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    Vernacularism, Modernism, and Stuff

    By Josh Russell
    Oct 18, '05 1:58 AM EST
    negotiating between the two extremes of architecture, the vernacular and modernism, is serving as the basis of my work this, my final, semester.

    so far, this theme is being applied to a research paper for one class and to my independent studio project. somehow i imagine it creeping into the department of archiecture website redesign in the near future.

    courses and other:
    the horizons of design
    professional practice
    science and technology four
    independent project (department of architecture website redesign)
    independent studio project (a cabin in northern wisconsin)
    ta for arch230: design communications one

    a view looking out onto lake from the project site in northern wisconsin.

    graduating in december
    working on portfolio
    starting to apply

    sorry for the lack of posts. busy, busy.


    • vernacular doesn't necessarily have a time element to it at all, nor does it have a particular aesthetic, while a suggestion of time and a refined aesthetic is implicit in "modernism". a certain approach to modern could still fall under the umbrella of vernacular.

      as you develop your writing, make sure to clarify your terms. modern vs. traditional, modern vs. derivative-historic, or modern vs. primitive might be better oppositions, or "extremes", to consider. (i don't know about that last one. you'd have to define further...after all, picasso took cues directly from what was considered "primitive")

      while vernacular may suggest old and unrefined, there are also very elegant/essential vernacular solutions and there is certainly a modern(-ist?) commercial vernacular. the key is not so much age as it is the background of the "designer" and the circumstances under which the design is produced. a professional designer 100 yrs ago would not have produced a true "vernacular design" solution, but your accountant neighbor in his backyard in 2005 could.

      having said that there is not a time element, however, it's also impt to recognize that there is an element of received knowledge in vernacular. it's not completely ad hoc, but based on a stream of understanding about how things have been done before - an empirical sense of how you might do something. the result can be traditional or "modernist" and still be vernacular.

      good (and fast) read is "the beer can by the highway" by john kouwenhoven. while some of your reading may push the primitive aspects of vernacular, this can be misleading. kouwenhoven looks at how designers can learn from the vernacular (even the contemporary vernacular) and vice versa.

      sounds like an interesting way to approach the design of a cabin, with all the vernacular baggage and cozy rustic associations that come with the word "cabin". good luck with it.

      Oct 18, 05 8:35 am

      Frampton's Critical Regionalism would be an interesting read as well...

      Oct 18, 05 11:47 am

      Steven took the words and then some from my lips...I would only add that vernacular does not always act as an extreme of that which is modern. Case in point the work of Barragan, Correra, etc

      looking forward to hearing more regarding though

      Oct 18, 05 1:10 pm
      Josh Russell

      Steven and architechnophilia I totally and completely agree.

      AP - I have read 'Critical Regionalism'. It seems to me that, he, among others, is equating the vernacular to regionalism (which is true to a certain extent). But can it be turned around? Is regionalism vernacular? A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.

      The 'vernacular' to many 'scholars' is not architecture since it is not produced by architects. In addition, there is much debate about the vernacular really is as well.

      At the most general level, I am using the two extremes of non-architecture and architecture in the academic sense of the terms and getting more specific from there.

      Also, the works of MacKay-Lyons, Salmela, Eames, and Blackwell attempt to negotiate the two (and succeed).

      Oct 18, 05 1:23 pm
      liberty bell

      "Beer Can by the Highway" for sale used at for $7.95!

      I love powells.

      Oct 19, 05 9:02 am

      i would also just add...that part of what is implicated by your statements is that modernism is purely a globalized product...
      the key is to negotiate between the assumed tenets of a globalized modernism (as non-site specific response) and that of a generative indigenious system of regionalist response (incorporating of local traditions, materials, environmental conditions, economic situations, etc.)

      Oct 19, 05 10:29 am

      is regionalism vernacular? As Stephen implied, an architect is incapable of producing a vernacular design. As I see it, this is the genuine application of Critical Regionalism. Maybe it could be understood as a strategy that places a vernacular set of considerations before the architect?

      Call it what you want. Frampton makes a clear case for designs that are of a place. Within the framework of Critical Regionalism, many concerns that a non-architect builider would have are present and primary.

      As for Barragan, Mackay-Lyons et al, the work may be reminiscent of some vernacular (especially in the case of Mackay-Lyons), but it is modern.....perhaps also regionalist.

      along these lines, the work of some Scandinavian modern architects would be of interest. They are extraordinarily sensitive to local concerns and traditions, while also displaying why the "Architect" is a useful commodity. Their designs and built works take the vernacular, re-invent it, revise it, and bring it to a new level that a non-professional would not.

      Oct 19, 05 11:06 am

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