ARCH 498j: Vernacular Architecture

VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE: an investigation of the everyday built environment

Spring 2019
Associate Professor Kathryn Rogers Merlino, Department of Architecture
Architecture 498j | Mondays 10:00-11:50 | 3 cr.
Gould Hall 142

When challenged with the prospect of designing buildings, one is inevitably faced with considering the existing conditions of either the immediate or surrounding context. As designers in all fields, we are increasingly are being asked to assess the relative merits of saving ordinary features of the landscape such as commercial blocks, warehouses and sheds, wharves and infrastructure, strip malls & big box stores, barns and grange halls, and other everyday buildings and landscapes. Yet the tendency for architects, designers, landscape architects and even preservationists to only concentrate on saving the most significant architect-designed buildings and places associated with notable individuals or mainstream events in American history have left many design professionals without a coherent intellectual framework for making important decisions about the consideration, preservation and (re)design of vernacular elements in the urban and non-urban landscape.

This seminar will explore the theoretical, methodological, and practical implications of researching, understanding, mapping and interpreting our vernacular environments. While we will familiarize ourselves with the existing literature in the field, the seminar will raise new questions about its implications for urban architecture, abandoned typologies, cultural landscapes, and places that have unexplored significance for interpreting the historical development of the region. Since fieldwork is at the heart of good scholarship in the study of early American vernacular architecture, this course is intended to introduce students to the methods of fieldwork—from learning to recognize diagnostic features and reading the chronological development of a structure to the recording of a building through measured drawings, photography, and written descriptions. The seminar will also be approached through a combination of readings, writing, and discussion. Note: Some class time will be dedicated to fieldwork, so not all evening class slots will be used.