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  • Writer's pictureMatthijs Melchiors

Vernacular Architecture...ALL is not lost

In the global era, homogenous architectural styles have infiltrated the urban fabric of cities around the world

In so many ways, the world has never been smaller than it is right now. From global trade and long-haul flights to Facebook and Google, systems operate across every continent with less friction than ever before. This paradigm shift from local to global is also evident within architecture, where buildings influenced by the International style continue to rise at an incredible rate in metropolises around the globe. As glass and steel towers proliferate and each city begins to look like the next, many architects like myself are grappling with a fundamental question: Are vernacular construction methods, materials, and styles in danger of dying out?

That’s a very important question, if not the most important of our time. It's an issue that has occupied my mind ever since my studio was born in 2015. I am concerned by the increasing homogeneity of the urban landscape, and point the finger squarely at capitalism as the key driver of this phenomenon. It doesn’t matter if you look at New York, London, or Beijing; the buildings look and function the same way. They are composed of cores surrounded by expansive real estate. It is the age of capitalism; the money is in building, not in architecture. If all our buildings look the same, how can anyone be inspired by them?

having said that, I do believe that it all is not lost. It is up to a new generation of architects to question the status quo. We have to ask ourselves questions: What are the strengths of the local builders? What is the local material? What are traditional building methods?”

This considered approach leads to architecture that is grounded in local knowledge.

It leads to buildings that capture the spirituality of of a place, by means of capturing its theatricality. In my work, I try to stop my automatic tendency to design things that I know, to design the familiar. I’m always trying to find...a way of really placing myself in that context and manifesting what I think the work is about. I take inspiration from what is called “the residue of a place,”

Whether the primary driving force is regulation, materiality, or social context, there should always be a resilient desire among us architects to design buildings that speak to their surroundings. I believe in aiming to bridge the gap between international practice and the unique qualities of local environments. rumors of the death of vernacular architecture have been greatly exaggerated. All is not lost!

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