What is Vernacular Architecture? Understanding It In Detail

by Key Crops on Apr 20, 2023

vernacular architecture

Construction carried out outside of any academic traditions and without seeking professional advice is referred to as vernacular architecture. The majority of buildings and communities built in pre-industrial societies fall under this category, which also encompasses a wide range of historical and modern building styles and construction techniques from around the globe.

This style of construction has shown to be both energy and sustainably efficient. Yet, with the speed at which technology is developing, it appears that many homeowners have neglected to employ this architecture.

So, to bring back a bit of a glimpse of this beautiful architecture to the modern generation we have come up with this article. Below you will find everything you need to know about vernacular architecture, its characteristics, types and different styles in India. These constructions have endured far longer than our concrete ones.

What is Vernacular Architecture?

Vernacular Architecture is a traditional type of architecture that uses materials from the local area and is constructed without the guidance of a trained architect. It is challenging to lay forth precise requirements for any Vernacular architecture. The culture and resources of each region play a significant role in what you see.

When you talk about Indian vernacular architecture, you might often see it in rural areas and built using local materials. Of course, these structures are built by builders that are not professionals and are unschooled in formal architectural design. Vernacular architecture constitutes 90-95% of the world’s built environment.

Indian Vernacular Architecture Categories

Indian vernacular architecture reflects the rich diversity of the country and the unmatched craftsmanship of the skilled workers of India. This architectural style can be divided into the following three categories.

1. Kachcha

A kachcha is a building structure made from natural materials like wood, mud plaster, bamboo and thatch. This style of building architecture is not so durable and is thus considered a short-lived structure. It requires regular maintenance and replacement as they are not built for endurance. However, the best part about a kachcha structure is that the materials used in it are cheap and require little labour.

2. Pukka

This type of building structure is made from materials like natural stone, tiles, bricks and other durable materials. A pakka, pucca or pukka is a type of vernacular architecture that uses expensive materials and a large number of labourers.

3. Semi-Pukka

As the name suggests, this vernacular architecture is a combination of the kachcha and pucca styles. It has developed as villages have amassed the wherewithal to add parts made of the robust materials typical of a pukka. Semi-pukka describes the majority of traditional vernacular architecture.

Characteristics of Vernacular Architecture

Below are the characteristics of vernacular architecture that will help you distinguish it from other architectural styles:

  • This type of architecture uses inexpensive and natural materials like sandstone and is built by local artisans and builders instead of professionals.
  • Vernacular architecture is more of reflecting the culture and history of a specific region.
  • It has less impact on the surrounding environment as builders use local materials to build the interior design as well as the exterior of the house.
  • Vernacular architecture is climatically responsive and is built to lower the environmental impact, thereby reducing energy consumption.

Examples of Vernacular Architecture

Here are some significant examples of vernacular architecture that have amazing longevity.

1. Laterite Structures

This vernacular architecture is found in Goa and is plastered with a mixture of lime and earth. They occasionally have large sloping roof overhangs without plaster. The harsh sun and rain don't damage these sloping roofs.

Laterite is used to construct historic structures such as temples, prehistoric megaliths, marine forts, and traditional homes. Laterite bricks are used for construction in northern Kerala. The ability to build walls out of laterite in the form of interlocking bricks without needing cement mortar has advanced.

2. Zawlbuk House

This is the Mizoram tribal dwelling, which is typically found among northeastern tribes. These residences are intended for the neighbourhood's young people. It is situated in the Mizo village's centre.

The Zawlbuk's floor is made of a sturdy bamboo mat that has been meticulously woven in a specific pattern. The young people are taught there how to uphold the customs of the tribe. Bamboo screens are used to create the divisions.

On the sloping land, they construct their homes out of wood and bamboo. A thick layer of thatch, leaves, or straw is placed over split bamboo to create the roof.

3. Koti Banal

Koti banal structures have been standing tall for the past 900 years in the Rajgarhi area of Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. These are earthquake-resistant buildings and can be around 7 storeys high. This structure is built upon a raised platform that is made from dry masonry over the foundation. The walls are made up of timber and are 50-60 cm thick. Vernacular architecture is much more durable and sustainable than modern architectural design trends.

4. Bhunga

This type of vernacular architecture consists of a single cylindrical-shaped room with a conical thatch roof supported by a wooden post and rafter. The walls of this structure are made from mud bricks and have 3 openings i.e. a door and two windows. The circular shape of this type of vernacular architecture is ideal for providing insulation against the external environment as it resists high-velocity desert winds and reduces exposure to heat.


Hope you have now learned what is vernacular architecture, its types and its characteristics. In comparison to other more elaborate projects, this form of architecture is an essential component of buildings, the product of local ingenuity, and is substantially more socially conscious and sustainable.

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