Prehistory- Vernacular Architecture


Prehistoric architects were inspired from natural forms, they imitated and even improved nature. The ideas were coming from nature actually. From insects, birds and fishes…

 Vernacular architecture is somehow the general idea of coming from nature. It passed down from generations to generations. And thanks to help of trial and error the nomad and settled farmer -which are 2 basic anthropological types of prehistoric humans- made perfect their building.

Vernacular architecture is a language of mud, logs, hides and stones. It responds to local knowledge of materials, design and construction. What it means is through periods humans change their life styles and the environment that they live so vernacular architecture shaped accordingly.

Firstly, because humans always moved on from somewhere to another place, they carried the basic materials with them and in time they started to settle and their materials became heavy. The more they settled, the more their materials became heavy. The one that always on the move made perfectly lighter shelters so that they can carry. For example, the San, people of Botswana, still on move so they carry their shelters’ materials.

Another example of moving people is the indigenous nomadic people of North America. They used minimum of materials and causing little disturbance to the land. These shelters were called as ‘Tipi.’

Nomadic tents quick to assemble and light but they were not too durable. On the other hands those tents were able to adapt environment without radically changing its ecology.

 Another point for vernacular architecture is building with the help of earth. Unbaked mud was commonly used in ancient world. It offers an incredibly flexible and easily shaped. So, humans could provide different shape and weight or height. The most impressive mud-brick tower houses of Yemen which reach 30 m. But it also easily loses its forms. Baking mud bricks buildings that’s why more durable.

One of the most secure way to build with earth is to dig or cut into it. About 40 million people live in dug out houses.

Also, even though mud, sticks, timber, animal hides and woven grasses, usage of the stones was also popular. Stone was almost always available and it has its own advantages and disadvantages. Stone is not easily shaped but sometimes its own form used by people for monumental and ceremonial places like the Stonehenge in Britain.

 To sum up, vernacular architecture can be expressed as using what earth is giving to you. It inspired from nature that’s why it is also using the nature. Vernacular buildings respond the existing materials and they are open to improve.

Reference: Richard Ingersoll-Spiro Kostof, World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History, p. 12-23


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