Daniel R. Wildcat, writer and member of the Muscogee tribe, wrote famously
Urban and suburban interiors and landscapes are so artificial it seems difficult to learn lessons other than the dramatic ones we encounter in their negative actualities and statements.
Wildcat is referring to the ways in which we waste raw materials, create stale and inefficient architecture, and streamline by leaving empty buildings unoccupied and without purpose. It is a growing concern for all, as we haphazardly waste, spend and harshly abuse mother nature.
Wildcat suggests vernacular architecture – a concept created and influenced by indigenous people – as a method to reduce, reuse and revitalize. Vernacular architecture could offer a more practical way to utilize materials and create spaces with more visual appeal and efficiency.
Using materials naturally created without manipulation could help decrease greenhouse emissions and change the mindset from wasteful to ‘waste-less’.
Examples of vernacular architecture are beginning to make strides in countries like Norway and Samoa. The Sami Parliament Building in Norway, designed by Stein Halvorsen and Christian Subdby, sits on untouched vegetation. Its colors blend into the natural landscape. While its purpose is to house administrative offices, it keeps conscious its surroundings and uses only materials naturally found. When the building was created, its architects respected the Sami people, indigenous Finno-Ugric in the Arctic region.
The Future Is in the Past
Savai’i, a small island embedded in the Samoa island chain, houses modern indigenous architecture. Meeting houses, typically used for political purposes, replace traditional roof thatching with iron. Many structures are built a level above the ground to help protect against high tides and penetrating winds.
As a nation, the need to move towards sustainability is clear. When building a home, there are simple changes in structural elements that can lead our globe to a more architecture-conscious society. Sun-dried, mixed clay and other clay-based adobe systems can decrease waste and utilize less plaster. Use sod when building sound and sturdy buildings. Consider non-cementitious stucco or chicken wire to support building structure and appeal. Most importantly, be conscious of materials available. Our ancestors used earthly materials because they simply worked to reduce waste and use what was available, cutting costs and environmental waste.
For a look at modern indigenous buildings and examples of earthly materials, visit Natural Homes.