'Generative concepts' in vernacular architecture

Lewcock, Ronald (2005). 'Generative concepts' in vernacular architecture. In Lindsay Asquith and Marcel Vellinga (Ed.), Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century: Theory, Education and Practice (pp. 199-214) New York, NY, U.S.A.: Routledge.

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Author Lewcock, Ronald
Title of chapter 'Generative concepts' in vernacular architecture
Title of book Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century: Theory, Education and Practice
Place of Publication New York, NY, U.S.A.
Publisher Routledge
Publication Year 2005
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
ISBN 9780415357814
Editor Lindsay Asquith
Marcel Vellinga
Chapter number 11
Start page 199
End page 214
Total pages 16
Total chapters 14
Language eng
Subjects 1201 Architecture
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Recent arguments for 'archetypes' in architecture came in Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space (Bachelard 1964). This was followed by the publication of the ideas of Noam Chomsky about the possibility of 'genetic programming' (Chomsky 1972). At this time I noticed unexpected similarities between forms in vernacular architecture scattered over wide regions in many parts of the world. The result was an article in Paul Oliver's Shelter, Sign, and Symbol, 'The boat as symbol of the house' (Lewcock 1975). I further explored the subject in a series of lectures for the Architectural Association, comparatively examining architectures from all over the world.

Subsequent reading in the new literature about the function of the brain and the notions of mind familiarized me with the premise of 'association', with imagination, and creativity (Fodor, Miller and Langendoen 1979; Boden 1990). Intrigued, I studied more seriously the ideas of the cognitive scientists that thought hinges on 'mental models' (Johnson-Laird 1988), with the corresponding conclusion that works of architecture must often be fundamentally conceptual.

The doubts and interest aroused in the subject by these experiences, prompted me to put together some evidence for connections between the 'mental models' or 'concepts' of buildings. The thought had arisen that these might plausibly serve as examples of the presence of 'generative concepts' acting like 'archetypes' in architecture — instances which, if not generic to the built work of all humans, at least seemed to support their functioning in the creative process in certain societies at certain times. I also believe that I have discovered evidence that the link between vernacular architectures and those that are more sophisticated and self conscious often operates at the level of such generative concepts, as I will attempt to demonstrate below.
© 2006 Lindsat Asquith and Marcel Vellinga, selection and editorial material; individual chapters, the contributors
Keyword Vernacular architecture
Q-Index Code B1
Additional Notes Festschrift for Paul Oliver. Published in "Part 3: Understanding the Vernacular".

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Created: Thu, 25 Mar 2010, 12:08:05 EST by Tara Johnson on behalf of Faculty Of Engineering, Architecture & Info Tech