Vernacular Architecture

Architectural inspiration need not come from afar, especially when you are living down the street from the former Enfield Shaker Community.

While at RISD I dove deeply into vernacular (local) architecture to try and discover the origins of its form, how it connected to place, people, landscape. How was it so successful? There are no jogs in the plans no funny shapes no quirks but each building was unique through small moves. It was site specific despite being a “box”. Certainly there must be more and there is but it takes time to see.

One must study how the structure mets the ground. As in the case of an earthen ramp meeting up to a barns second floor, its subtle but poetic and engages a specific site. How two granite steps land you facing south catching both morning and evening sun while leaving the building. How a simple door and two smaller windows say “entry”. How a granite stone block foundation lends a feeling of solidity, permanence and connection.


Even smaller nuances are just as impactful and lend ease to the eye and understanding of the structure. Notice how the front door is just slightly taller than the window heads nearby. See how each window and door engages a line in the siding. It feels “right”. It’s not jarring it feels purposeful and careful.

These moves in sitting, materials used, details undertaken, size and type of windows, location of doors, all contribute to a careful reading of place and of structure. In what context will this building stand? How shall it function and stand through time? Even now, through careful planning, a new home or place can be as quiet and stoic as an original Shaker building.