CONTEMPORARY V E R N A C U L A R A R C H I T E C T U R E
M A N I F E S T
CONTEMPORARY V E R N A C U L A R A R C H I T E C T U R E
M A N I F E S T CONTEMPORARY
magazine of my
is part manifest
contemporary vernacular architecture. A manifest for
A manifest for
There is not only need, but also
room for change.
Letâ€™s break out of the status quo.
Answers through c o n t e m p o r a r y vernacular architecture. This magazine consists my beliefs in the power of contemporary vernacular architecture to make the change. It’s about using the principles of contemporary vernacular architecture to make the change that’s needed. It’s a magazine about the duty of the architect. It’s a magazine about the social problem. It’s a magazine about the ecological problem. It’s a magazine about a project that shows my concerns, goals and thoughts as a future architect. Fran Pieters.
A CONTEMPORARY VERNACULAR
Talking about the need of social justification is not the same as pleading that architects only build social housing from now on. Architects can still build museums and office buildings. But the way they look at the problem should change. Architecture is not about the biggest, the loudest, the shiniest. That’s just show. If we want to go further than only a show, we need to realise that our work has an impact in this world. With intelligence, intuition, or preferably both at the same time, we can escape the status quo in architecture.
THERE’S NOT ONLY NEED BUT ALSO ROOM FOR ACTION. Architecture has a great impact. If we make mistakes in the estimation of that impact, we screw up for multiple generations and there’s little to learn out of it. The first step for not making mistakes is maybe the most important one: In every project we need to identify what the right question is. Without the right question, no right solution. The most complicated questions often ask for the easiest solutions.
WITH A SOCIAL MEANING ONLY REAL ARCHITECTURE
Architecture is the
There is nothing worse than answering well the wrong question. - Alejandro Aravena
ARCHITECT Someone that reacts to the gap between architecture and civil society, which in recent decades has transformed architecture into spectacle on the one hand, yet made it dispensable on the other. A true social architect uses his tools to bring the non-architect architecture to another level.
ARCHITECTURE AS AN ANSWER.
“So what to do?”, Aravena continues, “Well, an answer may come from favelas and slums themselves.” Aravena talks about his work in Iquique, where he was able to build a home for 100 families with only $10,000 subsidy. “To solve these kind of questions, we need to innovate. We need to stop looking at problems on the same way. Including families helps understanding the constraints and including them in the design process can provide architects of new insights. You need to rephrase the problem and find the most simple answer to a complex question.” The way Aravena looked at the problem was innovative. The budget they got was half what they would need. So instead of looking at it as a small house, they looked at it as half a good one. Aravena: “When you rephrase the problem as half of a good house instead of a small one, the key question is, which half do we do? And we thought we had to do with public money the half that families won’t be able to do individually. We identified five design conditions that belonged to the hard half of a house, and we went back to the families to do two things: join forces and split tasks. Our design was something in between a building and a house. As a building, it could pay for expensive, well-located land, and as a house, it could expand. If, in the process of not being expelled to the periphery while getting a house, families kept their network and their jobs, we knew that the expansion would begin right away. So we went from this initial social housing to a middle-class unit achieved by families themselves within a couple of weeks.”
Aravenaâ€™s thinking is incontestably linked with contemporary vernacular architecture. This kind of architecture is all about helping people with less means to have better life conditions. It rejects the standard way of looking at problems and goes back to the roots of a place. Itâ€™s based on collaboration between the community and architect. Contemporary vernacular thinks about architecture not only as a spatial, but also as a social project. By including the community, con-
temporary vernacular is able to hook a project on the traditions of the community. This makes sure that the project respects the values of a community. With the community, the local ways of building can be discovered and explored. Materials used in traditional ways of building are often locally produced. This has ecological, but also social advantages. Locally produced means more input in the local community, and more connectedness of the community.
