the Primitive Hut

From the humble beginning of the naturally made primitive hut to the 21st century mans hut in the form of Reyner Banham’s a House is not a Home. How have we altered the anatomy of the dwelling?

Marc-Antoine Laugier said in ‘Essai sur l’architecture’ that Architecture derived from 3 simple, essential and primitive parts; the Column, the Entablature and the Pediment.

Laugier also said that man wants nothing but shade form the sun and shelter from storms. This blissfully simply view on Architecture is all but suited  to the conditions of a place and the local materials available to the surrounding lands. These wonderfully natural elements exude nothing naive but everything wholesome and just.

This seemingly allegorical print shows an idyllic woman, believed to be Architecture and a young child, noted possibly as the naive Architect. The solid tree trunks rooted in the earth give us the image of structural integrity and solidarity whilst being completely natural. With the horizontal pieces alluding to the entablature and the beginnings of roof supports. Lastly, those diagonally placed branches covered in some kind of natural matter, leaves, moss and ground debris shelter the inhabitants from external conditions of weather.

Primitive Hut

{ Image; the Primitive Hut. Essai sur l’architecture. 1753. Marc- Antoine Laugier } [1]

Setting a strong precedent we can see others followed and tried to design their own Primitive Hut. From here, evolution of form which could so easily be influenced by the vernacular of the land and time is stretched and re-worked.

Jean-Jacques Lequeu, more known for more exotic and re-imagined ideas…some of which ended up with erotic tokens to them, proposed another seemingly humble design for a Primitive Hut. A distinct difference being the curved pediment and a completely covered envelope  but possibly not dissimilar to Laugier’s final vision?

Design for a Primitive Hut - Jean-Jacques Lequeu{ Image; design for a Primitive Hut. 1792. Jean-Jacques Lequeu. } [2]

The next example here by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, expresses his thoughts on where Architecture began. His idea originated when the problem of the need for shelter was met through the procedures of rational planning. We can set yet again a different expression of vernacular and structural form but in essence we still see the Primitive Hut. We see a larger scale and maybe the escalation of the Primitive Hut typology as some kind of central meeting space for tribes.

the First Building - Viollet-le-Duc

{ Image; the First Building/ Primitive Hut. 1875. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Histoire de l’habitation humaine. } [3]

This last entry is more of a conjecture fuelled provocation by me. Our 21st century needs, as sophisticated as they are, are nothing but primitive to later generations and so what is modern and futuristic to us, will no doubt be labelled and defined as primitive or old/ outdated. So what does a 21st Century Primitive Hut look like?

In the 1960’s Reyner Banham wrote this –

“When your house contains such a complex of piping, flues, ducts, wires, lights, inlets, outlets, ovens, sinks, refuse disposers, hi-fi reverberators, antennae, conduits, freezers, heaters – when it contains so many services that the hardware could stand up by itself without any assistance from the house, why have a house to hold it up?”  [4]

There are no obvious parallels to the Primitive Hut other than a design and means for shelter. To compare the two is somewhat difficult because we see no MEP, no antenna, no cables and no lights hanging from here, there and everywhere. What we do see, as I said is the basis for shelter and if nothing else a piece of Architecture.

A lot of what Banham was writing about back in the 60’s feels like is has come true and in some cases become out dated and old fashioned too. I don’t think I’d mind living in a house whose walls consisted of nothing but MEP with switched and cables, free from the physical boundaries of walls, although in this case the services would seemingly create a shell and in reality become the new wall/floor/ceiling.

The fine illustration was done by French Architect François Dallegret to accompany Banham’s text.

a House is not a Home

{ Image; Anatomy of a Dwelling. 1965. François Dellagret/ Reyner Banham. } [5]

I’ll end it there. I don’t want to write too much about Banham here. It’s not the right post for it. He’ll get his own series of posts in due course! Merely some food for thought.


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