Learning from Vernacular

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Sustainability in traditional architecture.

June 5th to October 4th 2009. An exhibition of the Archives de la construction moderne at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Installation: Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).

This fascinating documentation on the marvels of vernacular architecture around the globe is presented in the spectacular setting of Boisbuchet’s castle, dating from the 19th century and abandoned for the past thirty years.

The collection of vernacular architecture at the EPFL’s Archives de la construction moderne is a unique collection of documents and about 700 models that showcase a wide range of spatial, symbolic and constructive solutions that govern, or have governed the domestic as well as work space of traditional cultures in all climatic conditions.

Even tough the vernacular practices of cultures from all over the world, in themselves, are not the answers or alternatives to the current situation, they do not lack in impressive, ingenious solutions and exemplary techniques that highlight man’s capacity to make the most of the given circumstances and canalise the available resources effectively.

This collection makes it a strong and representative body to undertake such an initiative and envisage contemporary efforts based on analogies. It thus makes it possible to offer multiple arrays of alternatives for the niche strategies, autonomous within the contemporary world.

The Learning from vernacular exhibition comprises two primary sections. The first section, covering the chateau’s entire first floor, highlights the diversity of spatial methods explored by different cultures. While the second that is spread over the second floor concentrates on the use of a variety of building materials.

The exhibition consists of thirty-two models at a scale of 1:20, selected on the basis of their pertinence to this issue and the quality of execution. Each room contains a display of diagrams as well as images captured recently on location by photographer Deidi von Schaewen. These displays help in understanding and visualising these constructions in their contemporary context. Films, shown in different rooms, either illustrate life in those particular environments or the techniques used for construction.