|Folklore Symposium Wellington|
There was a time when almost all building was vernacular, just as all flora was specific to climate zones, and all fauna was specific to habitat.
Vernacular buildings mediated between people and place, and place was specific.
The Modern Movement in architecture and the industrial age introduced the new idea that architecture had nothing to do with place. "In" but not "of". The alienation was complete when the purpose of architecture was seen as sheltering people from place. The consumer society went even further and introduced the idea that a building was a placeless consumer object. This spawned the dictatorship of the building industry, with developers driven by profit taking control. They were assisted by local government, land agents and even architects. Building became a commodity to be brought and sold. The verb became a noun. Architecture was no longer concerned with telling the stories of people and cultures.
There has been a theoretical counter-attack. Agenda 21 stressed the importance of local materials, local crafts, local culture, and local knowledge. Habitat II identified placelessness as the greatest problem facing cities. Jaime Lerner, UIA President, said the greatest problem facing architects today was to globalise the local. The RMA set an agenda for vernacular architecture.
Awareness of climate change and a desire for green architecture then led to a call for timeless architecture which was sourced in place. Architects realised, probably too late, that the traditional New Zealand bach was the quintessential sustainable building.
Vernacular is the authentic architecture of our time.
The Stout Centre 1 December 2007