Lecture 10. Vernacular Architecture

Though traditional histories of East Asian architecture inevitably focus upon the gridded cities, extraordinary structural, decorative and iconographic complexity of religious architecture, and the scale and technical sophistication of the centers of elite power, the built environment of ordinary people in all cultures is one of the most diverse and rich in world architectural history. This is so partly for simple reasons of scale – East Asia for most of world history has had one of the most dense population concentrations of any region in the world – and also because of the extraordinary range of cultures, materials, and climatic conditions encompassed within this region, particularly of course within China. Vernacular spaces, while less explicated in texts and architectural discourse more generally, tell us as much or more about the societies that produced them than do structures built by and for ruling elites.

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Lecture Notes