Vernacular architecture refers to the traditional and local style of building construction that is indigenous to a particular place, culture, and climate. It is a type of architecture that is typically designed and built by the people who will occupy the buildings, rather than by professional architects.
Vernacular architecture is often characterized by using local materials, simple construction techniques, and emphasizing functionality over form. The design of vernacular buildings is often based on the local climate, available materials, and cultural practices, resulting in buildings that are well-suited to their environment and context.
Examples of vernacular architecture include traditional houses, barns, and other agricultural buildings, as well as urban dwellings and commercial buildings. Vernacular architecture can be found worldwide, from the mud-brick houses of Africa to the wooden homes of Scandinavia, and from the adobe buildings of the Southwest United States to the stilt houses of Southeast Asia.
Vernacular architecture in India is a rich and diverse field, shaped by the country’s diverse climate, topography, and cultural traditions. India has a long history of traditional building practices that have evolved over time, with each region having its unique style of vernacular architecture.
One of the most well-known examples of Indian vernacular architecture is the archetypal courtyard houses, which are found in many parts of the country. These houses are typically built around a central courtyard, with rooms arranged around it. They are designed to provide protection from the harsh sun, wind, and rain, while also promoting social interaction and privacy.
Another example of Indian vernacular architecture is the chhatri, a small pavilion or canopy often used as a resting place or shelter from the sun. These structures are typically built on pillars or columns, with a domed or pyramidal roof, and are found in many parts of the country, particularly in Rajasthan.
The stepwell, also known as baori or vav, is another type of vernacular architecture found in India. These elaborate structures were designed to provide access to water in regions where water is scarce or the groundwater is deep. They feature a series of steps leading down to a well, with intricate carvings and ornamentation on the walls.
Other examples of Indian vernacular architecture include the traditional wooden houses of Kerala, the havelis of Rajasthan, and the stilt houses of the Northeastern states. These structures are all unique to their respective regions and reflect the rich cultural heritage of India.
The following are the most iconic contemporary Vernacular architectural building examples in India:
One of the most talked about projects of recent years has been the Rajkumari Rajnavati Girl’s School in Jaisalmer for its brilliant use of local materials. Designed by US-based firm, Diana Kellog Architects, the school has become an architectural marvel regarding space for economically challenged, geographically remote, and marginalized communities worldwide.
The building is in an oval form with a courtyard in the center and the classes in the periphery. The entire structure is made of locally sourced sandstone and used monolithically.
Designed by Ahmedabad-based studio d6thD, the Aranya Farmstay Resort at Sasan Gir explores its vernacular contexts. d6thD specializes in vernacular architectural practice and has created this hospitality setting in the rural area of Sasan Gir.
An NRI couple who was really proud of their culture wanted to design a contemporary house, keeping traditional values and architecture intact. The Affinity house is situated in Kerala in a private enclave, showcasing contemporary styling along with traditional architectural elements and materials.
Kondan Retreat Resort is situated near Pune’s hillsides where the context was vital for the building design. Interestingly, much of the building materials were sourced from the site itself. From a vernacular perspective, the design resonated with its local usage of materials and style of heritage architecture.
The Muziris Pavilion is one of the most amazing examples of Vernacular architecture and its modern interpretation in India. The pavilion is a performance space that is semi-covered with bamboo and wooden structure. Bamboo has been an important material for this terrain as it is durable, sturdy, and sustainable.
The apple farm stay is a 100-year-old heritage site refurbished into a unique Airbnb. Interestingly, the home is revived in a way that retains its vernacular Kath Kuni architecture. Situated in the Northern part of India, this house is a popular place for a staycation in that particular region.
Forest Essentials is an Indian modern skincare company that basis on Ayurveda. The Lodsi community project, designed by Morphogenesis explores the vernacular architecture of the Himalayan foothills. The local design style influenced Morphogenesis to implement ancient construction techniques to build this contemporary production facility.
Due to difficulty in resources, the firm decided to achieve net-zero and energy-efficient building design.
Taj Rishikesh Resort and Spa is one of the most luxurious vernacular architecture examples in India. The designers consciously studied the context and implemented vernacular elements in the making of it. The entire layout follows the hilly site in the form of a darbargadh; a combination of fortress, palace, and temple.
Situated in the state of Odisha, Krushi Bhavan is a government facility for Odisha’s agriculture and farmers’ empowerment. The state is the third largest contributor to India’s grain supply, hence the facility needed to reflect that through its architecture. The designers adapted the vernacular architectural elements that beautifully showcase the traditional facade design of the building.
India has a varied series of architectural styles from North to South and East to West. Which one did you like the best in terms of the vernacular style adaptation in a contemporary way?
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