June 23, 2007

03 Comtemporary Vernacular Architecture

The following lesson after the notebook is about Vernacular Architecture.
What is vernacular architecture? How is it different from traditional architecture?
We got a brief and sounding definition from wikipedia (the super encyclopedia):

Vernacular Architecture is a term used to categorize methods of construction which use locally available resources to address local needs. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural and historical context in which it exists. It has often been dismissed as crude and unrefined, but also has proponents who highlight its importance in current design. (Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design.) In contrast to planned architecture by architects, the building knowledge in vernacular architecture is often transported by local traditions and is thus more - but not only - based on knowledge achieved by trial and error and often handed down through the generations rather than calculated on knowledge of geometry and physics. This of course does not exclude architects from using vernacular architecture in their designs or being firmly based in their regional vernacular architecture.

This is the first example came into my mind: the iglu of Eskimo.

The idea of vernacular architecture became an interest among architects with modern ideology by Bernard Rudofsky's 1964 book Architecture Without Architects: a short introduction to non-pedigreed architecture, based on his MoMA exhibition. It gives a new aspect to architecture after the era of the Modern Masters.

The term vernacular is derived from the Latin vernaculus - a slave quarter at the back of the master's garden - In terms of language, vernacular refers to language use particular to a time, place or group. In architecture it refers to that type of architecture which is indigenous to a specific time or place (not imported or copied from elsewhere). It is most often used to apply to residential buildings. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vernacular, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=88049&dict=CALD, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/vernacular)

The local church in Norway. Very nice Vernacular Architecture.

A fisherman village in the south of Thailand.

The term is not to be confused with so-called "traditional" architecture, though there are links between the two. Vernacular architecture may, through time, be adopted and refined into culturally accepted solutions, but only through repetition may it become "traditional." Traditional architecture can also include temples and palaces, for example, which would not be included usually in the rubric of "vernacular." In Japan, for example, not all pre-modern architecture is "vernacular," which would usually refer only to rural buildings and structures. In the US, vernacular architecture might refer to a so-called craftsman bungalow, fashionable in the nineteenth century, even though the bungalow as an architectural form did not originate in the US. "Vernacular" might even refer to a building like the 1848 Duncan House in Cooksville, Wisconsin. All in all, the use of the term "vernacular" can be quite ambiguous.

On this ambiguity, we had a long discussion in the class.
Of course, very simple huts and houses in the country side could be catagorized into Vernacular Architecture. But is shophouses we see around us everywhere in Thailand vernacular architecture? But it has an air-con? Is technology like air-con considered imported? Hin (sila) one of the students gives his opinion that air-con is quite an available common modern technology that we could almost consider it a material like wood..so perhaps our shophouses around could be considered also Contemporary Vernacular Architecture.

This approach would go in the same line with the term commercial vernacular as Robert Venturi and Denis Scott Brown use in their book 'Learning From Las Vegas' which refers to the 20th century American suburb commercial architecture. (The book is one of the most important books of the 20th century architecture theory). Rem Koolhass's Delirious New York is also in the same family of thoughts. His 'culture of congestion' is to describe architecture and urbanism of the 20th century city emerging without 'great' architects, but with the dreams and desires of capitalism.

The discussion on Vernacular Architecture made us think a lot about all. I finished the lecture by showing a house I visited 5 years ago at On-nuch garage slum - the biggest garbage disposal area in Bangkok. The house is built from carefully selected garbage and left over - metal boxes for snacks. The details are well thought, so well thought that we as an architect are amazed. The owner / builder of the house is a man of his 40s, who never built anything in his life before.... An excellent example of Contemporary Vernacular Architecture?

The house was still under construction 5 years ago when I visited.

The detail of the opening of the house.

The roof tiles are made of the metal boxes cut into small pieces too.

The columns are reinforce concrete molded by the metal bins, without removing the mold afterward! Very interesting...

We are thinking a lot about our Contemporary Vernacular Architecture.

June 22, 2007

02 How to Make a Notebook: the 1 st lesson

The first lesson of the class for our Phi Phi Design Build Workshop is how to make a notebook. The notebook will be used in the class, during the workshop. It will have to be the documentation tool to map your ideas... - the first lesson of how to be a 'good' designer.

The main reference is from this book, Interaction Desing Premier ( vol. 1), published by Postmedia Books Milan. It is a book written by all the people I know very well: Stefano Mirti, Walter Aprile and Britta Boland. They are an architect, a computer scientist, and a graphic designer who worked and taught together at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea for five years. The book is about 'how to design' anything, not only interaction design.

It gives you a reference of design and how it works with technology from quite a radical approach. The significant point of the book is that the book is printed only the chapter overview. The rest is in the DVD attached to the book, where you have video clips and so on too. :)

The making of your own notebook requires a lot of careful thoughts: from what is your habit, how you use the notebook, where you will use it, where to buy the materials and tools...and so on. It is quite elaborated process..

These are some sample pages from the book. The graphic is quite nice: a compliment to Britta.

Then we discussed about some example of a notebook and its owner. Here is Pim and her fancy Moleskine notebook with an elastic band and a little pocket inside.

The student presented the notebooks they made upon the class situation and the workshop. Here are some interesting ones, few out of 24.

Here is Name's notebook. His notebook is all waterproof! Instead of paper, he uses plastic with waterproof pen... well, this allows no mistake of drawing and writing..

Toey's notebook has three kinds of paper: normal 80-gram paper, water color paper and tracing paper for any purpose you can imagine.

This is Joe's notebook. Perhaps the most popular one. He likes to skecth very much, and most of the time he has a problem comparing his old sketches with the new ones.. because of way the pages are binded together. His solution is this special binding that you can move and flip the page on both sides.. so you can see two or three pages at the same time. although they are not binded next to each other. :O

Well, the binding is a little bit complex - personally I don't understand it completely still.. but it is nice and interesting. :)

The last one if Fam's notebook, a very organized one. She divides her notebook into two parts: the metric which could fit the sketch, the concept and the context at the same time, the other one is called mind mapping part, where she could make diagrams into more or less unlimited space....:O

Well, hope the notebooks are good enough to keep all the good ideas for the building then!

June 14, 2007

01 The Site

Here is Leam Tong beach. At the end of the pennisular the school is located with Phi Phi Natural Resort.

The entrance of the school from the resort.

The multi-purpose ground of the school. On the building on the right is the classroom building, on the left, are the teacher's houses. Our site is on the hill at the end of the field...

The site: a lot of small bushes and trees.