THIS THESIS RESEARCH IS SUBMITTED AS PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE DEGREE
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER
COLLEGE OF DESIGN AND PLANNING
GRADUATE PROGRAM IN
DANIEL B. YOUNG, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
The Thesis "Vernacular Form in Colorado Resort Communities" was prepared by Lore Williams in partial fulfillment of the Master's degree in Landscape Architecture. This document constitutes the thesis research.
What is wrong with our current approach to community planning and the philosophy it presupposes? Conversly, when structures or communities do succeed, is there a pattern in their successes? Why are we constantly fascinated by natural forms, yet, bored by our own creations? Building forms continuously change and although community forms are more consistent, neither has successfully adapted to change. Since the community and building forms are not evolving towards a common and site specific form, is there any meaning in the continuous change? Perhaps by investigating the principles behind our communities, an understanding can be gained. Furthermore, by comparing community form to natural forms, we may discover some of the missing elements. Natural forms and the forms of older communities bear a strong resemblence. Vernacular forms of community and structure link human development with nature in ways which, despite our technology, we have not accomplished. This "timeless way of
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building" sharply contradicts our own rapidly changing
history. The term vernacular can be utilized in both a
general and a specific manner. Historically,
the ultimate in vernacular architecture will have been designed by an amatuer, probably the occupier of the building, and one without any training in design; he will have been guided by a series of
conventions built up in his locality . . . The
function of his building would be the dominant factor, aesthetic considerations . . would be
quite minimal; tradition would guide constructional as well as aesthetic choice and local materials would be used as a matter of course.1
Generally, the vernacular can refer to the "sense of place" or spatial identity which is composed of a consistent relationship between a site and the structural form or group of forms located there. The principles from the historic approach can be extracted and applied to the more general definition, thus, serving a broader scope. In developing this aspect of the vernacular, three is a significant application to the field of landscape architecture.
If the site dictated the location and composition of the buildings in a consistent approach, communities would evolve as their natural counterparts. However, this approach differs from the way communities and structures are developed at present. Far from being important, the site is leveled and ignored, while the buildings themselves are placed and composed at random. Perhaps by changing the focus of the process and the' order of participation, our communities would capture the elements of the vernacular, and, ultimately, the natural order which we prize. In developing the vernacular principles appropriate to the Rocky Mountains and my case study, I hope to propose design principles applicable to the site, building form, environ-
mental context and program. These, in turn, will generate a viable community form.
The methodology utilized in this study involves a process which will assist in determining the solution to the problems identified in my case study: Copper Mountain Resort. The data evolved at this point will be generalized to include a broad range of historical and current issues.
In the next phase, data will be specifically related to the case study. Perhaps the process itself is as important as the data generated to the study of design. This is the element that can be extracted and utilized in other areas of the profession.
INTRODUCTION TO THE TOPIC
'Masterplanning' is the term assigned to the process of evaluating and designating land usage common to most American communities. The map and final documentation show a hierarchy of uses based on the long term needs of the community. However, most long term needs are estimated and the planning and design for this stage is vague. There is
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no definitive means of getting from the short term to the long term. Without a means of accommodating growth, this system has severe shortcomings. But there are other problems, too. Masterplanning is broad and rarely defines the quality of land usage or the linkages between uses.
The scale of application is too large. Even if a community has attempted to define the linkages and quality of spaces, the time required to apply these definitions to the space within a block or 100 yards is too great. But quality cannot be determined without the correct tools. Acres and miles are acceptable for farming and other large land uses, but a lot can happen in a front yard or shopping mall. Communities may evolve which have no relationship between site planning and function. The designation of residential land use does not indicate orientation or refined use of site potential. It also neglects to indicate the feeling of the neighborhood or the integration between site and building. By giving typical lot size and density, the number of units is determined but the relationship between public and private space is not. Yet, elements such as orientation, maximization of site, and relationship between public and private spaces contribute to the quality and function of a community. Therefore, other means of community development must be studied which together with masterplanning may relate function to form. Perhaps if we compare natural forms and the principles involved in their evolution, more insight will be gained. Natural forms and the forms of other, older communities share many common principles. If the positive aspects of masterplanning could be combined with these principles, perhaps a more complete community
could be developed. The following chart illustrates the interface between these two methods.
METHOD POSITIVES NEGATIVES INTERFACE
Master- accepted way scale wrong vehicle for
planning understand- miss things implementing
able method due to method solution-can
to planners and units be added on to
utilizes mass produced.
modern equip- each city has
takes little quality not
time dealt with costly-left over land growth is a problem people aren't satisfied
Vernacular detailed, ancient-back- answers a need
specific wards mis- supplies an
intrinsic, understood, organic, con-
not applied no progress sistent habitat
energy not legiti- rich in quality
efficient mized not
growth accepted in
incorporated our society-
timeless, do banks
appealing approve, is it
has human functional
qualities doesn't use
scale, inter- technology or
action solve the
unique, char- problems of
acteristi.cs , technology
included time consuming long term economics, not mass produced
If the interface between these two processes could be
strengthened, a better product would result. But the vernacular process is based upon a community relationship
that is highly evolved. It is the relationship between climate, site, economy, and culture.
