Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vernacular Architecture Forum

You know how there are certain words or combinations of words that just make your heart skip? Maybe it's your lover or your favorite vacation spot or food. Vernacular Architecture does it for me.
I first learned of the Vernacular Architecture Forum in 2007 when their annual conference was held in Savannah and our office was on the tour. "The tour" is an invaluable opportunity for VA junkies to visit a place, gain access to lots and lots of buildings, and learn the local architectural language, or, Vernacular. I was a little heartbroken that this opportunity was happening around me and I was not able to participate. I would have LOVED to have been on those tours and learned the vernacular of Savannah and the Lowcountry, got into all those buildings in town I greet daily just from the exterior as well as the tours further afield. Ah - water under the bridge... At least i can peruse the 586-page compendium of vernacular buildings compiled by the SCAD Architectural History department.

I was excited to attend my first VAF conference this year in my other city that feels something like home - and our nation's capital - Washington DC.From the keynote address by GWU Historic Preservation chair, Richard Longstreth, and touring the neighborhoods and buildings, I learned, among other things, that the rowhouses of Washington DC characteristically have wide bays that project into the right-of-way. In the 1880s, the original street rights-of-way established by L'Enfant were deemed too wide and builders were allowed to encroach. Many DC rowhouses have sizeable front yards, unlike most rowhouses in east coast cities. The photo on right shows an anomaly, developed Philadelphia-style, without the projections.

While in the city, I also made a visit to George Washington University and found this remnant of the historc housing stock (below) which belonged to a woman who refused to sell out to the university developing around her. When she passed away, her heirs sold to GW on the condition that the building remain unaltered and it was named for its stalwart owner, housing the Womens Studies department.

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