Camera Work: The Built Environment-Vernacular Architecture

“Architecture is frozen music.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Ainsworth Barn, Columbia Gorge

I set that quote along side the concept of Vernacular Architecture because it ties in greatly with my own evolution in the arts. Last week, I left readers with the connection between music and my work, personal work. My commercial work is Architectural photography, and my preferences there lies in the more intimate architecture, expressed best in homes and similar dwellings. And much of that architecture is vernacular.


1:(of language) spoken as one’s mother tongue; not learned or imposed as a second language.

2:(of architecture) concerned with domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings.

Vernacular architecture can be designed or it can simply evolve as a function of building, driven by the needs of the times and climate. If it is designed, particularly by gifted architects, the best, (but not the ostentatious!) leave a touch of the monumental in certain details, in choice of materials, quality construction. I had the great, good fortune of having as a client, one of those gifted architects, no not just one, but several. They taught me to see architecture in a universal sense, to see it holistically. I found myself going out to photograph the streets of Portland, wandering around neighborhoods, photographing what caught my eye, which stood out without shouting but still said “pick me”. Portland has a lot of those kinds of buildings. It also has a lot of tawdry building, as might be expected, and some that defy classification! As time went on, I found this pursuit extending into my landscape work, seeing the most humble, utilitarian buildings scattered through the landscape, in small towns and villages speaking this language. In fact, it’s possible to see common themes tying the collections together; vernacular architecture in a boreal ecosystem look quite different than those of the desert. So I started including these “shacks” as they are commonly dismissed, in my studies of architectural form.

Architecture is Euclidean in form, standard three dimensions, height, width, length. The landscape is closer to fractal , having dimensions in between. The contrast is striking, so much so that plants are deliberately introduced into the layout to “break up” the imposition of Euclidean forms, repeated over and over. Seeing that together as an undivided whole is my goal when looking at landscape populated with buildings. Landscape populated with buildings is very different than cityscapes broken up with trees!

Yesterday, I decided to add a gallery to my collections on the website devoted to this subject, vernacular architecture. In doing so, it occurred to me that it would be a fine subject for my blog. It also opens the opportunity to write about my experiences and adventures in architecture.

I have a separate gallery of the work of the architect Pietro Belluschi, whose churches I photographed some years ago in connection with an exhibition of these churches in Portland. There are but three photos so far in that gallery. The vast majority of my photography from that time has yet to be scanned, which accounts for the small inclusion. You can see that he in particular, finds that connection between monumental and vernacular as a true master.


Photo ©2015 Lawrence Hudetz

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Lawrence Hudetz

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  1. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    The layout of this site is broken again when viewed in Opera. Is there any way to make the repairs to fix this recurring problem permanent so that we don’t have to do this dance every day???

  2. Chris Maukonen
    May 17, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Lover your B&W photography.

    Oh and you might want to edit the top quote and remove the ending double quote. Seems it might be mucking up display on mobile devices.

  3. May 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    This post or all posts?

  4. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Every time I’ve reported it, someone fixed it quickly. Now it looks good again. The entire site format becomes screwed up, like CSS files containing formatting instructions have been deleted. The top menu doesn’t display either. Apparently, those using Smart Phones (Android) are seeing the same or similar problems…

    This problem has been repeating daily. Then I report it and usually within minutes, it’s been fixed and continues displaying properly for the rest of the day. Then we repeat the cycle again the next day…

  5. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I saw the weirdest thing just now – four of the titles to the tabloid ads (“1 Odd Trick Stops Erectile Dysfunction”) – appeared on the Front Page, completely obscuring the title to this article.

    Running ABP on Android OS v. 4.1.

    The articles are readable as I write, but –

    1) Margins are still too wide,

    2) The leading between lines is still greater than the point size of the typeface (it’s supposed to be smaller, 60-70% of typeface point size, not 130%+), and

    3) The serif typeface is still too heavy with serifs to be easily readable on mobile; sans serif (like this Discus typeface I see here) works best.

  6. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I read elsewhere that you had volunteered to help, but … got no response?

    To whom / where did you volunteer?

  7. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Funny. I doubt that FDL has any control over those ads though. A lot of these sites seem to be displaying ads from the same 3rd Party source and often, whatever they include in the ad causes Opera to ask whether to Save or Open a file named Push. There have been many reported cases when viruses have been spread through web ads. Unfortunately, the ads aren’t likely to ever go away though…

  8. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    For the past two days, I’ve been getting Security warnings on article pages saying the security certificate does not match the site name.

