Everything you should know about Architecture: Consider a well-known phenomenon in nature, that is the growth of a tree. We know how it starts as a sapling that is nurtured and watered to make it grow into a healthy tree. As an analogy, consider the ‘sapling’ to be ‘the field of architecture’ and the ‘questions’ we ask, the ‘water’. A tree has many branches, likewise, architecture expands into various dimensions. But what’s important here is that the Tree starts with ground zero. And its basic nourishment is still the water. Unless we ask the right questions, we cannot nourish our wisdom. So, let’s start with the most fundamental question:
What is Architecture?
First, let’s hear it from the experts.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “I call architecture frozen music”.
I.M.Pei quotes: “life is architecture and architecture is the mirror of life”.
Norman Foster says: “Architecture is an expression of values”.
Aaron Betsky calls it “a kind of urban ballet” while Bjarke Ingels says it is “practical poetry”.
Note: architecture design as frozen music, life, urban ballet, practical poetry, and an expression of values. These may also seem very philosophical at once. But, isn’t it quite astonishing how everyone differs from each other and yet explains beautifully how one can anticipate the term ‘architecture’.
Although when we try to describe architecture, the idea itself seems like an endless ocean. Here, we will try to encapsulate the very thing so that you will get the overall picture of what architecture is. Yes, these will be all the things you ever need to know about it!
Bygone days show us the earliest surviving works of the Roman architect, Vitruvius–De architectura meaning ‘On architecture’. According to him, it provides firmitas, utilitas, and venustas (durability, utility, and beauty). Therefore, it should be balanced and coordinated among these three elements, with no one overpowering the other.
You may have heard of it as a social art, or a science, or a combination of both, or a business. We see that architecture always acts as a problem-solver, in turn, assuring support to all types of human activity. It is more than just designing buildings.
Put another way, it helps us homosapiens fit in with our immediate environment (including climate, weather, and history), advocating for a sense of place, health, aesthetics, economic opportunities, and more importantly, creating a legacy on the planet to date that reflects countless cultures and traditions. From ship design to interior decorating, the field of architecture has now branched out to include almost everything.
But first, it’s time we look at some good examples of architecture to inspire you!
Examples of Iconic Architecture Design
We can find instances in history that it began to develop as early as the prehistoric ages. Over the span of human history, each era contributed to the evolution of architecture, as we see today. Some daring and innovative architectural marvels are special due to their scale, or engineering, or material, or ornaments, or construction techniques.
Let’s look at some of the iconic architecture design that was possible by the advent of new materials, innovations, and technologies.
1. Colosseum, Rome | Iconic Roman Architecture
2. Pantheon, Rome | Gothic Architecture
3. La Sagrada Familia, Spain | Gothic Architecture
4. St. Paul Cathedral, London
5. The Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy
6. Taj Mahal, India | Mughal Architecture
7. St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
8. Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Temple Architecture
9. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain
10. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
11. Empire State Building, New York
12. Sydney Opera House, Sydney | Modern Architecture
13. Fallingwater, Pennsylvania
14. Le Centre Pompidou, Paris
15. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
So are you too intrigued by these beautiful buildings! The wonders man has created! Well, it has been considered a noble profession since ancient times and rightfully so! Let’s now talk about architecture as a profession in detail.
Introduction to Architecture as a profession
As you know, it is a very broad field that is both artistic and technical. It crosses paths with various disciplines and fields that demand leadership and management skills. Architects have to engage with various stakeholders including owners and authorities involved.
In addition, practicing architecture design also requires technical knowledge in the fields of engineering, logistics, geometry, building techniques, functional design and ergonomics. The architectural practice serves both utilitarian and aesthetic ends so that it fulfills both practical and expressive requirements. Most importantly, it is required to answer humane problems.
As an architect, you often assume the position of a leader, or a mediator in a group. But as we have come this far, overlooking various eras, the scope of architecture demands a wide array of specializations. Now, with Architects, we also have Urban planners, Urban designers, Landscape Architects, Lighting Architects, Restoration Architects, Research Architects, Political Architects, etc.
History has shown us some of the best architects on the planet as ‘self-learners’ such as Frank Llyod Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Tadao Ando, and Peter Zumthor. Nonetheless, architectural schools provide an introductory practical guide for you to become an architect. Also, it is not for the faint-hearted. Darwin got it right when he remarked: survival of the fittest.
Becoming an architect is a rigorous and long journey where you will get education, do internships, and pass the examinations. Stepping into the real-world ‘competitive market’ after college is another whole story. But in the end, the road you travel through is definitely rewarding & worth it!