"Form" in this relationship ". . .is also
communication, revealing the presentation of meaning."2
The real difference between indigenous towns and our own strips and suburbs is that indigenuous towns were communities; what their inhabitants built expressed a sense of community, while what we build today does not. We do not feel that we are part of the community, and what we do with our physical environment expresses this.3
Thus, according to Moshe Safaie, masterplanning is
reflective of our social beliefs. But these beliefs were
formulated in an era of plenty, in a new country where
resources were unlimited. Indigenuous towns have evolved to
utilize resources that are scarce. As our population
increases, we may experience a similar shift. We may shift
from a short term economy to that of a long term economy.
At present, the "sense of economy as a force in design has
been lost. . ." but it may return.1* We may find a balance
between self and community. In doing so we must define the
goals of the community, for we have already ensured the
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goals of the individual. There is little emphasis on the individual with respect to the community in vernacular processes. It is more subtle. However, since these forms are hand crafted they bear the marks of the builder, no two are alike, unlike the product of mass production.
The use of a single building type does not necessarily produce monotony. Irregularity of terrain and deviations from standard measurements result in small variations which strike a perfect balance between unity and diversity.5
Thus, the need for economy as a force in design will occur
as resources diminish. This will also produce a shift in
emphasis from the needs of the individual to the needs of
the community. If a "consensus about the goals to be
achieved when building a community". . . . can be reached,
then diversity can be built into the system as function is
related to form.6 Technology can be utilized to produce
integrated communities which convey a sense of place.
Since the vernacular form is derived from natural
forms, it is necessary to review these basic origins. "The
timeless character of buildings is as much a part of nature
as the character of rivers, trees, hills, flames, and
stars."7 The immense variety of patterns and forms created
in nature emerge from combinations and multiple use of a few
According to Stevens in Patterns in Mature, there are four basic patterns utilized in natural forms. They are the meander, the spiral, the explosion, and branching. See figure 1.
These four patterns, combined with the dynamics of flow, packing, and cracking produce the infinite variety found in nature. Patterns in nature relate to space and the type of medium that is expressed. That is why similar forms are found in a variety of unrelated examples. Trees, deltas, and sea weed all show branching patterns due to the way they utilize space. Sea shells, constellations and tornadoes all show a spiral pattern as they expand logarithmically around a common center. A sea urchin, many flowers, and ink dropped on paper all illustrate the form of an explosion, while snakes, rivers and streams of air show a meandering form as they utilize space. See illustrations 1-4 for examples of these forms.
Natural patterns incorporate growth as a component of design as shown in a sea shell's increasing proportions. Growth does not destroy the form or its effectiveness for survival. Natural patterns and the forms they create, adapt to the environment and further ensure survival by efficiently utilizing resources. The form utilized in a bee's hive distributes the wax most efficiently. The result is a
beautiful pattern of octagons. But beauty is not the goal in these forms, rather, it is the result of impecable meshing of function and form. These principles, of combining and varying a limited number of simple patterns, of repeated elements which create a rythem, of incorporating growth and resource utilization in an efficient form, of adapting to
the environment and incorporating elements of the environment within the form, create forms of timeless value. They are also found in the core of indigenous forms.
To survive, their mode of living had to be in symbiosis with natural life. Their buildings had to be designed as natural shells to protect and help their way of living, just as forms of nature had to adjust their design to the conditions of their particular environment in order to survive.8
These principles must be developed in our own community
planning and building structures. This is the purpose of my
thesis study. I propose to adapt the natural principles
found in vernacular forms and apply them to a selected
community, my case study.
It is my hypothesis that the spatial identity or 'sense of place' intrinsic in vernacular and natural forms can be the generating force in a successful resort community. Recreational resorts are communities with a critical need to define and market 'sense of place. This must occur through their ability to utilize and maximize the physical resources of the site and to adapt the built environment which services this resource. To function consistently, all parts must incorporate this philosophy. Site is critical, it is the reason for the resort's development. Vernacular forms express this sensitivity to site and develop the built environment in a way which is supportive of the site. As landscape architects, we must direct our own community development in a similar manner. Each element, each detail should be consistent with the internal philosophy. But what is the appropriate philosophy for the Rocky Mountain Region? Since the vernacular and natural forms are the
basis for such a philosophy, they require a specific
location. The Rocky Mountain Region is too broad.
Therefore, further investigation will be limited to the mountains themselves, to the counties of Summit, Gilpin, Eagle, Park and Pitkin. Most of the research will focus on Summit County, itself, as the base data for my case study. See figure 2.
Map of area.
