SOM Prize: Vernacular Adventures

Swiss German bank barn.
SOM Foundation
SOM Prize Recipient

The SOM Prize is given to one post-graduate Fellow to pursue research architectural, urban design, and/or landscape architectural research outside the typical methods. My research, entitled “Adventures in the Vernacular: Investigative Observations of Climate Mediation in Vernacular Residential Architecture,” focused on a series of sites in China, Korea, Peru, Jamaica, Switzerland, Mongolia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, and the US.

My research questions centered on the following: what happens when people from one climate arrive in another one, and begin to adjust their architecture? What do they keep of their own architectural traditions? What do they sacrifice to a desire for climatic comfort? How do they learn from the architecture they encounter? How is this learning manifest in the built environment, at every scale? Most simply: what is the tipping point between climate and culture, as evidenced in the vernacular built environment?

These questions, and their attendant investigations, frame space making in every culture and at every scale – and seem to be the questions some designers have forgotten how to ask, because, perhaps, of a false sense of mastery over these questions. We think we are above these questions, that we can afford to talk about form before [or in place of] site and climate responsiveness, and our architecture suffers because of it. Whether siting a building according to the sun’s position in the cosmos or in relation to a good shade tree, vernacular builders’ sensitivity to, and nuanced interaction with, these considerations of climate and place yield fascinating variations on familiar types, as well as robust urban forms. Combine that with overlays of various cultural building traditions, and the answers to those questions become even more interesting.

More information + application portfolio: SOM Foundation

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