In his Hepworth Lecture entitled ‘Vernacular architecture in the twenty-first century’, read for the Prince of Wales Institute in 1999, Paul Oliver draws attention to the fact that, at the dawn of the new century, vernacular architecture still occupies a marginal position (Oliver 1999). Recognition and support from professionals and policymakers involved in the fields of architecture and housing is still not forthcoming. Vernacular architecture continues to be associated with the past, underdevelopment and poverty, and there seems to be little interest among planners, architects and politicians in the achievements, experience and skills of the world’s vernacular builders or the environmentally and culturally appropriate qualities of the buildings they produce. Native American pueblos, Indonesian longhouses or West African family compounds may be admired for their conspicuous design, functionality or aesthetic qualities, but they are hardly ever regarded as relevant to current housing projects. More often than not, vernacular houses are regarded as obstacles on the road to progress, which should be replaced by house types and living patterns that fit western notions of basic housing needs but which are adverse to the norms, wishes and values of the cultures concerned.