The Changing Faces of Chiang Mai: Hybrid Vernacular Architecture and Identity Reclamation in the Urban Environment
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In the 21st century, the urban centers of the world are growing rapidly. This changing social and geographical landscape leads to both a need for more livable housing in urban environments for workers migrating from rural settings, and the need to construct buildings within cities that are environmentally sustainable given the shrinking resources of the planet. The urban environment can be alienating and unwelcoming to migrating people, often ethnic minorities and from low income communities, moving from rural spaces. This paper combines literature from a multitude of disciplines to suggest hybrid vernacular architecture and the concept of the "citizen architect" as a potential solution to creating environmentally sustainable architectures that support and preserve the cultural identities of the residents as well as providing them with quality housing. As a case example, this paper draws upon experiences and knowledge that the author gained completing an internship with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She spent a summer learning about the vernacular architectures of Northern Thailand, and various alternative construction and energy initiatives in the city of Chiang Mai. She present the narrative of her summer findings, and specifics about stakeholders in Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas, in hopes that they will provide a grounding context for, and also put pressure on, the more theoretical ideas explored in the academic literature concerning hybrid vernacular architecture and its potential as a tool of socially and environmentally just urban development.