Now, if you wish to become an architect, you must be curious about how studying in an architecture school will feel like. So we are at it, next!
A quick sneak peek into Architecture Schools
The five years of Architecture schools sculpt you into the future architect through preparation, study, experimentation, research, in-studio learning, site visits, educational tours, juries, vivas, and examinations. You will also find that architecture schools are not very rigid when compared to conventional schools.
You are pushed to interact with another through workshops, discussions, and group work. Thus, it helps develop your social as well as intellectual abilities. Due to the extensive syllabus, you are required to do consistent work. In the process, you will get acquainted with various skills such as drawing, sketching, building models by hand and softwares.
You will also notice the range of classes you will take. For example, you will have design studios, history and theory classes, construction classes, professional practices, to name a few. Although the challenges and workload we face in schools may seem overwhelming and harsh, in reality, it prepares you for the trials of professional life ahead. The challenges you overcome in school shape you into a passionate, creative and confident architect.
After completing five (or four) years of bachelor’s in architecture, you are ready to step out as a newbie into the practising arena.
And when you step into the field, you’ll come across people who’ll ask you questions like
Why do we need Architects?
Imagine a world with no architects. Would it create a big difference? What possible effects would it have? Wipe out the planned cities, systems, architectural marvels, and buildings you admire because of whatever reason, what would the world look like? Crazy, right! The world would be a whole different place. Think of the gifts architects provide to society. History is an open book, if you try to look out.
You may also wonder how the insights of an architect can be different? Often, managers and stakeholders do not have a technical background like an Architect to understand the complexity of the project, let alone the importance of good architecture.
Architects view the system from a different perspective than other people as they are involved at all levels of the project. Architects are the ones who interact often with customers, analysts, product management and the executive team in order to execute a vision. For the greater good, it is always better to work with a skilled individual who is familiar with the ins and outs of the design and execution process.
And now let’s take you on journey to discover some
Architects or Organisations doing unconventional and good work in the field of Architecture Design
Architecture is not always about enormous buildings. In an age where we look for cutting-edge technologies and striking designs, it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of architecture, i.e., to provide shelter. Remember, architects work for society’s welfare.
Here are some examples of such Architects/Organisations that are doing unconventional work on the ground.
1. Architecture Sans Frontieres
Having a mission to enable vulnerable communities’ access to architectural services, research, and educational resources, Architecture Sans Frontieres is a not-for-profit organisation that finds solutions for various architectural issues.
2. MASS Design Group
“Thinking beyond the building” is the motto of this non-profit organization. Mass Design Group works in developing countries to create sustainable, resilient, and long-term architectural solutions, thus, promoting justice and human dignity.
Based in Mumbai, urbz is an experimental and research collective that specialises in participatory planning and design. They are committed to producing innovative models in architecture design, planning, and policymaking.
ABVM is an architecture practice that focuses on social and sustainable architecture design. The firm creates inspiring architecture by working with the local workforce, suppliers, and materials, and helps various NGOs and institutions to achieve their goals.
5. Alejandro Aravena
The Pritzker winning Chilean Architect is well-known for his socially conscious building projects that aim to break down economic inequality in urban areas.
6. Active Social Architecture
This is a practice based in Rwanda that believes in committing to the social value of architecture. They have significantly contributed to the innovative and socially responsible solutions towards communities, in turn, reinforcing the idea that architecture is a basic right of everyone.
7. Shigeru Ban
He has constructed low-cost and high-quality shelters for victims of disaster across the world—using recyclable materials, particularly paper and cardboard.
8. Anna Heringer
Anna Herringer is an architect based in Germany who believes architecture is a tool to improve lives and shares a vision for strengthening local communities. Her project METI Handmade School in Bangladesh has won the Aga Khan Award.
9. Dharmalaya Institute
This is an Indian charitable organization that focuses on sustainable village development along with the preservation and adaptation of traditional wisdom. It has supported the locals by creating jobs by employing them to become skilled craftsmen in sustainable vernacular building practices.
10. Rizvi Hassan
By collaborating with the UN, BRAC, and the charity of UNICEF, Rizvi Hassan is designing and building socially engaging spaces in Bangladesh. His work for the refugees is recognised worldwide.
Our society is dealing with many issues that architects have the power to resolve.
Some issues that Architects can and must resolve
“Nothing in this world is more simple and more cheap than making cities that provide better for people.” — Jan Gehl
Architecture has a great potential to alleviate some of the major world’s problems. Rather than viewing it just as a profession, it can be a tool to understand and uplift society. With the increase in population, urban areas are constantly witnessing the rise of slum areas.
