What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you decide to build a house or a building? You visualize what your house will look like. Once you have an image in your mind, you hire an architect. But have you ever wondered what will happen if you do not hire someone to make your designs a reality? Can you design your own house? You may think, what a ridiculous idea. How can you do it without a professional? However, “professional architects” were not always there.
People were self architects and used to design their houses. Professional architects have not touched so many buildings all around the world. This is known as vernacular architecture. This architecture is built on the knowledge that people have. Furthermore, local material always accompanies. Also, these houses are ancient and they are still standing proud through harsh times. The vernacular structures present all around the world are amazing examples of architecture. According to Paul Oliver, “Vernacular architecture is the architectural language of the people”. Here are some examples of vernacular architecture that you are going to enjoy reading about.
Land of Dogons
The Bandiagara Cliff is in Mali, West Africa. The locals also call it the “Land of Dogons”. There are twenty-one districts in the Bandiagara cliff with 289 villages. The cliff has an Earthen structure that covers the sandstone plateaus, escarpments, and plains of Mali. Tellem and Toloy inhabited the region before the Dogons in the 15th century. They build their houses in Mali to have a strategic advantage. The cliff kept them safe from outside attacks. Since it is on a high plain. Also, it helped them see the approaching enemies. These houses are in a cluster with thatched roofs. Additionally, men and women have separate granaries. Granaries are storage buildings in between the clusters. Women keep their jewelry and personal stuff in the granaries and men keep millets and sorghum there. Moreover, there is also an open structure with an extremely low roof for people to have meetings.
One major reason locals build it this way was to stop turning an argument into a fight. Since the roof is very very low, nobody can jump over other people to fight. Moreover, there are still some structures from the Tellem community. UNESCO World Heritage added Bandiagara Cliff to its list in 1989. Today, the cliff is one of the major tourist attractions for its traditions and architecture. The main occupations of people living here include women doing textile dyeing, traditional construction, and masonry. Furthermore, several village museums exist to teach people about traditions, occupations, and crafts.
Architecture without an Architect
Though India has many vernacular forms of architecture, today we are going to talk about the Banni Bhunga houses. People also call them the “Architecture without Architect”. You will find these houses in the white desert of the Kutch district of Gujarat. Kutch is a desert region where people live a nomadic or semi-nomadic life away from cities and villages. Being the desert region, stones and wood is scarce. Therefore, mud is used for making them. The houses are circular structures with one door and two windows. They have a conical thatched roof. People nowadays use Mangalore tiles for roofs instead of making them thatched. The circular structure of the houses provides high resistance for lateral forces of earthquakes. Moreover, it stops the desert storms and reduces heat exposures. Also, the thick mud walls give insulation against the harsh external environment.
There are different villages in Kutch. Each village has at least one craft that represents its community and culture. In addition to that, if you analyze these crafts very carefully, you will also understand the techniques, architectural designs, and constructions of these villages. The community living in the Banni villages are majorly cattle barriers or leather craftsmen. Other communities living here are skilled in colorful embroidered dresses, printed textiles, silver jewelry, woodwork, stonework, pottery, and many more. People from all over the world come to the Kutch for these authentic crafts. People have managed to keep their craft and culture alive even after many hardships they face living in the desert.
The people of Canada and Greenland usually make igloos. The other names given to igloo are snow house or snow hut. The association of igloos is often with the Eskimos and Inuit people. They constitute suitable snow bricks. Once, you are inside the igloo, your body temperature will keep it warm. Acting as insulators, air pockets are trapped inside the ice bricks. Hence, the temperature inside drops to a few degrees. There are various sizes of igloos.
People make rooms inside according to their needs. Moreover, twenty people can stay in a snow house. They are built for different purposes. People who have igloos as their permanent home live in large igloos. Moreover, it takes time to build them. Then, there are igloos for semi-permanent living. For a night or two, small igloos are built. Often used for hunting trips, is the easiest to make. Did you an expert Inuit hunter can build an igloo in one hour. Amazing right! Moreover, the tourists who come to watch the Northern Lights or the Aurora also stay in these igloos.
Manhattan of the Desert
Known as the “Manhattan of the Desert” and the “Chicago of the Desert” is the town of Shibam Hadramaut in Yemen. Shibam made it to our list of vernacular architecture because of its mud bricks apartments. They are the oldest skyscraping city in the world. These apartments are 5 to 11 stories high and have about 500 tower blocks. Moreover, the city also has a building about 98 feet (30m) high. The history of this town dates back to the 3rd century CE. Furthermore, in the present day, about 7000 people live in Shibam. This architecture was designed to protect people from Bedouin attacks.
Somebody said, “traditional examples of Hadrami urban architecture, both in the grid layout of its streets and squares and in the visual impact of its form rising out of the flood plain of the wadi, due to the height of its mud-brick tower houses” Moreover, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1986 for its unique architectural design. The fortified walls surround Shibam. Hence, giving it the name of “Walled City of Shibam”. They are the earliest high-rise apartment buildings. Furthermore, they are the oldest and best example of urban planning.