Vernacular Architecture on Display: From Exhibited Artifact to Operative Discourse | The Plan Journal

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Stamatina Kousidi

This article sets out to interrogate the exhibition as an essential form of critical discourse in architecture, looking at how it has engendered new conceptual and operative approaches to the vernacular notion. Focusing on the late 20th century, it explores how the exhibition space contributed to the praise of the vernacular as a valid design reference, by creating a platform for its renewed, consistent, and systematic reinterpretation. This praise did not entail the recovery of history but the redefinition of the relation between tradition and concepts of modernity, building and pre-existent context. The exhibition space thus served as a catalyst to the return of the vernacular model; it enabled new connections between project, travel, and theoretical discourse, engaging ever more international audiences. In recent exhibitions such a model manifests itself again through full-scale models, mock-ups, and pavilions that prioritize issues of materiality, construction, and experience. The article, ultimately, explores the vernacular as a cogent theme which may hold the key for a more inclusive, culturally-rooted, and holistic approach to the design of the built environment and its interpretation.