Given the broad scale and fundamental transformations occurring to both the natural environment and human condition
in the present era, what does the future hold for vernacular architecture studies? In a world where Capital A (sometimes
referred to as ‘polite’) architectural icons dominate our skylines and set the agenda for our educational institutions,
is the study of vernacular architecture still relevant? What role could it possibly have in understanding and subsequently
impacting on architectural education, theory and practice, and in turn, professional built environment design?
Imagine for a minute, a world where there is no divide between the vernacular and the ‘polite’, where all built environments,
past and present are open to formal research agendas whereby the inherent knowledge in their built histories
inform the professional design paradigm of the day – in all built settings, be they formal or informal, Western or
non-Western. In this paper, the author is concerned with keeping the flames of intellectual discontent burning in proposing
a transformation and reversal of the fortunes of VAS within mainstream architectural history and theory.
In a world where a social networking website can ignite a revolution, one can already see the depth of global transformations
on the doorstep. No longer is there any excuse to continue intellectualizing global futures solely within a
Western (Euro-American) framework. In looking at the history of VAS, the purpose of this paper is to illustrate that the
answers for its future pathways lie in an understanding of the intellectual history underpinning its origins. As such, the
paper contends that the epistemological divide established in the 1920s by art historians, whereby the exclusion of socalled
non-architect architectures from the mainstream canon of architectural history has resulted in an entire architectural
corpus being ignored in formal educational institutions and architectural societies today. Due to this exclusion, the
majority of mainstream architectural thinkers have resisted theorizing on the vernacular. In the post-colonial era of globalization
the world has changed, and along with it, so have many of the original paradigms underpinning the epistemologies
setting vernacular environments apart. In exploring this subject, the paper firstly positions this dichotomy within
the spectrum of Euro-American architectural history and theory discourse; secondly, draws together the work of scholars
who have at some point in the past called for the obsolescence of the term ‘vernacular’ and the erasure of categorical
distinctions that impact on the formal study of what are perceived as non-architectural environments; and finally,
sets out the form by which curricula for studies of world architecture could take.
Keywords: Architecture, Vernacular, Historiography, Cross-Cultural, Theory.
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