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Vernacular Architecture Courses

edX offers free online classes in vernacular architecture from top institutions around the world!

What is Vernacular Architecture?

Vernacular architecture is the study of using local materials, ancestral knowledge, and traditional building techniques to build housing and buildings. These building styles were most common in the pre-industrial age, and are characterized by the absence of architects and overseers. Although it's often overlooked in historical studies, this "architecture without architects" style is seen all over the globe and comprises the majority of architecture worldwide. Traditional homes like the shotgun houses of American Vernacular or the building methods of Batak style in Indonesia point to local environmental and custom influences in building forms. As we look to the future of sustainable design, we're beginning to understand that these traditional architectural styles could hold keys to building better housing, more sustainable buildings, and more efficient cities. Vernacular buildings could point the way to a new age of development.

Learn about Vernacular Architecture

Design theory has often overlooked traditional buildings, but a resurgence in interest follows both climate change and exploding populations. Many of these buildings use local energy-efficient construction materials, and local builders have often been using the local climate as a guide to designing housing. offers courses in vernacular architecture in partnership with leaders and innovators in the field. You can take classes on your own time without having to leave your home. It's one of the easiest ways to get started learning about this vital design history.

Vernacular Architecture Courses

The University of Hong Kong offers a three-course series on vernacular architecture, focused around the traditional building techniques of Asia. Courses focus on the building styles of the people, examining traditional architecture often overlooked in favor of elaborate temples and palaces. The second and third courses follow a similar route with the second focused on issues with preserving the knowledge and history of vernacular architecture in at-risk areas and the third introducing a wide array of examples in vernacular architecture as well as the environmental contexts that inspired the designs.

Looking to the Past for Inspiration

So much of our historical focus is on large, famous buildings, but residential architecture holds a lot of valuable information. The traditional house may use humble materials like thatch or adobe, but these dwellings can become an essential part of our cultural understanding. Looking at adaptations like the igloo, we can understand how using local knowledge could help us design sustainable housing wherever we are. While polite architecture might be showstopping, it's the traditional buildings that could lead us to some of our most significant breakthroughs in design. edX and partners can help you take note of this overlooked field. Don't let traditional knowledge pass you by; learn from local experts of the past to help build a better future.