Architecture students took a field trip to the LSU Rural Life Museum in fall 2019, to study historic local structures. The trip, organized by the Students for Historic Preservation (SHiP), was an opportunity to increase awareness of Louisiana’s cultural history in relationship to design.
With nearly 100 students, multiple museum docents led groups of 10-15 to investigate the historical grounds, assistant professor of architecture Kris Palagi said. “The LSU Rural Life Museum is an amazing resourse for our incoming architecture students to be introduced the unique history, culture, and architecture of Louisiana.”
“Vernacular design, ironic as it may seem, can sometimes be forgotten within the context of architecture school. With the absolute wealth of possibilities that modern materials and techniques provide, it’s easy to see why students may not always look to old farm homes and wooden barns for inspiration,” said BArch 2022 candidate Bryce Humbrecht, SHiP president.
“We are often pushed to create new, innovative, and unfamiliar things,” Humbrecht said. “This is certainly not a bad thing, however it does lead to a sort of exodus from architectural traditions. While we should be encouraged to move beyond the limitations of traditional designs, we at SHiPs believe there is, nonetheless a wealth of insight to be found in vernacular architecture.”
“Local design is the clearest reflection of a community’s tradition, culture, experience, and customs. Recognizing this fact is crucial to maintaining the locality of a place and its culture.”
First year architecture students were working on their clone projects at the time; every year, the first project freshman undertake is constructing a life-sized cardboard “clone” of themselves.
“Through this project they are introduced to many valuable core concepts of architecture,” he said. “Things like structure, logic of assembly, craft, and reaction to site. All these things are visible and evident in traditional rural architecture. Aside from a few architectural elements which serve primarily aesthetic purposes, traditional design is often utilitarian.”
Students for Historic Preservation believes that preservation extends beyond saving one building and extends to the importance of historic and cultural landscapes as living histories. As preservationists across many disciplines, SHiP acknowledges that preserving the historic and cultural landscape requires knowledge and an awareness of the relationship between people and their histories. SHiP members take group trips to historic locations such as Poverty Point, Vicksburg National Military Park, Kisatchie National Forest, the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, old plantations, and more.
“Exposure to the design history of southern culture is incredibly useful when creating structures that respect the locality and further said culture. This, I hope, is something that will stick with them far beyond this first project,” Humbrecht said.