Given this hypothesis, the issues are as follows:
1. Is there an historic vernacular expression for the Rocky Mountains?
2. If not, can a modern facsimile be developed?
3. Does either apply to the spatial identity, the site and built form?
4. If so, can this spatial identity be used to define the 'sense of place'? Is it marketable?
5. In what way would this relate to resort communities in the Rocky Mountains?
How does the traditional role of master-
planning relate to the development of a vernacular form for the Rocky Mountains? The issues involve the development of four areas of study:
1) the site, 2) the form and materials, 3) the ecological context, and 4) the resort program. First the location's history must be investigated to determine if an historical vernacular form exists in the Rocky Mountains. To test this, it must be determined if the form meets the criteria of vernacular form. It must be build by a local builder usually the person inhabiting it. The forms must relate strongly to the site, utilizing the characteristic topography. Climate is also a determinant of form. Roof pitch, orientation, and materials refer to wind, precipitation, and sunlight. Local materials and tradition guide in the process. Decisions made by vernacular builders are usually group decisions, not individual ones.
As such, they rarely show individual solutions, but group solutions that characterize a certain region of consistent climate and soil conditions.9
If an historic vernacular form exists in the Rocky Mountains which meets these criteria it must also apply to resort communities. Further, the relationship between 'sense of place' and a spatial identity must be established with respect to vernacular form. The site and built form contribute a consistent philosphy which relates the man-made
elements to the natural. Lastly, the concepts implicit in the vernacular process must be related to the planning process currently used. Masterplanning may be used as the vehicle to present an increasingly refined process.
Can or should a modern facility replicate the experience of a vernacular form; when by definition a vernacular form is one created by native, traditional craftsmen using indiginous materials in response to climatic conditions? If the comparison is based upon intent, not technique, then the forms generated would be vernacular in concept. By strict definition, vernacular forms cannot be produced by modern technology. However, the experience of vernacular form is still a valid approach for even the most modern resort community.
The principles used in deriving the form, the relationship of forms in a community and the use of materials for construction communicate a philosophy. In the vernacular, the philosophy implied is that of a man living in harmony with nature. As technology and culture changed,
man sought to dominate nature. The philosophy behind technological advancement is that of experimentation, and rapid change. Both are alien to vernacular form. Although we cannot deny our technological knowledge, there is a wealth of kowledge in vernacular principles that would compliment
and better utilize the state of technology. These principles will be used in conjunction with technology to drive a vernacular expression for mountain resort communities.
The development of a vernacular form closely resembles the development of a climax community in natural ecosystem. It is the form, given persisting conditions, that will dominate over other forms due to its ability to utilize available resources most efficiently. In an ecosystem, the development of a climax community depends on the outcome of succession, the process of change in the landscape. Similarly, "the design of a structure should never be seen as a completed action, a result or a termination but rather as a deployment and as a process of becoming."10 Many conditions influence the process, they can be collectively referred to as the formula. The formula for the development of a vernacular expression limited to the communities in the Rocky Mountain region, is itself a system. Aspects of the system can be identified as site, form and materials, ecological context, and program. Together, they represent the forces acting upon communities and the forms they create.
Plans of typical houses
(a) enclosed plan
(b) extended plan
Inherent in the vernacular use of local materials is its "deference to the site, both in its selection and in its exploitation to the full."11 Early structures often used a hillside for the north wall. Advantages of protection from wind and use of solar opportunities are seen in site planning. Vernacular floor plans were relatively simple, usually a square or rectangle which encompassed all household functions. Later the floor plan increased from a square enclosing all functions to a square with functional units added on, both horizontally and vertically. See fig.
3.12 Entrances to the early structures were on the gabled end of the building. However, "entrances on many frame struc-
tures were built on the pitch side of the roof.13 These later structures were built employing balloon framing techniques ..available after saw mills were in operation. The relationship between the fireplace and entrance is a major factor in governing plan arrangement, just as the relationship between the chimney and roof is a major determinant in the external appearance. See fig. 4 and 5.1U
LAYOUT SOME VARIATIONS
Relationship between fireplace and entrance.
Settlement patterns of farmsteads (a), and fillages (b).
f v % 1 2 3
& <^U ^12 3
# % [f\ mu i y# 2 n t/ 3
0 a i
Settlement patterns also reflect vernacular principles whether applied to a single farmstead, and its component buildings, or to a village layout. Exa.^les of various possibilities arc shown in fig. 5.
Most farmsteads were arranged to benefit the site or in adaptation to climate. In the former, drainage or topographic features were utilized. In the latter, slopes were utilized to lessen construction and provide shelter. Buildings were joined together for maximum energy utilization. Villages also followed topographic relief unless land use was regulated and then they followed the streams.
FORM AND MATERIALS
"The adaptation of imported techniques to indigenous materials and climates continues as long as new frontiers were opened and new forms of shelter had to be found."15 Beyond the use of indigenous materials and a
tradition bound construction methodology, vernacular structures have other principles in common. The composition of the building facade, organization of the plan, and relationship and sequence of settlement pattern are characteristic of such structures.
