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Fonte Matilde, a Thermal Town near Reggio Emilia (Parma) by Pier Carlo Bontempi)
Traditional cultures typically evolve a rich memory of types and models developing elaborate
expressions of art and knowledge on the one hand, and of sophisticated expression of crafts and know-how on the other. Classical and vernacular cultures interact and emulate one another in complex and subtle dialogues, inspiring, borrowing and learning from each other. Since their common origin in the mythical hut, the temple, the house and the palace have evolved into a rich genealogy of refined types which continue to foster inventive dialectics and synergies.
Neither the Classic nor the Vernacular are interested predominantly in stylistic categories as
they endeavor to propose the most appropriate, beautiful, safe, and comfortable dwellings and public. Though style emerges as a most highly achieved and perfected expression of particular cultures and is therefore a central to the Classical tradition and its history of excellence, Classicism itself is not a style, nor indeed are Vernacular expressions. Both foster refined foundations of stylistic appropriateness, excellence and integrity: sound and sustainable construction, elegant tectonics and composition, durability, comfort and enlightenment.
Fabric & Monument on the Gran Canale in Venice (Photo by Lucien Steil)
Traditional architecture, in both its Vernacular and Classical expression, encompasses
character and articulates appropriately between Vernacular and Classical, Humble and Extravagant, Domestic and Monumental, Private and Public, transcending obsessive and superficial style fixations purposeless formalism.
Classical architecture addresses the construction of the Public Realm, “Res Publica”
comprising civic, sacred and public buildings and monuments. It encompasses sophistication of design, perfection of architectural order and appropriateness of character, excellence of style. It expresses the most elevated civic and cultural ideals and permanently celebrates the most sustainable, universal and transcendent qualities of human civilization.
Vernacular architecture on the other hand is dedicated to the construction of the private
realm, “Res Economica”, comprising residential, commercial, technical and industrial infrastructures and buildings. It is by no means a matter of folkloristic heritage or of minor importance as it constitutes not only a major part of mankind’s built endeavors but also an unalienable part of a wider comprehensive culture of building through human history. Either the dialectics between or the synergies of both Classical and Vernacular have thoroughly shaped the built geography of our planet until the 20th century and beautifully articulated the way we inhabit the Earth into extraordinary masterworks of architecture, city-building and landscape design.
“Classical architecture in all cultures and continents is to vernacular building what poetry is to prose”
Leon Krier in (“The Architecture of Community”)
Reconstruction of Sudliche Friedrichstadt Berlin, IBA Wettbewerb 1981 Maurice Culot, Leon Krier, &ali (Archives d’Architecture Moderne)
More than anyone else, Leon Krier has been able to poignantly define the purpose and
meaning of architecture and its relationship to building and craftsmanship, as much as the meaning of Classical and Vernacular architectures:
"Vernacular architecture is the manual-artisan culture of building, based on tectonic logic.....Building is a craft culture which consists in the repetition of a limited number of types and in their adaptation to local climate, materials and custom." "Classical architecture is the artistic-intellectual culture of vernacular building... Transcending the questions of style, period and culture, Classical Architecture qualifies the totality of monumental architecture based on the fundamental principles of " Venustas, Firmitas,Utilitas ", translated into modern language as harmony /beauty, stability/permanence, and utility /comfort. "
(Leon Krier in “The architecture of Community”)
Villa Plinius, by Leon Krier (Painting by Rita Wolff)
Note the Conference regarding this topic: June 10th-June12th at University of Notre Dame“From Vernacular to Classical: The Perpetual Modernity of Palladio”.
University of Notre Dame School of Architecture 110, Bond Hall Notre Dame, 46556-5652 Tel (574) 631-6137 fax (574) 631-8486