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TRADITIONAL DWELLINGS AND SETTLEMENTS REVIEW

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Volume 5.1

THE TRADITION OF CHANGE
Dell Upton
The young field of vernacular landscape studies suffers from limitations imposed by its fundamental categories, which in turn grow out of the field’s roots in Western intellectual and aesthetic concepts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  This paper analyzes two of those fundamental categories.  The first is the present concept of tradition, which sets off the vernacular as a static category of experience distinct from that of contemporary society and characterized by a series of insider/outsider dichotomies.  The second is a belief in the authenticity of the object as a sign of its maker, which obscures the multiplicity of experiences and meanings that any artifact can obtain.  Future studies of the vernacular need to concentrate on landscapes of slippage and discontinuity more than on those of permanence and integrity valued in studies of tradition.

CULTURAL IDENTIFICATIONS IN ARCHITECTURE:
THE CASE OF THE NEW ORLEANS TOWNHOUSE
Jay D. Edwards
Little scholarly attention has been devoted to the question of the identification of architectural traditions with specific ethnic or social groups or historic cultures.  Such designations often do not accurately reflect cultural reality, so other processes must be at work.  Socio-cultural identifications are of particular interest in ethnically complex communities where cultural diffusion and acculturation have played a major role in the makeup of the architectural landscape.  In this article I trace the history of the “Spanish” patio townhouse of New Orleans in relation to its socially defined cultural image.

ARCHITECTURE AS SOCIAL EXPRESSION IN WESTERN SAMOA:
AXIOMS AND MODELS
Anne E. Guernsey Allen
For the rural communities of Western Samoa architectural forms provide a means of expressing social organization: its conceptually static ideal and its living, evolving configuration.  Individual houses, family properties, and villages exist as defined spaces with acknowledged borders, created through the application of set canons.  Yet, at the same time, these spatial constructs are open to interior, contextual modification in response to political, economic and historic change.  This paper investigates those axioms by which Samoan architectural space is organized, discusses previously proposed paradigms, and suggests models which more closely reflect how space is actually used by Samoans.

GROWTH AS TRADITION: BERN, A TRADITIONAL SETTLEMENT IN CHANGE
Richard M. Beckman and Dieter Ackerknecht
Over the centuries Bern, Switzerland, has remained remarkably flexible, adapting to numerous unforeseen changes.  Since the city’s founding in 1190/91 AD, its original planning concepts (a legacy of the Counts of Zähringer) have allowed a continuum of new traditional urban forms to evolve, each a quantum leap beyond the last, in response to changing economic and social conditions.  The result today is the compelling image of Bern’s medieval Inner City.  In contradiction to the gestalt of 800 years of dynamic growth, however, recent restraints may be draining the livability of Bern’s Inner City.  This paper explores Bern’s history, examines its growth and change, and raises the question whether the city’s center is becoming a museum city of false facades rather than a living organism continuing to respond to changing social and economic forces.

VERNACULAR HOUSING FORMS IN NORTH ALGERIA
Karim Hadjri
The paper examines vernacular housing forms in north Algeria to identify common characteristics which may be used in the design of new housing.  For more than two decades the Algerian government has been using foreign designs in the construction of large-scale housing developments.  In addition, self-builders have been utilizing French house-design components in their projects.  This new housing is not fulfilling the users’ social and cultural requirements, such as their need for privacy.  New house designs are needed based on the main traditional requirements of daily life, as adapted to modern needs.  This examination of vernacular housing in northern Algeria shows that there are three customary components in house designs: the sqifa entrance, the west-ed-dar (courtyard), and the multifunctional room or bit.