"More than any other single component, the choice of walling material establishes the character of an example of vernacular architecture."16 Residential structures predominantly used wood, although, logs were replaced by planks as saw mills arrived. Trees were abundant and structures could be erected quickly with a single tool the
ax. Either squared or natural timbers were notched at the ends and held in place by gravity. Clay, plaster, or small pieces of wood or stone were used to fill the gaps. Commercial and other public structures were walled in stone or brick. Stone and brick were fire resistant and distinguished a building. Further, "being formed of common brick,
. . . decoration . . . was an integral part of the masonry
fabric of the building and its scale and character stemmed from the material itself.17 Both cobbles and pebbles were used for building purposes with great difficulty.
Cobble walls were often rendered and white washed as a protection from the elements and to enhance their otherwise poor appearance.18
Corners of vernacular buildings often receive special treatment. If made of brick or stone, "the cornerstones, or quoins, are bigger and better finished and may be further emphasized."19 Even if made of simple timbers, the effect of the notched ends meeting at right angles, created a pattern at the corners.
Windows also received emphasis. If decoration was used, windows, doors and corners were selectively treated. Windows often reflected building height, and were more horizontal in buildings which were low and longer, vertically, as the ceiling heights were raised. There were three basic window types in vernacular structures:
1) horizontal (medieval)
2) square (submedieval)
3) vertical rectangular (renaissance)
Window geometry responded to the time period in
which it was used.20 See figs. 6-8. A corresponding treatment was used for doors in the three periods.
rf t m i
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"As the doorway in a vernacular building was almost
invariably related directly to human size and rarely
depended on ,the needs of extravagant display there was
little variation in the basic size and shape."21
"In most stone-bearing districts the doorway was the point of concentration ... in districts of timber frame construction . . . the doorway was
often framed out of heavy timber sections displaying an adaptation of the mason's mouldings."2Z
Doors usually suggested a "defensive capability," more so in the medieval phase than in the submedieval or renaissance phases. Doors in the medieval phase were usually arched at the head, and made of heavy planks reinforced or studded with metal. See fig. 9. Submedieval doors were square at the corners with flat heads. The door jambs were often treated with stones or moulding that formed a lintel. See fig. 10. Doors in the renaissance phase were more elaborate, often with porches or canopies as attachments. Door jambs were also more decorative, often utilizing a flase keystone reminiscent of classical architecture. Door heads were either squared or' arched with pediments above.23 See fig. 11.
Figurelo Medieval doors.
Roof shape and roofing materials were two important
considerations to a vernacular builder.
It is in the roof design that we find the first and also the most varied expression of form and material .... A roof is the most essential part of a building. People have lived without walls, but never without roofs.z<*
Their choice was affected by the difficulty of relating suitable roof shapes to the desired plan shapes and the increasing difficulty of achieving roof spans which were either greater than the length of available timber or which had to be constructed without obstructing the headroom in the rooms below.25
The actual shape of a roof is dependent upon the family by which it is characterized. A roof is either in the hipped roof family or the gabled roof family or a variation of either. See fig. 12.26
Figure n Renaissance doors.
Decoration was rarely found in residential vernacular architecture. However, "even in a single house there was a gradation in the quality of materials and details from the front, to the sides, and then to the rear of the building."27 If additional decoration was present, it was in very simple form and found as a window or door treatment. The craftsmanship and materials were the beauty of these simple forms. Each was an original. Although these structures had many common elements and principles, the detailing and the skill of the craftsmen created a unique character. No two were exactly alike.
Form, function and simplicity . . . designed to
fulfill very specific functions, each nonetheless was marked by the personality of the builder in an individual way . . ,28
"An ecological system is a community of plants and animals cooperating with each other in some habitat, recycling nutrients, and exploiting the energy of the sun. Normally, and in the absence of external changes, these systems move toward a mature steady state in which the diversity of species and standing crop . . . are at a maximum,
and the structure of interrelations is complex."29
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Ecosystems in which some external force has not disrupted the cycle are few, and the mountain ecosystem is no exception. However, due to historical records and isolated cases, more knowledge is available.
The mountain region can be divided into three distinctive vegitational units which relate to a vertical
gradient. The lower slopes of the mountains are included in the montane zone. This region characteristically includes ponderosa pines with Douglasfir intermixed on the eastern slopes. North-facing slopes include "moist and dry aspen groves, lodgepole, and Douglas-fir forest" with "open meadows and barren, rocky ridges."30 In the lower montane, ponderosa pine mixed with Rocky Mountain juniper are found on south facing slopes. Limber pine may be found on higher, rocky points. Blue spruce associated with willows, alder and river birch are found along streams. Many other shrubs are found in this area including currant, thimbleberry, mountain mahogeny and sage brush. Flowering herbs include kinnikinnic, mountain asters, wild geranium and tall penstemon.31 Grassy parks dominated by mountain muhley, fescues, and little blue-stem occupy ddper soils.32
Above the montane zone is the subalpine zone, consisting of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forest. Lodgepole pine and aspen are found where fire has disturbed
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the cover and limber pine and bristlecone pine where the slope is more exposed.33 Fir and spruce are considered the "climax species" in the subalpine zone, while the three pine species and aspen are considered "successional species."3U This zone receives the preponderance of snowfall and likewise maintains the heaviest cover.
