The characteristics of vernacular architecture

The characteristics of vernacular architecture

The Amalfi Coast UNESCO site has a large architectural heritage that refers to the typical characteristics of the ancient art of building.

It is a widespread heritage, which especially characterizes the transition areas between agricultural and wooded areas: farmhouses, animal shelters, buildings for the transformation of agricultural products, terraces.

These constructions show some common characteristics. First of all, they try to exploit the support on the rocky part or in any case on the more solid structure of the soil, an aspect that has several advantages: the rock behind reduces the working days and the raw materials to be used for construction and foundation works ; it is safer in the event of an earthquake.

Another constant is the construction material: the same stone extracted to regularize the construction tax plan. The roughly rough-hewn blocks are placed in place bound with a lime mortar and very thick pozzolan, very abundant in this area due to its proximity to the volcanic complex Monte Somma – Vesuvius. Finally, the entire masonry is covered with plaster obtained from shredded stone residues: a technology that gives the building the same color as the nearby rocky walls.

The typology of the farmhouses, which also included the part intended for the transformation of agricultural products, is absolutely standard: in the basement (the one obtained from the excavation in the rock) there was a cistern for collecting meteoric or spring water; on the ground floor there was the entrance that led to the kitchen (usually with the advanced body of the toilets) and to the rooms used as stables and cellars; upstairs the bedrooms (most often single); the roof is flat (the “flat roof”) covered in turn by a pergola that housed the vine. One articulation had its own explanation: the kitchen was the room that needed the use of water, as well as the cellars or the stable, and therefore it was closest to the cistern. Furthermore, all the rooms on the ground floor generated heat (in the kitchen the hearth was always lit, in the cellars fire was very often used, in the stables the animals themselves produced heat); the room/s on the upper floor benefited from this induced heating and in winter the bare pergola allowed the pavement to get the sun and therefore the rooms on the floor below could be heated.

The animal shelters, on the other hand, were usually obtained by regularizing the caves, through the construction of only the external wall, with the access door, and some wooden enclosures where to keep the animals when they could not be taken to pasture.

The structures intended exclusively for the transformation of agricultural products or for the shelter of work tools are rarely found isolated; they were generally obtained within the dry-stone terrace walls that supported a fairly large agricultural area. They are the so-called “revote”, vaulted roofed rooms that penetrate the terrace itself and which were built at the time of the construction of the macera. In rare cases, the imprint of the wattle used in its construction is visible on the vault.