Tradition is very important for our culture, especially in architecture. Times have changed, as well as materials, tools and circumstances, and also the use: basic elements of architecture are security, comfort and culture – all with an important influence on the economy. Today, this is all together understood as sustainability.

Theory: architecture has risen from the simplest solutions in the past to the most complex compositions today. It started with natural materials, vegetal fibres and earth, followed by stone and wood, finally with combinations of several materials.

Natural base: turf, peat and earth

Turf is naturally alternating grass with earth, peat appears in swamp locations. The turf and peat are dug with special spades, which enable the same shape, the dimensions of the composing turf elements. Because of their moisture, the elements are composed crossways. This is practical and very attractive, decorative to the eye.

Raw clay in earthen constructions can be built using pisé, cob or adobe technology.
Raw clay can be used again after decay, fired adobe – as classical bricks – are not.

Natural base: stone

The simplest compositions of shelters are natural underground caves, later hewn in the rock and built with collected stones, raw or cut into more or less exact shapes.

The first compositions were built without any mortar, as drystone. Bigger spaces can also be built in this technique, with corbelling. Atreus Treasury in Greece is almost 15 metres high and was built in the second millennium BC.

Drystone constructions can be built without any binding material, or with stone wedges, clay and finally with mortar.


The simplest wooden composition is a palisade: vertical posts dug into the earth. All the crannogs in Ireland are made using this system. Wattle is more usable, a combination of vertical bearing branches, intertwined with thin branches. Such compositions are often filled with a clay covering.

Solid constructions are built by incorporating trimmed beams into a frame construction, later timber constructions, made entirely of logs. Wooden compositions can be covered by plaster, sometimes only with a thin lime covering. The wood can be seen only at the corners.


Several combinations of materials can be found, such as wooden constructions covered by earth; frame constructions filled by other materials; wooden constructions in stone columns.

In general, the most common compositions of several materials are stones or bricks with mortar between the elements, all the compositions often being covered by plaster, with the construction being hidden.

Progress should not always be imagined as something good: asbestos is the most impressive example – it was a perfect material for insertion in concrete, but later recognized as deadly for people.

The practice of traditional architecture can be seen from examples in several European countries involved in the project.

Architecture is a product of possibilities: more readily available materials take precedence. Stone is in use everywhere, in some places for the whole composition, in others only for the most exposed parts – the foundation and bearing constructions. Abundant timber stimulates rich compositions, such as stave churches in Scandinavia or Eastern Europe, clay on the Pannonian plain, gypsum in Spain, stone covered by white plaster around the Mediterranean.

All typical architecture is influenced by nature, time and people. The most economical architecture can be seen in countries with a lack of wood: a cruck construction (Oliver 1997) in England cannot be found in countries rich in timber – kozolec/hayrack in Slovenia is a massive construction with too much wood (Juvanec 2007). A characteristic of vernacular architecture is not only its similarities, but also its differences. 

All architecture is important, and there are no more or less important objects or materials. All architecture is a result of local materials, characteristics and builders, all in their time and place.

Last modified: Monday, 23 October 2023, 4:58 PM