Fabrications: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand invites papers for a special guest issue (Vol. 30, No. 1) on “Vernacular Transformations: Modernisation and Vernacular House Architecture in Australasia and Oceania,” edited by Paul Memmott. Papers are due by 20 June 2019.
Paul Oliver’s 1997 ‘Encyclopaedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World’ was the first comprehensive compilation of Australasia and Oceania’s vernacular houses, and work on the second edition has been under way since 2015. It continues the outstanding scholarship on the region’s rich and diverse vernacular house architecture highlighting its distinctiveness and relationships with social and cultural structures. However, conservative architectural historiographies on Australasia and Oceania often position vernacular architecture in opposition to modern architecture. Vernacular architecture is not considered dynamic, multi-faceted and progressive, but relatively static, resistant to change and lacking modern relevance. The many theoretical advances in the global field of vernacular architecture studies is not reflected in regional scholarship.
Postcolonial methodologies are dispelling the myth that one dominant group can monopolise the processes of modernisation and arguing that contemporary and historical relationships between vernacular and modern may be a result of complex social, cultural and political negotiations between disparate stakeholders. Rapid political, economic, technological, social and environmental changes have transformed vernacular house architectures in Australasia and Oceania, initially brought on by the 20th century formation of independent ex-colonial nations. The region has then been affected by increasing globalization, characterised by increasingly permeable national boundaries, exchanges of people, finances and material culture items, and by recent digital technologies, impacting and transforming architectural expressions.
This Fabrications issue seeks to expand the Encyclopedia’s discourse with higher-level reflection and regional theorisation of these transformations. It seeks to understand the cultural change tensions brought about by mobility, modernisation and politicisation, and how these tensions impact on vernacular house architectures. How have vernacular architecture and construction approaches been appropriated in the development of ubiquitous Southeast Asian typologies like shophouses? What is the effect of Australian and New Zealand’s seasonal employment schemes on vernacular house developments in employees’ home countries? Can ethnographic research methodologies establish distinctive cross-cultural approaches to indigenous social housing? How have vernacular house forms been used to argue for postcolonial modernisation and nation-building? What is sustainability’s role in the context of the use of increasingly-scarce vernacular architecture materials for middle-class, tourism and the state typologies in archipelagic Southeast Asia? What is the relationship between modern aspirational vernacular architecture and cultural heritage traditions such as the Malay house?
We call for papers to reflect and explore one or several of these questions through the Encyclopedia’s vernacular house types in Australasia and Oceania, across the precolonial, colonial and/or postcolonial periods, with the aim of expanding and broadening conventional understandings of vernacular architecture in the region.