Key Vernacular Architecture concepts shaping Modern Design

Vernacular architecture has been shaping modern designs for generations now, with many modern concepts such as sustainability and natural balance emerging from traditional practices. The use of local materials, coupled with a detailed understanding of the local region, enables architects to better plan modern structural concepts. These structures also fit in better with the local environment, both from an aesthetic and elemental viewpoint.

Designers can learn from vernacular concepts by understanding the role of the local environment and its impact on design and spatial development. The top architecture firms in Dubai, including Prasoon Design, review local conditions, regional history, and a myriad of traditional structures when creating highly refined and locally relevant spaces. The structures are functionally advanced while maintaining deep roots to generations of cultural legacy.

Traditional materials, construction practices, and vernacular philosophies are being adopted at-scale within modern architectural projects, especially when optimising for cost, longevity, and durability. Architects are increasingly focusing on key vernacular architectural concepts passed on from generation to generation, to uncover solutions to modern challenges in the design space. Let us review the most impactful concepts that are shaping modern design today.

Simplifying complex requirements

A key objective of vernacular design is to simplify requirement scope by using locally sustainable materials, innovative construction practices, and simple strategies. Designs, plans, and layouts in vernacular contexts have always been simple to execute and scale-up. The environmental and aesthetical challenges posed to our ancient cultures have inspired multiple solutions that are driven from necessity.

E.g., lightweight thatch roofs with broader eaves were introduced as a direct result of overheating within vernacular spaces. Additionally, using porous fabric rather than concrete or gravel, ensured a consistent supply of fresh air flowing through the space. Our ancestral planners thought of the most complex challenges and iterated to find the perfect solution for every problem.

Simplification is a core architectural tenet that many designers follow, especially when it comes to the most complex of project requirements. By adopting the best materials, construction practices, planning strategies, and layout approaches, designers are creating stunning feats of architectural prowess while leveraging simplicity as a key principle.

Sustainability in design

Sustainability, as a design concept, has been a core part of vernacular architecture since its inception. Through generations of iterations and refinement, designers of the past have ensured that materials are easily recyclable, and structures are oriented perfectly to leverage the best that nature has to offer. The planning, layout, and construction practices used in vernacular architecture are being used today to lower maintenance costs and reduce reliance on traditional energy sources.

Architects also understand the role of construction in the climate crisis, as cement and other standard materials contribute a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Architects are instead using sustainable design philosophies by adopting the best of vernacular architecture in their designs. In fact, much of what we can learn about conduction, convection, radiation, and stack effect, can be further refined by understanding their role in vernacular structures.

Additionally, the role of conservation in sustainable design can also be attributed to vernacular architecture which was focused on preserving water and other natural resources. It was also focused on enhancing the quality of living of residents within housing structures by ensuring adequate airflow and improvement in indoor quality. This is significantly impactful in high humidity zones, where cross-ventilation is a critical requirement for regulating the indoor environment.

Importance of co-existence

Harmony is a crucial objective that designers aim to achieve when it comes to designing modern structures. It is essential to introduce a sense of personalisation and belonging to a structure, especially when it is constructed in a specific region. Every building, home, commercial space, and industrial site has a story to tell when its origins have been carefully crafted by designers. Co-existence is a core concept that is being explored increasingly in modern architectural projects.

Traditional architectural practices focused on balancing various aspects of construction, such as natural elements, climate, geography, and landscape. Modern architects are also refining their focus to ensure that buildings have enough access to natural sunlight, the materials are sourced locally, and the practices are in harmony with the regional environment. Designers are planning around vegetation and natural reserves, to ensure that they are preserving the local heritage of the region.

Localised material procurement

Indigenous materials, such as bamboo, laterite, timber, stone, and thatch, are exceptionally sustainable and biodegradable while offering superior durability, cooling, heating, and malleability. They are highly economical to use and are abundantly available across a wide range of ecosystems. Using locally sourced materials is shaping modern architecture significantly, especially as designers focus on the interplay of material and form.

Locally abundant materials also drive costs down for construction projects, as they are available year-round, and labourers are skilled at using them. Architects that want to balance sustainability and economic viability can use locally sourced materials when developing new structures. This includes using materials with historical context, to drive the storytelling further.

E.g., the Qingxiao Residence located in Liangjiashan Village in China uses green tiles, which are a locally sourced material. The green tiles were recycled from demolished villages in the area, thereby paying homage to the ancestors of the region. Rammed earth, masonry blocks, bamboo and rubble were used to complete much of the design work, along with traditional construction techniques.


Vernacular architecture has been shaping modern architecture for decades now, with the introduction of novel construction strategies, planning resources, and philosophies. Planners are increasingly reviewing ways of being in synchronisation with natural elements while reducing emissions and migrating away from toxic materials. Vernacular architecture also inspires much of the aesthetical practices that architects follow even today, with designs inspired from local regions, ingenious tribal art, and natural elements. Vernacular architecture allows us to reconnect with our roots in a spatial manner, which is a unique experience that architects can provide through modern construction.

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