Art and architecture have always been closely intertwined throughout history. From the development of the Baroque movement to the geometric framework of modernism, architects drew inspiration from the stylistic approaches, techniques, and concepts of historical art movements and transformed them into large-scale living structures.

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Sydney Harbour – Synergy of Art and Architecture – Impression by Artists in Motion  inspired by Artist Karla Dickens_ ©The Guardian

 Art and architecture are both forms of visual art, although they differ in the usage and composition of their basic mediums. They both follow design principles and use them as a starting point. They are constantly in interaction with one another, a two-way interaction that reflects the interdisciplinary nature of these two fields. 

Architect or Artist?

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1923, Theo van Doesburg, Color Design for Amsterdam University Hall_©

One of the main things that sets architecture apart as an art form is its ability to arouse intense emotions and enhance the human experience. Since these experiences are frequently how art is defined, many architects make the human experience the central purpose of their work. 

If one looks back into history, Modernism in architecture was the result of two conflicting views on the role of the architect. On one hand, architects were viewed as engineers, and on the other, as artists. Functionalism, which extends from the Russian Constructivists and culminates in Gropius’ Bauhaus School, can be viewed as a means of overcoming this struggle as well as the disputes between two dominant value systems: humanism and technological operationalism. Bauhaus proposed a solution that involved putting architectural work and men’s demands into a “scientific” investigation to create a functioning system.

The concept of integrating art and architecture stretches back to the discipline’s inception; nonetheless, it took on a new meaning and social purpose during the early twentieth-century Avant-Garde movement, becoming one of Modernism’s most distinguishing features.

Bauhaus: The Equilibrium Point

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The Shell House, an office building in Berlin, Germany_ ©

Bauhaus is a movement that arose from the prominent German school created by Walter Gropius (1883-1969) in the early twentieth century to create a fundamentally new form of architecture and design to help reconstruct society following the devastation of World War I.

By combining fine arts, crafts, design, architecture, and technology, the Bauhaus emphasized logical, utilitarian design that embraced the form follows function, less is more attitude for a new postwar era. When Gropius and other notable Bauhaus members relocated to the United States in the 1930s, the International Style emerged, and it affected the development of modernism in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bauhaus blurred the barriers between disciplines and used arts and crafts techniques to maintain aesthetic standards in an increasingly mass-produced, industrialized environment, all while utilizing materials and resources intelligently and purposefully. It created everything from furniture and home items to typography and architecture. A century later, Bauhaus’s influence continues to be felt around the world.

The Emergence of New Styles in Architecture

Various other movements in art history influenced architecture in a great way. Following are some of the most influential architectural styles that incorporate art:

1. Art Nouveau

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Casa Batlló_© Jeremy Villasis Getty Images

The Art Nouveau movement began in the late 19th century and had a great impact on both art and architecture. Inspired by nature’s organic forms, flowing lines, and elaborate patterns, this style attracted audiences with its ornamental beauty and elegance. Art Nouveau architecture is distinguished by the use of sinuous curves, intricate decoration such as stained glass windows and ironwork, and floral motifs.

2. Gothic Revival

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Stained glass window in the Milan Cathedral_© VW PicsUniversal Images GroupGetty Images

The Gothic Revival style began in the mid-18th century, when architects began reinterpreting medieval aesthetics and ideals, resulting in buildings with pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and towering spires. This style embraced structural innovation while emphasizing grandeur and meticulous craftsmanship.

3. Dadaism

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Walt Disney Concert Hall_©Britannica

Dada art, regarded as a “rebellious and revolutionary” art movement in the early twentieth century, is thought to have originated at an artistic nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland, known as ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ after many war-opposing creatives took refuge there. It displayed irrational, unconventional, and occasionally insane artistic conceptions. Dada art attempted to mock the materialistic, economic, and nationalistic ideals that Dada artists claimed contributed to the war. While no precise features defined this style, Dadaism might be summarized as rebellious and impulsive, relying on shock value to touch the audience and question the current art and culture landscape.

4. De Stijl

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1925, Cafe de Unie, Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS, J.J.P.Oud_©

De Stijl, which translates as “the style,” is an art movement that originated in the Dutch city of Leiden. From 1917 to 1931, De Stijl, also known as neoplasticism, was a popular modern art movement that emphasized abstraction and simplicity. Clean lines, perfect angles, and primary colors defined this aesthetic and art style, which was conveyed through architecture and artworks. 

5. Pop Art

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Louis Vuitton Collaborates With Artist Yayoi Kusama on Manhattan Flagship Store Facade_© nnyclovesnyc

Pop architecture is a term used to describe buildings that use objects as symbols; these structures typically have hyperbolic scale, color, proportion, and scheme with amazing designs; they can also be large-scale sculptures on an architectural scale or any other type of architecture that is more of a metaphor than a physical structure. With commercialism and mass manufacturing taking center stage and advancing the use of technology, interiors, public areas, and facades were all used as blank canvases for experimenting with color, light, asymmetrical shapes, and unusual scales.

6. Surrealism

From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes_ ©Alex Chinneck

Surrealism aims to revolutionize the human experience. It strikes a balance between a rational outlook on life and one that affirms the influence of dreams and the unconscious. The unexpected and the weird, the neglected and the abnormal, hold a strange beauty and fascination for the artists of this movement. Architecture has long appealed to surrealist artists, especially interior design. Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico created eerie dreamlike scenes of urban spaces populated with neoclassical buildings, sculptures, and medieval fortresses contrasted with industrial chimneys and the faint puffs of a stream engine beyond, drawing inspiration from “Ideal Cities” of the Renaissance. 

Is Architecture an Art?

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GlassMural – Eastern Market_MVRDV

The fundamental link between architecture and art is their shared goal of designing exquisite, useful environments that uplift and inspire people. A profound understanding of form, space, and materials is necessary for both architecture and art, as is a strong sense of aesthetics and a willingness to try new things and push boundaries.

Architecture and art are complimentary fields in many respects. The functional framework for human activity is provided by architecture, but the aesthetic and emotional elements that lend character to a place are added by art.

The very debate of whether these two disciplines have a connection, hints at the obvious intermingling of the two. As long as the debate is alive, there will no doubt be a connection between them, and history as such has proved the same.

One can conclude that without art, it remains just a building, and without science, it is just art. It is the marriage of the two that gives rise to this interdisciplinary approach to an era of artistic fusion, functional through science.


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