About the VAF

During the past few decades, interest in ordinary architecture has grown rapidly and in diverse directions. Scholars and field professionals apply the term "vernacular architecture" to a range of structures including traditional domestic and agricultural buildings, industrial and commercial structures, twentieth-century suburban houses, settlement patterns and cultural landscapes. The Vernacular Architecture Forum was formed in 1980 to encourage the study and preservation of these informative and valuable material resources.

In both membership and methods, VAF embraces the value of multidisciplinary interaction.  Historians, designers, archaeologists, folklorists, architectural historians, geographers, museum curators and historic preservationists contribute substantially to the organization.  Just as wide ranging are the interests and research subjects of our members. 

If you are interested in learning more about vernacular architecture and in building associations with like-minded students, scholars, and professionals from all parts of the continent and the world, then you should join the Vernacular Architecture Forum today.

You can learn more about the VAF as an organization by exploring these pages. We encourage the formation of regional chapters. VAF members have the opportunity to form regional chapters, and to join our e-mail discussion list.  Members also benefit by receiving our well-regarded journal, Buildings & Landscapes, the VAN a quarterly e-newsletter, and discounted conference registration.


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  • 07 Sep 2016 9:43 PM | Amber Wiley


    Does your work contribute to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes?  Have you published a scholarly article on the subject in the last two years? You may be eligible for the Bishir Prize.

    The Bishir Prize, named for longtime member and influential scholar Catherine W. Bishir, is awarded annually to the scholarly article from a juried North American publication that has made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes. They should be based on primary research, break new ground in interpretation or methodology, and contribute to the intellectual vitality of these fields. Entries may come from any discipline concerned with vernacular architecture studies.

    Please note that essays published as chapters in a book are also eligible if the volume is peer-reviewed, published within the time parameters specified, and the research presented in the essay is new. Anthologized collections are not eligible.

    The deadline for nominations for the 2017 Bishir Prize is December 20, 2016.

    To nominate an article please submit the following:

    • MS Word document providing contact information, publication data (name of book publishing company or title of journal, and date of publication), and a brief statement contextualizing the author(s) and article.
    • PDF copy of the article.

    Nomination materials should be submitted to Arijit Sen at bishirprize@vafweb.org

    For more information: http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/Bishir-prize

  • 01 Jul 2016 9:41 AM | Amber Wiley

    Got VAFers? Start a Chapter! Receive funds!

    VAF New England members touring Portland Company, June 2016. Photo: Amber N. Wiley.

    Because of the long-term success of the New England Chapter of the Vernacular Architecture Forum in holding conferences, running local tours, and serving the needs of the regional VAF membership, the VAF board seeks to assist individuals and groups in establishing additional chapters. Seed money is available to nascent organizations composed of VAF members that will promote the forum’s educational mission and institutional goals.

    Chapters should be designed to serve the needs of their constituency, so programming and structure will vary.

    To discuss the process of starting a chapter and applying for start-up funds, please contact Will Moore at moorewd@bu.edu.Information about the VAF’s chapter program is also available at: http://vernaculararchitectureforum.org/Chapters

  • 24 Jun 2016 8:39 AM | Amber Wiley

    The nominating committee of the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) is seeking nominations for individuals to serve as members of the organization’s Board of Directors. Board members serve three-year terms. Individuals nominated this year, and subsequently elected, will begin service in June 2017.

    The VAF is administered by a volunteer board composed of dedicated professionals, students, and scholars from diverse disciplines who live and work in all parts of the United States and Canada. Nominations are sought for energetic, insightful, and responsible individuals at all stages of their careers. The Board meets twice a year; once immediately preceding our Annual Conference in the Spring and again in the Fall. Board members are expected to attend these day-long meetings and participate in committee work throughout the year.

    The committee also seeks nominations for the position of First Vice President to start in June 2017. The First Vice President assists the President, chairs the forum’s Nominating Committee, works with Chapters, and oversees the day of papers at the annual conference. Candidates for the position of First Vice President should be familiar with the organization’s disparate programs and possess significant leadership skills.

    Nominees must be members of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Please include a short letter (not exceeding one page) indicating the position for which the person is being nominated and describing their qualifications as well as a short vita/resume (not exceeding two pages). Self-nominations are actively encouraged.

    Nominations should be sent to William D. Moore at moorewd@bu.edu, preferably before October 1, 2016. 