As architects, we can make a difference. We should use our tools to help people with less means to create a better living standard. The question is, how far can we go? The line between helping and dictating is quite thin. Itâ€™s important that we work together with the community to know what works for them and what doesnâ€™t. I found the following thought about this in a text of Charles Correa:
THE TWO MAIN TASKS OF THE THIRD WORLD ARCHITECT 1. conceptualising and restructuring our cities 2. remembering the people are on the same side and participate with them When those two tasks are performed effectively, all the architect has to do when it comes to the houses is getting out of the way -Charles Correa
T H E S I S
This topic and the text of Charles Correa really spoke to me that much that I want to do my thesis about it. Especially after my experiences here in Costa Rica. A little summary of how I came to this subject: Costa Rica is often labelled as the Switzerland of Central America: a country with an exquisite nature, ecological leader and no army since 1948. But it is no difficult task to see the other side of the Costa Rican ‘ success story’. In the capital San José, a lot of the problems where Costa Rica has to deal with are really quickly noticeable. The city is extremely chaotic and feels claustrophobic. The big amount of litter and air full of pollution prick the ecological bubble instantaneously. The social welfare also shows its other face in the city. Just outside of the commercial centre you can find impoverished neighbourhoods where homeless people wander the streets. Prostitution and drug use are openly visible. I experience Costa Rica as a country of opposites: gated communities for the happy few with slums
just around the corner; the rich, wondrous nature and the chaotic, claustrophobic cities; the expensive life standard and the scant wage of the Tico’s… The Costa Rican reality doesn’t answer to the image I had before I left for my exchange. But I’m not embittered about the fact that I chose for Costa Rica to spent my semester. My stay here has strengthen my ideas about what I want to do with architecture. Architecture needs to be a crowbar that improves the life quality of the people. We need to realise that architecture can contribute largely to the way in which we form our future society. For social and ecological issues, architecture can be a part of the solution. With my master thesis, I want to investigate the role of the architect in this. I ask myself the following questions: What is the role of the architect in third world countries? How far does the architect determine the building? Can/should the architect determine the way of living with his building? How far does the collaboration with the community go? And when do you have to take your hands of the building?
In a lot of climates, glass towers just donâ€™t work. They need to be packed with air conditioning, heating systems, ventilation systems, triple glass, elaborate insulation... This all for the sake of a good interior climate in the tower the architect envisioned. Some of those technics are portrayed as ecological. But the opposite is often true. These systems consume a lot of energy to manufacture, and keep spilling it while in use. Contemporary vernacular architecture goes back to the vernacular way of building and gives it a modern twist. The fact that itâ€™s based on a traditional way of building makes that the building can be much more ecological than those which arenâ€™t. This is because the vernacular way of building is based on locally produced materials, which are used to get the best climate indoors.
This is an image of a project I made in the first semester of my third year. It is my first project that has some traces of the contemporary vernacular thinking. We had to design a hostel in the city centre of Ghent and could choose our own site. I completely based my choice of site on a brick wall on the site. That brick wall fits perfectlyin the surrounding, itâ€™s bold and strong, so I couldnâ€™t think of something else to use for this project. The old brick wall inspired me so much, that I decided to multiply it on top of itself and use that as the outer shell of my hostel. I made this Photoshop on the first day of the project and the outside of the project didnâ€™t change much during the whole semester. Brick is a vernacular material in Belgium. It has been used for ages, and is locally produced. We have clay-mines and brick factories all over the c. Bricks are also quite ecological. They are made from clay, a natural material and they can be reused when a building is tore down, which makes the already low energy consumption of the production even lower.
& A PROJECT
AS AN EXAMPLE
Containers as classrooms/ workshops in an old garage
y s ect b dhui Proj han Ou ieters G ran P F
AN EXTENSION SCHOOL. OUR Out of our experiences on a workshop in Montavoix, we agreed that you donâ€™t need a newly designed building to be able to have a good functioning school. With some changes, any building can be a suited place for school.
PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT
Education also has a teaching function to society. We want to use this project to give a signal to society that not everything needs to be new to function. By reusing abandoned buildings, we can see the school building as a motor for a rundown neighbourhood.
An old brick factory gets isolated wooden boxes. Closed boxes for lessons and boxes wit more glass for independent working
FOR A SCHOOL.
We used 3 parameters to get the most impact. 1) All the buildings needed to be in different neighbourhoods of Ghent which deal with poverty. This way, the building can work as a motor for social improvement. BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 2) All PRODUCED the buildings need to be less than 1.5km away from the original school building. 3) The buildings need to be empty right now. We want to show that itâ€™s really possible to make a school in buildings that are available.