Vernacular Design

Vernacular Design

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We have tentatively framed our research in understanding design thinking that underlay vernacular designs into three interconnected approaches: Regimes of Form and Function, Ornamentation is not superfluous and Ritual Initiations of Objects

Regimes of Form and Function

The relationship between form and function in an object vexes all design. Vernacular designs of India tend to workout the relationship between the two using different strategies. Form is not wholly subsumed to the function because function acquires significance in a complex web of relations transcending pure materiality and the utility. The context of need, materials from which the object is fashioned, tools and belief system of the community and the users status influence the forms. While contextualized function defines the form of object, the function and the context in which the function is embedded itself adapting to the form of the material are not uncommon in the vernacular design.

Ornamentation is not Superfluous

In the vernacular design utilitarian articles often contain ornamentation that requires high degree of sophisticated artistry. But it is also normal to find items that are completely lacking in ornament and yet the form and material fuse together to imbibe the object with singular individuality. Ornamentation in vernacular design does not necessarily elevate an object to higher status, instead context of its use and its role in the daily life imbibe it with value. Sacred and religious objects venerated by the community could be completely devoid of any ornamentation and the objects of ordinary use heavily decorated. The patterns and designs tend to have symbolic value, conferring an individual or a community identity and often a narrative of communal event or memory, in which ornamentation promotes the object to the status of a historical artifact. Conversely, methods of making and tools employed leave their subtle marks on the object revealing the process of their coming into being and at the same time act as a decorative motive.

Ritual Initiation of Objects

Rituals are neither merely religious nor superstitious. They are often forms of initiating objects into a complex web of relations and binding them to users and uses. Ritual accords to the object its ontological status as being and locates it in the network of associations. Moreover, through ritual the maker and user are bound to the object and elevate it from the simply useful and utilitarian to venerated. Therefore ritual acquires importance in the design of vernacular objects. The ritual form of initiation is not just reserved for an object of high value, but even the clay pots and pans used every day at home receive the same status. In widely held practice in South Central India, clay pots used for storage and cooking are periodically destroyed ceremonially and new ones brought into home through a ritual practice.