  • 13 May 2016 12:58 PM | Amber Wiley

    Seeking submissions for VAF sponsored panel to be held at Society of Architectural Historians annual meeting, Glasgow, Scotland, June 7-11, 2017. DEADLINE:  June 6, 2016

    The Global and the Local in Vernacular Architecture Studies

    This Vernacular Architecture Forum-sponsored session invites architectural historians to explore the practical and ethical dimensions of studying vernacular architecture in a global context. How does a broader geographical field challenge and test professional practices and assumptions? Since the 1980s, scholars of the vernacular have developed sophisticated methods and theories that govern their work. From an early emphasis on agricultural landscapes, local culture, and fieldwork, to today’s digital recording and interpretation of real and virtual places, students of vernacular architecture have emphasized method and practice, especially the practice of field documentation. 

    “Vernacular” has long been associated with a world history of architecture. Articles in Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review and in the VAF’s Buildings & Landscapes increasingly display the widening extent of vernacular architecture studies across the globe. The Glasgow meeting presents an excellent opportunity to gather resources and think about the future of vernacular architecture studies. 

    We invite scholars of vernacular buildings and landscapes from around the world to submit proposals that address questions such as: What are the ethics of field documentation? How should scholars of the built environment engage with communities where there is a power differential? Should we encourage Institutional Review Board (IRB) oversight? Are national borders relevant? How do we ensure that our research is systematic and comparative? How can we find evidence that challenges pre-determined claims? What do vernacular methods teach scholars of world architecture in general? We welcome comparative approaches to vernacular architecture across time and place, and encourage proposals from members of other vernacular architecture-based professional associations around the world. In addition to this panel, a VAF-sponsored conference tour will explore local Scottish vernacular architecture.

    Session Chairs: Louis Nelson, University of Virginia, and Gretchen Townsend Buggeln, Valparaiso University

    Using guidelines below, please submit abstract online through the SAH website: https://sah.conference-services.net/authorlogin.asp?conferenceID=5058&language=en-uk

    Submission Guidelines:

    1  Abstracts must be under 300 words.

    2  The title cannot exceed 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

    3  Abstracts and titles must follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

    4  Only one abstract per conference by author or co-author may be submitted.

    A maximum of two (2) authors per abstract will be accepted

  • 13 Apr 2016 3:40 PM | Amber Wiley

    Message from VAF President Gretchen Buggeln:

    As many VAF members know, on March 23, 2016, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed into law legislation known as House Bill 2 (HB2).  The leadership and members of the Vernacular Architecture Forum are troubled by this discriminatory bill. This law overrides local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances and bans transgender people from using certain restrooms.

    HB2 is highly controversial within the state of North Carolina and many citizens are fighting the law. The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit and the state attorney general is a vocal opponent. Moreover, the city council of Durham, the site of our June 2016 conference, unanimously condemned the legislation:http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/durham-county/article70554782.html.

    Please read this message from Durham City Council Member Steve Schewel:

    "The City of Durham and its people offer a warm welcome to the Vernacular Architecture Forum when you hold your conference here in June--and that welcome extends to everyone including especially members of the LGBTQ community. Our city council and our county commission have both unanimously passed resolutions condemning HB2 for its discriminatory intention and effect. Durham welcomes with open arms all people and recognizes their rights and liberties regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. While our state legislature passes laws that endorse discrimination, Durham stands tall for diversity and equality. We embrace difference in Durham, and we welcome all of you to our city."

    Best wishes,
    Steve Schewel

    Durham City Council

    Councilman Schewel recommends that those wanting to support the opposition to HB2, and the fight for its repeal, can contribute to Equality North Carolina at equalitync.org. They do great organizing work statewide.

    Claudia Brown, Marvin Brown, and their team have worked long and hard to prepare a marvelous conference for us. I urge you all to come to Durham and to spread the VAF’s message of concern and care for communities—their buildings, landscapes, but most especially their people—and our vision of equality, dignity, and justice for all.

    Gretchen T. Buggeln

  • 21 Mar 2016 8:13 PM | Amber Wiley

    The VAF is pleased to announce a call for participation in a student roundtable to take place at the upcoming Durham Conference.  Please see below for details and to get involved.

    What do current students of vernacular architecture have in mind?

