- Editors’ Introduction
Welcome to Buildings & Landscapes, the journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. As editors of this inaugural edition under the new name and now working with the University of Minnesota Press, we are excited to offer another window into the architecture that shapes the human experience. While we might like to claim sole credit for this edition, we must first thank our many excellent authors whose work makes this all worthwhile, but maybe more importantly, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Pam Simpson and Jan Jennings, who edited the first three editions of the journal as published so generously by Washington and Lee University, and who shepherded many of these essays through the editorial process. Pam and Jan left in our hands the beginnings of a great journal.
In many ways, the new name of the journal, Buildings & Landscapes, represents what we see as a shift in vernacular architecture studies from the margins of scholarship about the built environment to its center. Many scholars in the field have recognized that the built environment most people experience every day is the vernacular. Yet, to a large extent, many scholars who are outside the field still see the scholarship on vernacular architecture as only relating to curiosities that have little relevance to the traditional concerns of historians or to practice in the contemporary world. The term vernacular architecture itself implies that scholarship on the subject is a subset of something larger. Our view is just the reverse. Our goal is to promote the study of the everyday built environment through the close examination of real buildings and landscapes to examine the ways such places shape the human experience. What this journal aims to explore is central and inclusive, and it may be that some "traditional" scholarship is in fact a subset of our concerns.
Long-standing readers of VAF-associated scholarship will find in this journal much that is familiar. First is a commitment to fieldwork in its many forms. Our community has long held a conviction that examining real buildings in real landscapes is an essential source of evidence in scholarly writing on architecture. There is also a commitment to investigate the ordinary and the margins and to enlist creative sources and methods of interpretation to tell stories left untold in more traditional histories.
Attentive readers will also notice the introduction of some things new. Ed Chappell's piece on "Vernacular Architecture and Public History" is the first in an occasional series of position pieces entitled Viewpoint geared toward provoking conversation about the preservation, interpretation, and representation of vernacular architecture. The series is intended to keep us thinking about why we do what we do.
This journal seeks to represent an ethos of diversity and inclusiveness, and several more inclusive areas of investigation represent directions that expand on those that already have appeared in the journal and the book series that preceded it. One such area includes research topics that go beyond the journal's (and the VAF's) historical focus on North America. Like boundaries of scholarship, boundaries of geography are often artificial. While we recognize that most contributors to Buildings & Landscapes are doing work based in North America—and that the VAF and its journal will continue to maintain a North American focus—we also see a growth of scholarship in and about other places, and particularly [End Page iv] about cultural interactions between other places and North America. Over the years of the journal and the book series before it, there have been a number of articles focusing on these interactions. As the world becomes smaller, as "hybridity" becomes ordinary, and as North America itself becomes even more culturally diverse, it seems important to deliberately embrace the crossing of old scholarly and geographic borders. In many ways the value of international research is demonstrated well by Ed Chappell's opening essay, where he considers the blurred boundary between consuming "authentic" vernaculars as tourists and as scholars. After positioning our practices (as preservationists and public historians) in an international context, Chappell argues that we must push past fetishizing the "authentic" and foreground our responsibility to interpretation and public...