As we are facing a global pandemic, climate change, and natural disasters, it is high time that people are inclined to a more sustainable way of life. Architecture can and must solve poverty, segregation, and inequality. It must provide innovative equitable solutions for housing, regional planning, and climate change.
Here are some major issues that architects must resolve:
Issue 1: Large scale low-cost housing
Issue 2: Reduce the production of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
Issue 3: Oceans are getting sicker due to plastics
Issue 4: Design for gender inclusivity
Issue 5: Designs that include food production in cities
Architecture, as we can see, is all about finding imaginative, creative solutions that can improve people’s quality of life.
As time goes on, so does the advancement in technology. Did you know back in the old days, architects had no software to work on and they’d work on room size sheets by laying down on them! But then came the era of revolution as tools like AutoCAD entered into the picture!
Technological Advancements in Architecture
Gone are the times, where we had to stick only with paper and pencil. Of course, many of the foundations of the profession will not change, but it won’t be wrong to say that technology in architecture has been transformational. We are seeing radical changes in the way we make things. Be it the designing process or the construction techniques, the 21st century is synonymous with the revolution due to tons of inventions that help us, architects and designers, to move past the traditional limitations in construction and design.
As architects, we need to adopt these technologies, not only to survive but to thrive in the current marketplace. By tapping into these advanced technologies, we can easily communicate our vision, simplify collaboration, and even reduce project costs.
Let’s look at some of the fundamental technological advancements in architecture that are making our jobs easier.
1. Building Information Modelling (BIM)
To keep everyone involved in a project on the same page, BIM is a helping hand for architects, designers, engineers, and estimators. It allows the distribution and management of the design stages—from ideation to construction, and even renovation, demolition and recirculation—enabling proper execution with lesser inaccuracies.
If you are familiar with Revit, ArchiCad and Allplan, these are some of the renowned BIM softwares.
2. Parametric Design in Architecture
Parametric design is defined as a process that leverages algorithmic thinking, therefore, encoding a relationship between intent and response. It involves elemental-level manipulation of complex structures and geometries.
When modelling in 3D, it allows architects to get the end result of design that is controlled by parameters, which would be otherwise impossible to perform. Also, to develop large uninterrupted spaces by columns and walls, parametric design comes in very handy. Works of Zaha Hadid are well-known for parametricism.
3. Generative Design in Architecture
By mimicking nature’s evolutionary approach to design, the generative design uses the power of computation to explore thousands of design options. So, for any design problem, there is no single solution.
When designers input specifications such as materials, manufacturing methods and budget into generative design software, it then uses cloud computing to explore potential solutions, thus generating numerous design alternatives. It then tests and learns what works and what does not work. As an example of generative design in practice, look at Autodesk’s Toronto offices.
4. Artificial intelligence (AI) guided designs and robots
AI has already started replacing manual work. Earlier, it was rather very challenging to build a high-rise as static blueprints were used and you didn’t have the option of moving parts. Right now, with AI along with BIM, designers can help blueprints to learn and adapt to various parameters like weather, equipment, and ground conditions.
Have you ever heard of Sam100 and Hadrian X? These are mechanical bricklaying robots that can be programmed to change various brick-laying patterns and layouts. As expected, they work with greater efficiency than manual labour. NCCR Digital Fabrication, a Switzerland-based company has also developed a pre-programmed fabricator robot that can build steel-reinforced frameworks autonomously.
Robots and automation are helping us in designing buildings with increased efficiency that can do great wonders in the future.
5. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Solutions
Imagine presenting your ideas and concepts to their clients in a real-life-like experience. VR allows us architects to do just that. In fact, nowadays, VRs are on the trend list among clients and designers.
Reason being: they offer experiences that can help create more efficient and user-specific designs. What you believe is what you see. The converse is also true. To make people buy into your vision easily, VRs are a perfect aid. Clients can simply slip into a VR headset and see how the building plan unfolds itself, providing a powerful architectural experience.
In addition, AR adds to the real-life experience by overlaying the 2D over 3D so that the user or the designer can even feel the materials being put into design. Want to know the technologies available in the market today? To name a few, check out: Fuzor, CURV, Touchable Holograms, Jaunt VR, Shapespark, Google Cardboard, and Roto.
For designers, AR and VR indeed provide surplus opportunities.
6. Internet of things (IoT)
The IoT refers to connecting things/devices to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. Video doorbells and Alexa, the personal assistant, are examples of IoT. Now, IoT is one of the driving trends in the whole design and construction process.
