Considerable confusion exists in the discussion of traditional buildings and it seems wise at the outset to establish the limits of terms and definitions in order to avoid further confusion. The word traditional refers both to procedures and material objects that have become accepted as a norm in a society, and whose elements are passed on from generation to generation, usually orally, or more rarely by documents that have codified orally transmitted knowledge, instructions, and procedures. This is not to imply that traditional processes and objects do not change over time. They often do, but usually slowly enough that their provenance is clearly seen or easily established. Though change is a constant in any society, it is the rate at which a society is forced to absorb the new that determines whether it can retain its integrity (Carver 1981, 27).
In traditional societies, people have to make do with whatever is at hand. The form and arrangement of dwellings, for example, are constrained by the availability of local materials, the nature of the local climate and the socioeconomic facts of life. To a modern observer, the material world thus created can have enormous appeal because everything in it has a purpose, and because its aesthetic qualities emerge unobtrusively out of the serious business of living. (Tuan 1989, 28).
The concept of “traditional dwelling,” normally employed to describe a simple structure, often can be quite a complex conception. In warm environments where so much of daily life is lived in the open, the concept of a house as a structure is not as important as that of the entire compound, “the idea of a bit of land which is screened for privacy and which contains some enclosed internal space, and some outside space. This whole thing taken together is thought of as the home environment. Each part within is used as seems most appropriate in the circumstances” (Rodger 1974, 105). Such a view is common throughout many traditional societies in areas of warmer temperature, and is especially strong where individuals live in extended family groups, or even clans (Thompson 1983, 204). The concept is further clarified by Alison Shaw’s (1988, 54) observation that “in Pakistan ownership of land is more important than ownership of a house.” The cooler climate equivalent of this extended concept of the dwelling is the notion of the farmstead, with all its buildings and facilities, as the unit of residence, rather than the emphasis being placed on just the dwelling. These expanded concepts of the traditional dwelling will reappear throughout subsequent chapters.
“Tangible evidence of the past found in extant architecture enhances the present by providing a time perspective and by creating through contrast and harmony a feeling of location or situation.
Furthermore, a sense of continuity and permanence conveyed by surviving material culture provides psychological security” (Robinson 1981, xviii). Also, some secondary elements may change, but at the same time others do not, thus verifying the traditional nature of the
object or procedure. “By its relative immutability the dwelling offers a sustaining sense of security against the uncertainties of a milieu in which change is inevitable, but directions are imperfectly
perceived and mechanisms are poorly understood” (Steward1965, 28).
Traditional Buildings: Allen G. Nobel