The area between 10,500 and 11,500 feet contains subalpine meadows and lakes. Subalpine meadows dominated by needlegrass, spike trisetum, and Thurber's fescue occur throughout this zone. Tall willow shrublands with an understory of sedges are also found in subalpine meadows.35 This area forms the transition from subalpine to alpine regions and marks the timberline. The transition zone or krummholtz contains many dwarfed tree and shrubs. Flowers are also abundant.
In the alpine zone, "grasslands, meadows and rockfields.." are common.36 Snow is present year-round as the altitude increases and temperatures remain low. Most of the ground is frozen except for the very surface which thaws during the growing season. Snow buttercup, marsh-marigold, alpine forget-me-not and moss campion are all found in this zone. Even high above timberline drawf willow and birch are found and cushion plants grow on seemingly barren rock fields.37
The climate in the three higher zones varies with
altitude. All three zones experience severe winters, with wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. The montane zone which is the lowest in altitude (6,000-8,500 ft.) receives the least precipitaiion (approx. 20") annually and has the warmest temperatures. The subalpine zone, 8,500-12,000
feet, receives more precipitation (20-50") annually. The Alpine zone, which is the highest in altitude (11,000-12,500 ft.) receives the most precipitation (50" or more) annually and has the coldest temperatures.38 Here the ground is frozen most of the year. The three zones support a variety of wildlife, the beaver and the bison being the most note-able in the development of mountain communities.
Forest fires, a natural factor in an ecosystem, were not uncommon in the high mountains. Their causes were two fold: natural and Indian. Ute Indians were known for starting fires either to retaliate against their enemies or to cover their retreat after a successful raid. Fires of this nature often raged uncontrolled, devouring miles of prime forest, creating "a roaring ocean of engulfing flame." Their effects are still noticeable today; Vail's back bowls are the result of a Ute fire.
For purposes of this study it is assumed that all resort communities include a recreational element, base
facility, lodge (includes hotel and convention facilities),
commercial and residential structures, and a transporta-tion/circulation system.
In determining a model for vernacular interpretation in a modern case study, it is important to assess the
existence of an historic vernacular form and associated settlement patterns.
In an analysis of vernacular expression historic to the Colorado Rocky Mountian region, there will be similarities to the form generated by the European Alpine climate. There are similarities based on the climatic adaptation, and
the materials available to both regions. However, there are also some similarities based on a common origin.
Most pioneers came from Europe directly, or indirectly, via New England. The common use of the log cabin can be attributed to this cultural heritage.
This explains the convergent use of common principles, however, it does not explain the lack of adaptations to cold climates found in many of the early pioneer structures. This may be attributed to differences in origin. Europe does not have a homogenous climate or culture. If a pioneer originated in a warm, rainy climate, he would be extremely unfamiliar with what was most appropriate and efficient in the Colorado Rockies. Even if such a builder were to industriously utilize the available material, the subtle methodology gained over many generations would not be his immediately. Furthermore, to the extent that no two climates are exactly alike, even a builder steeped in understanding of timber construction and cold mountain climates, would have necessary refinement and adaptation. Generations
of time were not available to the early pioneers and thus, the vernacular expression historic to this region is not as finely tuned or as well adapted as most. I would like to propose that due to the lack of stable economy and enduring culture in this area, a true vernacular form does not exist. A tightly intergrated form, resulting from climatic adapta-
tion an cultural integration has not been developed for this
region. This proposal does not imply that the forms that
were developed in this region do not have merit or a degree
of fit, rather, that they have not achieved the degree of
intergration any efficiency characteristic of most
vernacular forms. I would further propose that just as the
pioneers lacked an in situ incubation period sufficient in
time to refind their existing structure, any form that I
might empirically design would also need refining.
The traditional or vernacular house often represented the result of many years or even centuries of optimization in relation to the resource of material and labor, the activities carried out within and around the dwelling, the social organization of the household, and the climate.k0
Expressions relating to climate and historic data will be reviewed. Expressions of form and settlement patterns based on climate will be reviewed first relating to an historical context. These will be taken from Swiss alpine communities as they represent both a range of structural types and a climate similar to the Colorado Rockies. Expressions of form and settlement patterns based upon historical data of development in the mountain communities within Summit and Eagle counties will be analyzed second. I will attempt to prove that elements of both approaches are necessary in the formulation of a model for present day resort communities.
