Buildings are the vessels of our stories; they are our cultural artifacts and contain the stories of who we are, where we have come from, and where we will be going to. Architectural history records and studies the forms, purpose, and evolution of buildings and also interprets architecture. Since the period the man has recorded its buildings and structures and added innovations into these structures gradually according to its need; with the advancement of society the architecture has got different shapes and designs. Architecture nowadays is being taught as a specialized branch of study and has covered a vast area with the development of the social life and the development of the nations.
To help understand the different cultures and societies, it is very important to learn about the recorded buildings as it helps the modern-day architects as well as the students of architecture to compare between the contemporary architecture and the ancient ones so that one can have a more fundamental and culturally inclusive approach while designing.
Architecture influences our society and culture; the history of architecture bridges the gap between the bygone eras and the present day. Since the beginning of time, each civilization of different eras formed its unique style based on its religious beliefs, philosophies, and social needs. Every story has a storyline; if we miss a single piece of the puzzle then we lose the storyline, hence, it is important to follow the chronology. It is important to study the history of architecture in colleges imparting studies in architecture because architects are the builders of the nation and it is important to understand the philosophies of the prevalent era reflecting upon which the social needs can be achieved.
Sometimes we tend to forget the past and the mistakes we make and only focus on the future. So to avoid those mistakes one needs to know about the past and the blunders that our ancestors made because only a fool can repeat the mistakes of the past, and by studying history of architecture one will be able to avoid those mistakes. Humans are creatures of habit and tend to make the same mistakes over and over again.
As George Santayana once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We tend to avoid history but history is the happenings of the past reality and is very important to remember, the truth of which is not always pleasing or delightful. In the current era, some nations are proud of their heritage, culture, and architecture but as this aphorism states “all that glitters is not gold” and these nations were once involved in situations where they did not behave well, and those mistakes could have been avoided. In order to break the pattern of mistakes that were done while constructing any structure in the past era, we need to find a way to make changes.
Enough of nagging about the faults that we made in our past! History is not just about learning from our mistakes and avoiding those, we also take inspiration from them. The very first man-made structure was made up of woods and animal skins; these primitive huts had a strong foundation even when there was no modern technology available. In the present era, architects are looked upon by building relational and dynamic structures. In the contemporary context, architects are needed to contribute more green buildings that are both efficient and functional with mobility optimized layout. If we look at the prehistoric architecture of the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages, we can see how people started to settle down, from being wanderers they started to become settlers; they built structures that defined the spaces as community which eventually became cities like Catal Huyuk in South-Central Turkey.
One can always be amazed by the architecture of the past, starting from the Egyptian architecture, an era for the Gods and the Pharaohs which produced gigantic pyramids, temples, and sphinxes using huge limestones placed with precision one on top of another. Coming to Greek and Roman architecture, one can always find the calculated thoughts and reasons behind every structure and the designs which reflected the civil aspects of the society. We build structures nowadays keeping in mind that they will last for at least 100 years but Greeks and Roman architecture was based on practicality and were made to be immortal. Towns and cities started to develop with a basic plan and amenities, from where the inspirations for modern-day town and city planning are being taken.
With the emergence of Christianity emerged Byzantine architecture, which incorporated religion into architecture, and from there we can see the evolution of different religious structures as the religion started to impact the socio-economic development of the nations. During this era, spaces were dedicated to purposes, meanings, and were meant for emotional experiences. After Byzantine architecture, we see the emergence of Romanesque architecture which had a desire for knowledge, learning, and development of cultural identity. It had a new adjective of linear perspective and forms and engineering indulged in artistic expressions. This era also introduced class distinction and delimitations between the cities and the countryside, and this made way for the great ‘industrial revolution’ which changed the socio-economic structure and widespread ‘urbanization’. “Less is more” (Wikipedia, 2001) coined by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe focused on building for the masses and the less fortunate. Even small spaces were designed in such a way that they can accommodate all human activities.
The history of architecture teaches us how spaces evolved along with the species in control of this planet. As architect Marc Kushner said, “architecture is not about math and it’s not about zoning, it’s about those visceral, emotional connections that we feel to the places that we occupy,” and that “buildings don’t just reflect our society, they shape our society down to the smallest spaces.” (Wandering Educators, 2016). So in order to make better buildings, better cities, and a better world, it is important to have a history of architecture as a subject in architecture colleges because architects are the ‘reality builders’.