    Vernacular architecture scholars are trained in a range of departments and programs, including architecture, architectural history, art history, area studies, history, geography. Thus, the annual meeting of VAF is an important opportunity for such dispersed students to meet up, exchange ideas, and forge professional networks. More than 35 years after the forum's establishment, what can current students do for VAF as future scholars/professionals in this field? In turn, how can the VAF assist in shaping students' careers and their ability to contribute to the field? This student roundtable aims at collective brainstorming about student involvement in VAF. If you are a current student and interested in answering these questions (even if you cannot physically come), please complete a short survey (http://goo.gl/forms/o9Lz0VCVzV) and add your thoughts on Google Doc (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-mKc7vgFhDy_7CSOJlvr415RnbrnGOxfPyp4FOTYZeQ/edit?usp=sharing). For any questions, please contact Yuko Nakamura (PhD candidate in architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) at nakamur4@uwm.edu.

  • 02 Feb 2016 7:31 AM | Amber Wiley

    Call for Proposals: New "Field Notes" session at VAF, Durham.

    What new and interesting fieldwork finds should we know about? What sites have you studied that push our definition of fieldwork? How are scholars of vernacular buildings and landscapes experimenting with new methods to suit our increasing range of material?”

    The VAF is organizing a new session at the Durham, North Carolina conference (Saturday June 4, 2016), and we look forward to a lively shared conversation about research in the field. If interested in participating as a speaker, please submit a short paragraph (add pictures, if helpful) describing a proposed 5-8 minute talk. We especially encourage graduate students to share their dissertation projects. Participants in this session will be listed in the conference program.

    Please send a 1-2 page c.v. and a short (500 words max.) proposal by February 15, 2016 to Gretchen Buggeln gretchen.buggeln@valpo.edu. Contact Gretchen with any queries.

  • 04 Jan 2016 1:50 PM | Amber Wiley

    Call for Co-Editor of B&L

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum is seeking nominations for a new co-editor for its acclaimed academic journal Buildings & Landscapes: The Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. The new co-editor will be named roughly one year in advance of assuming the position to allow for a smooth transition.  The editor designee will be expected to follow the editorial process beginning in the summer of 2016 and begin a four-year term as co-editor in June of 2017.

    B&L’s two editors work closely with the publisher, the University of Minnesota Press.  The terms of the two co-editors are staggered so that every two years one editor rotates off.  New co-editors are appointed by the President of the Vernacular Architecture Forum with the approval of the VAF’s Board of Directors.  The co-editors hold a joint position on the Board of Directors of the Vernacular Architecture Forum.
    Buildings & Landscapes
    appears in print twice a year as an attractive, large-format journal.  Significant attention is paid to the physical appearance of the print journal, which features abundant black-and-white illustrations and high quality paper.  Digital on-line access is available through JSTOR, as is a digital supplement that allows enhancements including color illustrations, 3D models, film, and audio.  Working with the University of Minnesota Press, the co-editors pay close attention to editing and image quality.  Future opportunities include continuing to refine and expand the digital edition of B&L available through JSTOR, which may include experimenting with new media.

    B&L editors oversee all aspects of publication: soliciting scholarly contributions (through conferences, word of mouth, and other means); vetting submissions by working with peer reviewers; preparing manuscripts for publication by working closely with authors; coordinating copyediting and page proofs with the University of Minnesota Press; working closely with authors and the B&L image editor on image permissions; and arranging with the review editor for the timely submission and editing of reviews.   

    The ideal editor will have a strong record of previous publications; a history of involvement with the VAF; editorial experience; and a keen interest in collaborating with other scholars. Institutional support – from the candidate’s academic institution or professional organization – would be beneficial, including funding to support travel to conferences (to solicit contributions to the journal), funding for editorial assistants (such as graduate research assistants), and flex time during the academic year to facilitate editorial work.

    Nominations (including self nominations) should include a 1-2 page statement of interest that outlines the candidate’s background and preparedness for this position along with a current CV.  Please send nominations (as a single .pdf) to Anna Andrzejewski at avandrzejews@wisc.edu by June 1, 2016. Inquiries and questions are also welcome.

  • 12 Sep 2015 3:55 PM | Amber Wiley

    Tom Carter, former VAF president, current member, and professor emeritus at the University of Utah is featured in Continuum, The Magazine of the University of Utah. 

    See full article here: "The Stories Buildings Tell."

  • 05 Sep 2015 10:18 AM | Amber Wiley

    Screenshot of Member Forum.  Access it when you log in.

    Are you subscribed?  Have you checked the VAF Member Forum lately?

    The VAF Member Forum is the new home of what for a long time was the VAF email list serve. The VAF Forum allows members to share inquiries and information like the old email listserve but it also functions as an archive of all conversations. Feel free to add a new topic or respond to an existing one. You can subscribe to the Forum or to individual posts so that you receive email notification (daily, weekly, or immediately) whenever new content is posted.
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