During the successive confinements of the Covid 19 pandemic, supply chain ruptures brought building to a near standstill and revealed the extreme fragilities in the global market for industrial building products. This project, 2 Nomad Shelters, on the Vercors Plateau in the village of Villard de Lans seeks to demonstrate the inherent cultural, economic and environmental sustainability of locally sourced, simply transformed bio-sourced and geo-sourced natural building materials. Like Marc-Antoine Laugier’s 1755 "Essay on Architecture", this project is a kind of “primitive hut” which returns to the fundamentals as a way to demonstrate other possible futures.
The concept of "vernacular" in architecture is borrowed from linguist Noam Chomsky, who describes the term as a "shared language." The vernacular in architecture thus refers to the ubiquitous materials and forms that emerge from local culture, climate and natural resources. It is sometimes referred to as "architecture without architects," because these built forms are so easily integrated into their context that they seem obvious, timeless, universally beautiful, and inherently sustainable.
The Nomad Shelters are a contemporary vernacular, a forward-looking evolution in shared language for the middle altitude Alpine climate of the Vercors Plateau in south-east France. While unique architectural forms and building technologies emerge from responding intelligently and durably in the context of 2 different sites. The underpinning, the language, of the Nomad Shelters is common: use only what you can get under your feet or in front of you, and produce as little waste as possible.
To this end, foundations are white limestone from a quarry in the neighboring village of Meaudre and roofs are spruce timber harvested and sawn in the community by local craftsmen with generational expertise. One shelter is anchored to the earth on a matrix cut stone ballasts, the other thus collects the riprap and casts cyclopean retaining walls to sculpt windbreaks. One shelter creates scales of intimacy with massive timber blocks, the other thus recovers the planks cut from the log edges to build-up wood doweled (no-glue) cross-laminated timber panels.
Like their historic vernacular ancestors, the Nomad Shelters deploy local sourced simply transformed natural materials in ways that offer sustainable, context-specific forms and building technologies, counter examples to product driven icons which belong simultaneously to everywhere and nowhere.