The ethno-architecture concept started to gain popularity just a little more than one decade ago and with time, it has expanded the idea that architecture should go back to its roots. Books, studies, and essays have emerged around the knowledge offered by this philosophy, like sustainability in construction, design focused on the cultural context, and the preservation of traditions through spaces.
Architecture has been a reflection of culture throughout history, a cultural manifestation in itself, and a window to people’s thoughts. Based on this, ethno-architecture has focused on the study of the discipline in its cultural context, on learning about populations and bringing some of this knowledge to contemporary design; in addition to offering people an opportunity to raise awareness on future challenges and the responsibility to face them, more than the simple task of keeping record. Some elements that have been taken to practice are the principles of natural architecture, ancient construction techniques, and the use of natural, local, and traditional materials.
Another featured element within the study of antique architecture, which has not been limited to the field of research, is the philosophical one: the reason of the buildings that surround us beyond their practical purpose. The idea that the purpose of buildings goes beyond putting a roof above people’s heads, by creating a space for protection, for culture preservation, for identity creation, and the transmission of knowledge.
According to a study carried out by the architecture program in the University of California, Berkeley, most houses in the world have been built by people with no architectural knowledge, instead of architects. This kind of construction has not been acknowledged as part of the world’s architectural contribution for a long time; however, Dr. Gabriel Arboleda considers that we should turn our eyes towards this kind of creation again, as an alternative for solving the environmental and ecological challenges faced by today’s industry. In an interview with Architect magazine, Arboleda explains the term ethno-architecture as the contraction of the terms ethnography and architecture, “meaning an ethnographic approach to architecture, an approach that considers the other’s point of view beyond its own”. With this in mind, the Berkeley Doctorate Degree graduate considers that indigenous communities are in constant evolution and they shall not be seen as something static, reason why we should learn from the way they adapt through their constructions.
History is in fact more than keeping record of facts; it is the door that opens to past knowledge so it can be applied to the present. Ethno-architecture covers the same function. Before a time with increasing environmental issues, going back to the roots of design and construction to learn from them, taking the origin, type of materials, and the social use of spaces into consideration, for example, turns into a desirable angle for the future of construction and architectural design.