When we travel into villages and small towns, we notice thousands of buildings designed and built by local residents, all done by themselves as per their needs.
There are many technical and linguistic jargons which professional people tend to use to create hype about what they do. While some of them are valid, many are a complicated way of saying something simple. Indigenous architecture often gets clubbed under that heading, which is unfortunate because it is a common name suggesting a design ethos belonging to a specific place. If simplification is deemed, it can also be called as architecture of the local.
When we travel to villages and small towns, we notice thousands of buildings designed and built by the local residents, all done by themselves as per their needs. Technically, they may not be perfect; aesthetically there could be better attractions and durability-wise there could be shortcomings. Of course, they had no access to architects and engineers, so they did everything locally.
Alternatively, we may say that they were lucky not to have architects and engineers around. Modern professionals often ignore the time-tested wisdom of the generations, try innovative ideas which may not perform well or simply force some standardised applications irrespective of their fit to the context.
Left to the owner-designer who would have repeated what everyone in the village does, the architect engineer would have designed something out of place.
All local architecture evolves from generations of improvisations, repeating an idea multiple times, finally perfecting it. Even if people blindly copy the same house form, its performance is totally assured.
Accordingly, the consultants too suggest the new, all at the cost of long-term ecological and economic apprehensions. No one might have conducted a survey, but the number of people unhappy with modern buildings may not be a small figure. On the contrary, very few are unhappy with old buildings, but for dark interiors or inadequate ventilation.
The idea of local materials has been replaced by locally available materials, a trend wherein a ready-to-buy cement bag becomes more local than the construction mud from the fields. No wonder exposed mud wall houses get replaced by cement plastered and painted ones, which are not only warmer but also require periodic repainting. The manufacturers ensure that every material they make is made available everywhere by a marketing network, resulting in high resource and energy consumption.
In these days when material and technology dominates architecture, people refuse to learn from the indigenous and apply them. Many claim that past approaches belonged to culture and continuity, which today are wielding lesser command. Anything of nativity, we seem to be wrongly discarding as primitive.
Should we really believe that indigenous architecture belongs to the past with no relevance today? No – it is possible to blend the best of the past and present.