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Vernacular Architecture

by:Henry Glassie

I just picked this book up again, for a class I’m teaching, and I was reminded all over again why I love it. Delightful, clear, readable, dense, this book changed my life when I read it as an undergraduate. A classic work in its field, many designers don’t know about it – and more’s the pity. Discussing issues of industrialization, efficiency, process, and production in architecture and material culture, Glassie resituates these concepts for history-averse designers glued to our desks: “Out of my fieldwork, facts from Turkey come into association with facts from Ireland and America. Despite chronology, we see the similarities and the differences in historical action. Understanding expands. Facts combine to build the principles by which the facts are interpreted. Facts do not dissipate into anecdotery. They become meaningful…Examined closely, analyzed formally on the ground of compassion, then manipulated into comparative arrangements, material culture breaks open to reveal the complexity of time, its simultaneous urges to progress, revitalization, and stability. The world’s builders give us hope.” In short: go out and see what people are making and building without architects: you will learn all kinds of things.

– Marilyn Moedinger

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