partition of architecture into vernacular and non-vernacular than whether or not a kind of architecture is accepted within academia. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernacular_architecture [May 2005]

Uncommon Places : The Complete Works (1982) Stephen Shore

Uncommon Places : The Complete Works (1982) Stephen Shore [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
A teenaged photographic aspirant who hung around at Andy Warhol’s factory in its mid-60s heyday, Shore found success early: his first show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was held when he was only 23. These 152 full-page, full-color shots comprise his serial project of the 70s, "Uncommon Places," which documented roadside America with a dispassionate, Andy-like emptiness. It’s an aesthetic that has been endlessly co-opted by American filmmakers like Gus Van Sant and Jim Jarmusch, but some of these 12 7/8" × 10 5/16" shots of prairies, parking lots, polyester-clad couples and plastic hotel furnishings manage to seem fresh nonetheless. Shore’s concluding interview with Lynn Tillman makes the Warhol connection explicit, and argues for a kind of meaning-making from the void: "Formalism often sounds like a kind of visual nicety, but if I use it, that’s not how I mean it." Beautiful, lush reproductions with minimal captions allow the photos to speak for themselves.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description
Originally published by Aperture in 1982 and long unavailable, Stephen Shore's now legendary book Uncommon Places has influenced a generation of photographers. Shore was among the first artists to take color beyond the domain of advertising and fashion photography. Uncommon Places--his visionary series of images of the American vernacular landscape of the seventies and early eighties--stands at the root of what has become a vital photographic tradition over the past three decades.

Uncommon Places: The Complete Works presents an expanded, definitive collection of the early work of this major artist, much of which has never before been published or exhibited. In 1972 Shore set out with a friend for Amarillo, Texas and--like Robert Frank and Walker Evans before him--discovered a hitherto unarticulated vision of America via highway and camera.

Shore approaches his subjects with cool objectivity, the photographs seemingly devoid of drama or commentary. Yet each image has been distilled, retaining precise internal systems of gestures in composition and light through which a parking lot emptied of people, a hotel bedroom, or a building on a side street assumes both an archetypal aura and an ambiguously personal importance. In contrast to Shore's signature landscape images, this new, expanded survey of the original series reveals equally substantial collections of interiors and portraits.

Shore's broad influence can be seen today in the work of countless contemporary photographers--Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Catherine Opie among them. Uncommon Places: The Complete WorksUncommon Places : The Complete Works (2004) Stephen Shore provides an opportunity to reexamine the diverse implications of Shore's groundbreaking project and offers a fundamental primer for the last thirty years of large-format color photography. --via Amazon.com

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