The term vernacular is derived from the Latin vernaculus, meaning “domestic, native, indigenous”. In architecture, vernacular refers to that type of architecture which is indigenous to a specific time or place. It is most often applied to residential buildings.
Vernacular architecture is a component of a country’s culture. African vernacular architecture is also called traditional architecture or indigenous architecture. It’s architecture is constructed of materials native to a particular area. Africa is a large continent and the availability of local materials varies greatly, that means the architecture of different countries vary greatly as well.
There is a perception about African vernacular architecture, especially when compared to Western architecture. Western materials and techniques are considered to be permanent, correct, civilized, a symbol of wealth and desired. Vernacular materials and techniques on the other hand are viewed as makeshift, temporary, for the poor, part of the past and not desired. People build what they believe in and the reality is that Africans do not believe in vernacular architecture. Vernacular materials are perhaps the most sustainable materials available.
Mud is literally taken from the earth where the structure is built. The thermal properties of adobe construction have a proven record. Bamboo is sustainable with strength and rigidity as well and has a very fast growing cycle. African vernacular architecture has existed for centuries; it’s a system that has worked and still does. But it’s not understood and definitely has very little presence currently.