Some notes regarding the construction
and function of theories
in the field of vernacular architecture

by Nold Egenter


The present paper contains some reflections about the methodological validity of theoretical approaches in the domain of vernacular architecture. A similar argument is used here as in the case of Rykwert's 'On Adam's House in Paradise' which uses historical materials in the narrower sense (Bible) in attempting to understand the history of ideas regarding the 'primordial hut'. The argument against Rykwert was, that, if the origins of constructive behaviour in fact are an anthropological question going back millions of years, then the narrow historical method can not provide any factual explanations. It only discusses some subjective speculations, because there is not enough depth to clarify the factual conditions. Similarly here. The disciplines of the humanities are a product of medieval and post-medieval Europe. If vernacular architecture is taken as a formation of prehistorical sedentarism with its roots in the paleo-, meso- and neolithic periods, then we can not understand its aesthetic expression using the aesthetic values of Renaissance society! Within the anthropological framework, scientific disciplines are a very late method for describing things and we are not usually aware to what extent these disciplines contain certain standards which are projected on a tradition with much deeper roots. If, on the other hand we try to reconstruct the evolution of vernacular architecture based on its own immanent criteria, we might gain new insights into ways of life which are quite different from ours today. This might also help us to construct more realistic positions about our own architecture and the way we conceive space today. In other words: we might learn from vernacular architecture instead of simply judging it.