Because the Alps have sporadic steep slopes, a short growing season, and a poverty of exploitable soil, the people have been forced to seek subsistence over large areas and at different altitudes by means of seasonal movements of cattle and the storage of hay for the long winters when the pasture grounds are covered with snow.1*1
The most common building material in the Alps is
wood. Thus, the early structures were log cabins, limited
in length by the horizontally laid logs of spruce.
Roofs are comparatively low angled, so that the roof shingles or slabs of stone covering the roofs cannot slip off and so that the snow can remain indefinitely to insulate the house from storms and cold.1*2
Switzerland has a similar climate to the Rocky Mountains with the exception of precipitation. Rain and snowfall are much greater in Switzerland. Altitudes of 8,200 feet receive 114 inches annually near the town of Santis.1*3 This exception, however, produces a greater vegetative cover enabling cattle to feed during the summer months. Cattle in turn provide the Swiss with a steady economy and they are able to provide the essential food resources for themselves. Excess production is then used in trade.
The Swiss have also been very resourceful in the use of structural form and materials to provide protection
for themselves and their animals.
The traditional Swiss chalet of three tiers exemplifies environmental harmony . . . The ground
floor stabled the cattle, which generated heat for the middle story which was used for the human dwelling. The whole structure was superbly insulated by a deep hayloft on the third story above the living quarters. See fig. 13.**
The three story structure was often built into the hillside so that hay could be removed from the top while the front appeared as a conventional residence. See fig. 14.
"In nature, economy is directly linked with survival."'*5 Thus, variations of the Swiss chalet are found as the climate changes subtley. Some show adaptation of form; roof lines are more or less steeply pitched, reflecting type or amount of precipitation, and building form is lower and longer where winds are prevalent. In the buildings near Valais, the form is narrow and tall to fit the topography. Adaptations in materials are also found depending on the nature of the district. Most buildings were made of wood, although stone foundations were common. However, in Ticino, the entire structure is made of rock, including the roof.6
Building structure varies depending upon use as well as climate, however, buildings within a climatic region bear similar resemblance to one another though their function may differ. Some examples of barns, stables, and storage buildings are shown in fig. 15.1*7
Similarity in building style shown between (a) cart shed, (b) field barn and (c) hay barn.
Settlement pattern in a vernacular district usually follows the topography. During the 16th and 17th centuries in Switzerland, several influences on community structure were of importance. The gradual change from use of wood to stone as a nonflammable material and a ban on building in fields used for crops and livestock, caused buildings to cluster together among streams. A regulation issued at this time provided that all gutters must run parallel to the street, which ran parallel to the stream, creating a characteristic topography. See fig. 16.1,8
Settlement patterns did not reflect a hierarchy of
social standing or function. A section of a street was
composed of a variety of functions arranged linearly
repeating in a pattern for length of the village. See fig.
17.1,9 This intermixing or lack of hierarchy was found in the
use of building style as well.
"the houses of substantial citizens and the cottage industry houses stand in the villages. Whether the houses belong to substantial citizens or to farmers, they share the same style."50
This is not to say that a hierarchy did not exist,
it did, but it was not reflected in the settlement parttern
or building style. It was reflected in the size of the
structure and the quality of the materials used. It also
dictated the use of detailing the hierarchdy applied to
social standing as well as building function. Wealthier or
more skilled citizens had homes which were more elaborate,
and in a single farmstead, the house was more elaborate than
Key to signs:
Living Farming ES3 Active ca Passive EH3 Industry and crafts nmn Services t=J Storage, empty space v Garages
Settlement pattern reflecting topograpy.
Settlement parttern shown in elevation.
It is still of value to analyze historic structures in this region for the contribution they have made in the development of a truly vernacular form.
Log cabins were the first permanent residential structures built by miners, who settled in this area. Floor plans were simple rectangles or squares. Pitched roofs were constructed using canvas, tree limbs, shingles or earth over a timber frame. "Typical early cabins were one room about fourteen feet square, with a dirt floor, one window, and a fireplace," which was originally constructed of mud and logs and later replaced with stone or brick.51 As saw mills arrived, plands replaced logs and balloon framing made possible the use of board-and-batten siding. "Board-and-batten, shingle, or metal covering over the pitched, and occasional hip, roof was common."52
In commerical architecture, log cabins were first covered with wooden siding and later replaced by "false fronts." Th false fronts created the appearance of substance, "a single story structure looked like a two-story building," and there was additional space for advertising.53 Indented entrances were located centrally to the narrow space and large display windows flanked either side of the door. False fronts created unity on either side of the main street without sacrificing individuality or economic considerations. The effect was a pattern of doors
and windows that created a sense of place. Definition was provided by the cornices and the large display windows. It provided and excellent marketing technique for the merchants.