    Certificate is valid but belongs to *.akami… – some ad company.

    Had the same problem at HuffPo some time back until they fixed it. Now ABP works on HP and I no longer get Security warnings there.

  9. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I really don’t know where you saw that. I’ve volunteered to help a lot of sites that were experiencing problems that seemed no one knew how to resolve. I’ve probably helped hundreds of sites with their technical issues over the years. I’ve mostly gotten away from that because it became overwhelming. I was getting way too many requests for help as my health was getting worse and I couldn’t say no to anyone. I finally had to stop before it killed me. I still get tech requests from time to time from admins that I’ve helped a lot in the past and I will occasionally help them if I can. I’m definitely not advertising that I’m available anymore…

  10. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    As for viruses, these type ads – like Discus – require Javascript aka Worm Heaven.

  11. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Must have misunderstood something.

    I ended up “volunteering” to write up beta-test reports the other night in a comment. Host, long-time FDLer, replied that many had volunteered to help in many capacities – and got no response.

    Weird site management. Could at least send out boiler-plate email to those contacting that way, thanking for offer, but not needed, etc. No response = we don’t give a damn (about you).

  12. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure that I never volunteered to help here. It seems clear that someone here knows what they’re doing since they quickly fix the problem each time soon after I report it. The vast majority of the admins I’ve helped over the years knew very little about the code running on their sites so they had no easy way to fix their problems. I tried teaching them as I helped them so that eventually they could do the repairs themselves. Many picked it up fast while many didn’t have the skills to do it. Not everyone can be a coder or troubleshooter…

  13. NightriderXP1
    May 17, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Yep, I’m getting that popup here too. There seems to be a lot of 3rd Party sites involved in displaying these pages on this site that the problem could be originating from just about anywhere. My hunch is that FDL has no control over that error either, other than removing the ads from the site, which isn’t likely going to happen…

  14. May 17, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    “Traditionally, leading should be 20 percent greater than the font size;
    however, individual styles may call for different distances.”

  15. karenjj2
    May 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    beautiful photograph, Lawrence; feel like i’m standing there. B&W really does justice to the scene.

    Enjoyed the other photos in the series at your site, but this one really suits me. i always read your articles; great to learn from a professional. Thanks!

  16. karenjj2
    May 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve pretty well figured out the problems on my windows 6.1 “smartphone” it’s definitely the “.ssl” (secure socket layer ?) that Disqus uses. I was using Opera 9 on my phone w/o problems past 5 years but did note that in past year that I was unable to access and eventually deduced that it was the “secure site” feature. Last week, when fdl switched to Disqus, i couldn’t access Disqus to sign up. No problem from computer with old firefox browser.

    Chris Maukonen’s link to Disqus browsers that work and only flavor of Opera to use is Opera Mobile (windows, android and iphone versions available) helped. I had already tried Opera10, but did note in “terms of service” that .ssl be blocked, so not surprised when it didn’t. did install Opera Mobile, but crashed when barely into website.

    Pretty sure it’s due to old 6.5 win sys on the phone as the glimpse i got on Mobile before crash was “data intense” i.e., lot of visuals similar to desktop;

    phone sys just can’t handle it — should’ve guessed by the 13mb cab when others less than 5mb — more like 2.5-3. Opera Mobile does work on my 3 year old android n2a card that operates nook. Lastly, Opera Mini for windows “kinda” works. bit “touchy” as keyboard covers comment box as you type and if try to touch screen to move textbox up, Disqus reloads — lost 2 lengthy posts that way. one is this report above using laptop just to share what i’ve figured out.

    I’ve got a new phone coming from eBay with 2 year old windows opsys: win 8, i think. pretty sure it will be able to handle Opera Mobile vs. 6 yr old sys. 1gb ram! LOL! ;o)

    9:35p edt

  17. TalkingWarrior
    May 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    My apologies. Misremembered from decades ago when local daily went to computers in mid-70s, and we had to code our own fonts, etc., instead of marking up paper for typesetters.

    Whatever proper leading should be, what I am seeing on my screen in FDL articles is much too much white space.

    Disqus’ (another system, I know) leading is fine, and their typeface is a pleasure – on my screen.

    Edit: Did not stay in journalism. Learned the power of money over what gets published early and moved on to “greener” pastures.

  18. May 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    My SO did much of that as well, mostly for advertizing. She would pick the style face and suggest kerning and letting, then go to a type setter well versed in ad types, who would set the type for her.

