The Vernacular Farmsteads project explores the origins, development, and evolution of the farmstead typology in the Great Lakes as a means to discover architectural principles and patterns which are relevant and necessary today. Vernacular architecture has historically evolved under the most stringent of conditions. Limited resources necessitated that architecture have a low embodied energy, while lack of dependable infrastructure required farmsteads to have their own food, water, and energy resources. These characteristics are relevant today, though for different reasons. With concerns over the environmental impacts of construction and a need for decentralized and renewable energy sources, how current architectural practices can be realigned with vernacular methods? In an era where good design is pitted against the contingencies of budgets, how a contemporary vernacular architecture can make resilient and beautiful architecture more readily attainable.
This thesis engages these issues through a three-part process of research, analysis, and design. Research is treated as an act of collection, in which precedents – both historical and contemporary – are organized to understand the underlying patterns at play in vernacular architecture and their evolution. Analysis involves an identification of key principles applicable in a variety of contexts. Finally, design is the process by which these principles are tested through their application in a 21st century urban context of Detroit.
Kevin Piotrowski is a Detroit area native. His research explores how local materials, construction knowledge, and climate can inform design and create an architecture that is part of its broader environment.