Later, commercial buildings were errected without false fronts as the economy improved, but they continued to utilize the same style. They often had lving quarters in the second story and comprised "building blocks." (One wonders if the saying "no overhead" came from the lack of an expensive 2nd story used for a residence. False fronts had no overhead and thus, were cheaper). The three story hotels found in many historic communities also had a style similar to the false fronted commercial district. This similarity between building in a region connotes the development of a vernacular form. Thee were also differences in the quality of materials, size structure and leval of detail present. Three story hotels had porches and balconies in addition to their difference in height. Other large hotels (often of later date) featured a corner element of note and several segments of false fronts together as a unit. Structure such as train stations, schools, town halls and livery utilized portions of this same style. Windows and doors created a pattern over the facade. Human scale was critical in all elements of the structure, and all reflected climate (to some degree) and a use of local materials.
Settlement pattern in Colorado mining communities exhibit three distinct phases; "1) the settlement phase, 2) the camp phase, and 3) the town phase."56 The first phase is characterized by small populations consisting of tents or cabins whose placement and construction emphasized haste, and mobility, and proximity to mining operations. The second phase occurred as claims became lucrative and the community became more permanent. Streets were mapped and governments established. Buildings remained primitive, constructed of wood despite access to stone due to economics and reduced construction time. The third phase.57 Architecture in these communities became more elaborate.
Wood was still used in residential construction, however, public buildings were made of stone and brick. Commercial buildings were located around one or two main streets usually central to the town. Residential areas occupied the area behind or above main street while undesirable activities "red light districts" were located at the edge of a community or near the creek, river, or railroad tracks. Streets and buildings followed a grid pattern where possible and topography or streams were followed only where the grid was impossible due to terrain.58
This settlement pattern constracts markedly with European settlement patterns. not only does the physical pattern differ between that of a grid imposed on the terrain contrasted with the European pattern which evolved as a part of the landscape, but the attitude toward natural elements especially water, differ sharply. This attitude is also different in opposedby traditional vernacular builders. "In traditional architecture, building and nature on the one hand and construction and pattern of existence on the other can still be seen as a single entity."59 These builders strove "not to impose upon the land and the environment, but rather to contribute something to it."60
The river is esteemed in European farming communities and in some cases land values are determined by proximity to the channel. the river marked the division of classes and uses in mining communuties. Land values decrease with proximity to the channel. In the mining communities social class and function were sufficient distinction to physicially separate a community.
Communities did not separate physically but rather repeated functions as in a pattern for the length of a Swiss village. Perhaps a quote by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1878, best illustrates these differences:
In six months a tract of dense, spruce forest had
been converted into a bustling village. To be
sure, the upturned roots and the freshly hacked stumps of many of the spruce trees are still in the streets the houses are all log cabins, or else plain unpainted board shanties . . . The
Leadville places of business are another thing; there is one compact, straight street, running east and west, in the center of this medley of sage brush, spruce stumps, cabins and shanties . . . The
middle of the street was always filled with groups of men talking. Wagons were driven up and down as fast as if the street were clear. It looked all the time as if there had been a fire, and the people were just dispersing, or as if town meeting were just over. Everybody was talking, nearly everybody gesticulating. All faces looked restless, eager, fierce. It was a Monaco gambling room emptied into a Colorado spruce clearing.61
The high turnover among residents in mining communities differs from the steady state reached by Swiss communities. The economic base in mining communities was unstable and the needed supplies such as food were provided by sources outside the region. There was no agricultural base, nor any possibility of developing one. Without the ability to live directly from the land, instability and dependence create a state of flux. Unlike the Swiss farmer whose fields provided feed, miners could not eat their gold. They could only trade their gold for the staples they needed. But the value of their product flucuated with the economy and it was not worth the same amount in trade from day to day or even over the course of a decade. In a culture dependent upon trade to obtain necessities; stability is tenuous. It is obvious why the pioneers in
these communities could not develop a truly vernacular form. Their economic viability was dependent upon the gold they mined. When it crashed in the market, they moved to other placed seeking other opportunities, leaving behind ghost towns.
Such is the case of communities whose fate is determined by the economics of the skiing industry. Skiing, and its earlier counterpart mining, bear many similarities, both are based on external sources of revenue to trade in exchange for basic supplies, and therefore at the mercy of the marketplace. Skiing is subjected to constant flux in income, and like mining communities there is a high turnover among residents and businesses. Year-round base populations in these communities are so low, they are not able to support more than the most basic community services. The entire population of Summit County was clause to 8,000 in 1980.62 Compared with a Swiss district twice its size and with thirty-one times the population, the difference is striking.
Furthermore, skiing as an industry is seasonal, and a luxury item, further depleting it sability to sustain a stable community. Tourism is not a stable alternative either, as it is controlled by fuel prices and the general ecomonic situation. It is not unexpected that there is more stability in resort communities with either snow making
capabilities, or highly developed summer program recreational facilities. In communities with both there is an appreciable difference. Convention facilities have strengthened the hold in these cases, although breadth may not be enough in the long term. Vernacular architecture and community form can only be developed as an expression of an integrated network of systems. The network includes the natural system, the cultural system, and the economic system.