    Me, I let others do it! I can set type in Photoshop but I now draw the line there. OTOH, since I can load my copy in html, I wonder if I set it in Photoshop, control the parameters, will it translate correctly inserting it in html? The upgrade in WordPress seems to indicate this as a possibility.

    Chris? Any thoughts as well?

  19. joeaudio
    May 17, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous photograph; it has an almost 3D quality and I love the B&W.
    (And I love the quote “Architecture is frozen music.”)

  20. NightriderXP1
    May 18, 2015 at 12:19 am

    So far, I’ve opted to avoid buying a Smartphone. I don’t need to be that wired all the time. I had a friend who joined us at the park during our walks sometimes and she couldn’t put her phone down even while we were walking…

    I have no experience updating and troubleshooting Smartphones. It’s not surprising that using an older Opera version would cause problems. I’ve been using Opera since version 5 and I still have each major version installed. Going back through each of them, a lot of new site features/functionality don’t work well or at all in the older versions. A lot of this can be attributed to what I consider unnecessary hardcoding in the site code that only recognizes specific browsers and browser versions, thereby discriminating against unsupported older versions or less popular browsers…

    Hopefully when you get your new phone, you won’t have to jump through hoops anymore to get Opera working on your phone if you choose to continue using it…

    The recurring problem that I’ve been reporting daily is something that can only be corrected by the FDL site admin. There’s nothing that you can do to fix it on your phone if you’re seeing the same formatting problems I’m seeing…

  21. karenjj2
    May 18, 2015 at 8:06 am

    did a lengthy reply last nite that disappeared. will catch up when on ‘puter 8:02a may18

  22. May 18, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Karenjj2

  23. May 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks, joeaudio.

  24. karenjj2
    May 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    I enjoy using the “phone” for reading fdl, ian welsh, counterpunch and similar web pages as it’s easy to read backlit text, lightweight to hold (or prop up on table), and quicker to use than getting out laptop, iPad or nook & wireless card. also have unlimited data with phone (tho that may change with new one) and it plays U-tube videos which just grind away on the laptop via wireless. also like getting email notifications as well as being easy to forward links via email compared to laptop. the windows op sys is a familiar structure so it’s a mini puter with “hunt n peck” keyboard. I have my very first cell phone that I got in ’07 (prepaid Net10 150 rollover minutes @ $15 month) that I primarily use with friends and close contacts and carry in my pocket when I go out. the smart one has the “house number” on it that I freely give out & it takes messages as well as seeing number calling; i use it for appointments, calling congress, etc. rarely use 15 minutes a month on it.

    Updated field report on my current attempts to get to fdl comments with winphone/opera mini: at firedoglake, I see the post and #comments (i.e. 26 comments) in the heading. i click on #comments and fdl grinds away, reloads and heading comes back “leave a comment.”

    This morning, after above, went to which keeps me logged in and i land at inbox page. by scrolling comments and replies, i found i could get a comment up if i carefully minimized keybd and firmly tapped on “post as karenjj2” had to go to disqus home page? to find firedoglake “recent posts” and get into monday science comments that way: noted that i was at… <— can't read anymore on screen, but assume ref # to monday science. was successful on 2 of 4 tries at brief comments, but gave up at additional
    2 attempts. even did exit & restart of opera mini but wondering if cache needs manual clear.

    hummm, on laptop now, and address is "; and i'm using reply box to NightriderXP1

    loaded tab with Kevin's post including comments at bottom: ";

    and this mornings monday science including comments at bottom: ";

    just reloaded firedoglake, then scrolled and clicked monday science:

    –did not click on "68 comments" but they're there.

    and Kevin's post: clicked on "6 comments"

    No "padlock" on any of the fdl addresses above. only at this disqus inbox which is expected.

    sure puzzled as to why those addresses don't work on phone.

    enuf! 10:55p edt

  25. NightriderXP1
    May 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I don’t know how you do it. I have a 25″ monitor and because of my eyesight, I set the default page zoom to 150% to make the text easier to read. I can’t imagine that I would enjoy, let alone easily be able to read, from sites like this on a small smart phone screen. There just isn’t enough screen real estate to compare it to reading this site on a large monitor. I could understand resorting to a smart phone as a last resort but given the choice between a smart phone and a large monitor, the monitor wins hands down. I don’t need to be connected 24/7. If I’m not home, I’m not going to be surfing the net. When I leave home, I’m leaving to do something else. I carry my dumb cell phone with me when I leave home in case of emergency. Thankfully, it doesn’t get used much, knock on wood…