ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE STRUCTURAL VIEW OF "DESIGN"
Why should we conserve relatively intact Domains of Vernacular Architecture for Future Generations?
Paper presented at the 11th Conference
Alps Adria, October 11/12 2001, on Vernacular Architecture
at Gozd Martuljek, Slovenia
by Nold Egenter
Arch. ETH-Z, Architectural Anthropologist
There is a strange paradox around the phenomenon of vernacular architecture. Wherever it has been preserved relatively intact for whatever reasons, it creates some sort of attraction mainly in the touristic sector and, in fact, may prove to be very profitable (Zermatt, Switzerland). On the other hand it is considered as an anachronism and is consequently esthetically as well as economically devalued and exposed to processes destroying the necessary formal units by the intrusion of modern architecture and its rationalistic forms. What is vernacular architecture? What are its values? Why should we find means to preserve it for future generations?
In this framework the paper will first critically question the conventional definitions of vernacular architecture (European folklore studies, Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, etc.) and show that the modern rationalistic or functional retroprojections do not do justice to the complexity and historical value of vernacular architecture.
Finally, in a positive approach the paper will develop the notion of "Structural Design". Using art (Kaspar David Friedrich), architectural high style (Romanic, Gothic, Classicism etc.) and vernacular architecture (European, Japanese etc.) it will be shown that in all these examples there are very ancient immanent or hidden structural principles which are not only of a fundamental aesthetic value, but which had impacts on man's worldview throughout the world. With modernism, introducing the rational basics of the machine and the space concepts of the universe into the daily human domains, the concept of 'Structural Design' got lost.
This may be the great importance of vernacular architecture: its survival as a historic source, as a cognitive and scientific contrapost against global homogeneisation and mechanisation of our vital environment.