In conclusion, the basis for the conceptual model lies in the following principles derived from natural and vernacular forms.
1. ) The pattern of the community must follow the
characteristic topography of the site, utilizing a simple consistent approach.
2. ) This pattern must relate to all parts of the
community, including the built form.
3. ) The forms within the community must relate to
the climate and the function of the inhabitants. This in turn, must comply with the preceeding principles. Scale and proportion must meet human dimensions.
4. ) Growth and resource economization must be
determinants in the design of the form. Maintenance is a part of resource allocation.
5. ) Materials utilized in the construction of
built environment must be consistent with the site, form, and community pattern. They must also contribute to the general economy.
6. ) Scale and proportion must meet human dimen-
sions and relate to the ecological context. Building heights must follow the heights of plant material.
7.) Details and construction techniques must be consistent with the philosophy given in the preceeding principles. The whole is measured by its parts.
This format appears to be formidable, but it is simple when using the existing natural forms as guidelines. The site determines a great deal, especially when combined with the required program. The forms are then derived from the relationship of climate and existing local materials.
If the linkages between site and buildings are considered as 'rooms' and treated as such, growth will be incorporated.
By using the site and the local materials efficiently resources will be conserved. The build environment will also blend with the natural environment physically and aesthetically. Finally, if the scale and proportions relate to human dimensions, there will be a fit between the manmade and the natural.
Masterplanning may be used as the vehicle to implement these principles developed in the model. Alone, it is
=. > *
not refined enough to provide a timeless quality. But with the principle derived from natural and vernacular forms, masterplanning is more complete.
Thus, in developing any new community or revitalizing an existing community, we should look at all that is available to us as designers. Not just masterplanning,
but natural pattersn and their counterparts, the vernacular. Only through this can we develop a consistent spatial identity which is composed of site and form and materials, that reflect a harmony between ecological context and program.
"A man, an animal, an almond, all find maximum repose in a shell." The shells of each are very different and depend upon the occupant for definition. the context for that development has been investigated and the principles of its construction defined. And it is certain that no two are exactly alike. But the subtle poetry created by the form in its unique space determines the evolution of the language.
1. R.W. Brunskill, Vernacular Architecture (London,
England: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1971, 1978), p.26.
2. Ian McHarg, Design vith Nature (New York: Double-day & Co. Inc. 1969), p.169.
3. Moshe Safdie, Form and Purpose (Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin Co.), p.136.
4. Ibid, p.118.
5. Bernard Rudolfsky, Architecture Without Architects (Garden City: Doubleday).
6. Safdie, p.136.
7. Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building (New York: Oxford University Preso. 1979),
8. Grillo, p.18.
9. Ibid, p.19.
10. Werner Blaser, Architecture 70/80 in Switzerland
(Switzerland: Birkhauser AG, 1981), p.110.
11. Robert Goodland, Guildings and the Environment (millbrook, New York: 1976), p.193.
12. Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian, p.31.
14. Brunskill, Vernacular Architecture, p.94.
15. Tony Wienn and Elizabeth Mulloy, America's For-
gotten Architecture (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976), p.64.
16. Brunskill, p.34.
17. Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian, p.78.
18. Brunskill, Vernacular Architecture, p.43.
20. 21. 22 .
Paul Jacques Grillo, Form, Function & Design (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1960), p.80.
Brunskill, Vernacular Architecture, p.72.
Woodall, Taken By The Wind, "With Materials At Hand."
Kevin Lynch, Site Planning (Cambridge, Mass,: The M.I.T. Press, 1971), p.45.
Quoted in Ruth A. Nelson, Plants (Colorado: Rocky Mountain Nature Assoc., Inc., 1976), p.17.
Norman French, Environment and Colorado (Fort Collings, Colo.: CSU Press), p.ll.
Ibid. , , ,
Quoted Nelson, Plants, p.20.
Mary Ellen Gilliland, Summit (Silverthorne, Colorado: Alpenrose Press, 1980), p.26.
Martin Evans, Housing, Climate and Comfort (London England: The Architectural Press, 1980), p.l.
41. William Benton, New Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 1
(Chicago, 111.: 1973-1974), p.628.
42. Ibid, p.629.
44. Goodland, Buildings and the Environment, p.187.
45. Moshe Safdie, Form and Purpose (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Miffin Co., 1982), p.14.
46. Blaser, Architecture 70/80, p.17.
47. Brunskill, Vernacular Architecture, p.159, 161.
48. Blaser, Architecture 70/80, p.10.
49. Ibid, p.19.
50. Ibid, P.31.
51 Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian, p.28.
52. Ibid, p.32.
53. Ibid, p.61.
55. Ibid, p.69.
56. Ibid, p.10.
59. Blaser, Architecture 70/80, p.8.
60. Goodland, Buildings and the Environment, p.142.
61. Quoted in Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian, p.15.
Quoted in Bernard Rudofsky, The Prodigious Builders (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), p.104.
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