Anthropology of Architecture


Anthropology of Architecture

Staff working on the theme of anthropology of architecture set out to provide an understanding of the social and cultural importance of architecture, as well as of the characteristics of an anthropological approach to its study. Employing a holistic and processual approach to architecture, they consider the dynamic interrelationship of material, social and symbolic aspects of all forms of buildings and settlements, regardless of their size, function, form and geographical, environmental or cultural context. They aim to indicate the value of an anthropological approach to the interdisciplinary discourse on the contemporary production and consumption of all forms of architecture, in view of the current challenges posed by globalisation, modernisation and environmental change.

Current and recently completed projects and publications include:

Consuming Architecture

(Marcel Vellinga, Routledge, 2014)

Consuming Architecture examines the variety of ways in which buildings are consumed after they have been produced, focusing in particular on processes of occupation, appropriation and interpretation. It shows how the consumption of architecture is a dynamic and creative act that involves the creation and negotiation of meanings and values by different stakeholders and that can be expressed in different voices. In so doing, it challenges ideas of what constitutes architecture, architectural discourse and architectural education, how we understand and think about it, and who can claim ownership of it.

The Conceptualisation and Representation of Vernacular Architecture

(Marcel Vellinga and Angela Hatherell)

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Using surveys and interviews in combination with a comprehensive literature review, this project focuses on the development and meaning of the concept of vernacular architecture by investigating the contemporary status of vernacular architecture amongst students, academics and professionals, especially in the UK. The project aims to increase our knowledge and understanding of the persistent marginality, predicament and paradoxical status of vernacular architecture within the field of architectural education and practice.

Bourdieu for Architects

(Helena Webster, Routledge 2010)

Pierre Bourdieu is arguably one of the twentieth century's greatest socio-philosophical thinkers and his writings have much to offer anyone interested in the ways that people value, consume and produce architecture. Bourdieu spent much of his life attempting to understand cultural consumption and production through detailed empirical research that included studies of dwellings, art, museums, photography and aesthetics. This book introduces the architectural reader to Bourdieu’s key writings on culture and outlines the ways in which they offer powerful practical tools and novel conceptual frameworks for understanding architectural value, taste, and practice.

Atlas of Vernacular Architecture of the World

(Marcel Vellinga, Alexander Bridge and Paul Oliver: Routledge 2007)

The first atlas ever compiled on the subject, the Atlas of Vernacular Architecture of the World discloses the geographic variety and ingenuity of vernacular building traditions all over the world. An essential addition to the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, edited by Paul Oliver and published by Cambridge University Press in 1997, the AHRC funded project offers insight in the global geographic constellation of vernacular traditions and their complex and dynamic relationship to geological and climatic features, as well as to cultural, social and ethnic identities.

Built to Meet Needs: Cultural Issues in Vernacular Architecture

(Paul Oliver, Architectural Press 2006)

The study of vernacular architecture explores the characteristics of domestic buildings in particular regions or localities, and the many social and cultural factors that have contributed to their evolution. In this book Paul Oliver brings together a wealth of information that spans over two decades, and the whole globe. Some previously unpublished papers, as well as those only available in hard to find conference proceedings, are brought together in one volume to form a reference for students and professional architects, as well as all those involved with planning housing schemes in their home countries and overseas.



Dr Marcel Vellinga

Place, Culture & Identity Group

School of Architecture
Oxford Brookes University
Headington Campus
Gipsy Lane
Oxford, OX3 0BP

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 483200
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 483298