Take the case of adding sensors to BIM to create an intelligent 3D model of a building. Or to make the world a greener place by reducing carbon emissions, IoT can help us reduce waste by not relying on users to turn off machines and HVAC systems.
7. 3D Printing in Architecture Construction
Architects and designers use 3D printing to efficiently create a physical model to showcase and work with. Using a CAD program and a 3D printer can save both the labor and time involved in creating a model by hand. In addition to the prototypes, few countries are already running trials of houses built entirely by employing this technology. India’s first 3D printed house was built by IIT-Madras startup ‘Tvasta’ in 2021.
WinSun, a Chinese-based company, used 3D printing technologies to build 10 houses from recycled materials at $4,800 per piece. A special type of ink made up of sand, fibre, and cement was used, followed by printed layers for the walls, which were then assembled onsite.
Won’t you agree that modular construction offers a variety of advantages over conventional methods of construction? It is a no-brainer for you to guess the advantages. Consider the possible benefits of prefabrication: faster and safer manufacturing, better predictability, superior quality, less waste, and fewer workers on site.
Regardless of the benefits, the construction industry still heavily relies on traditional techniques. With the shift towards a new-age methods of construction, only time will tell if prefabrication is the future of construction!
9. Architectural Software
As we make one step forward in time, we are bombarded with numerous options—be it the number of software or services. Architectural software like Revit, Archicad, Grasshopper, Rhino are being adapted for designing and construction.
In addition, Modeling software and 3D rendering software such as Rhino, SketchUp, and Maya are already revolutionizing the digital world. Furthermore, the whole planet is at your tips. Applications like Google Earth are becoming so detailed, enabling users to pan and orbit around the globe in full 3D.
Finch 3D is a software that will be launched as a plug-in to Grasshopper. As you know, Grasshopper is part of Rhino 3D. Finch 3D will help in leveraging designs in the initial phases of construction. According to the developers, “architects will be able to use parametric design without knowledge of Grasshopper or coding.” These software help architects streamline their processes, quickly iterate, explore and deliver solutions.
10. Mobile Apps for Architects
Carrying the laptop every time you step outside can be daunting to you. Over the years, mobile apps are making architects’ work more versatile. The apps have helped in simplifying communication. Some are for the professionals, others can be used by everyone due to simple interfaces and easy navigations.
If you are not familiar, check out these apps: iRhino 3D (iOS), MagicPlan (iOS/Android), Morpholio Trace (iOS), RoomScan Pro (iOS), Concepts (iOS), DroneDeploy (iOS/Android), Shapr3D (iOS), ArchiSnapper (iOS/Android), AutoCAD 360 (iOS/Android), Autodesk FormIt 360 (iOS/Android), BIMx (iOS/Android), Morpholio Trace (iOS), and Sunseeker (iOS/Android).
How do we envision the future?
The Future of Architecture Design
As we have seen previously, architecture and construction is no longer tied to the traditional methods. Now, a wide variety of modern technologies are at the fingertips of architects and construction teams. Thanks to the advancements and inventions, it is changing at a rapid pace.
If we talk about urban sustainability, Smart cities is one solution that is based on sustainability. With renewable energy, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), smart home energy management systems, access to health and public amenities, urban parks—Smart cities hold a very promising future.
With the rise in carbon footprint, global warming, and the world population—Green building—is no doubt becoming the talk of the town. With the aim to reduce negative impacts due to the built mass and construction, green building is an effort to amplify the positive throughout the lifecycle of the building.
You can anticipate how the world will look in the coming decade, with so many inventions. We are experiencing the digital revolution, we have softwares, products, machines, next-level project management tools, and whatnot! But we will also face challenges like never before. It is therefore critical for us, designers, to stay up-to-date with the current trends and innovations.
As you can see, these technologies and new interventions are indeed the future. And it seems bright and full of surprise! So you better brace yourself, my friend.
You know architecture is a field that impacts everyone, but not many acknowledge this fact! So before we conclude, it’s very essential to address the most important question:
Why does architecture matter for everyone and not just architects?
Architecture is not just for architects or those who sit at the top of the hierarchy pyramid—it is for everyone. It matters because we need functional buildings, liveable cities that positively support human activities. Schools must help kids in the learning process, Hospitals must provide healing environments for the patients, Public buildings must showcase our democratic ideals, and Housing must be adapted to our lifestyles. In a nutshell, it affects our individual and collective wellbeing in our daily lives.
Sir Winston Churchill rightly said: “We shape our buildings, and afterward, our buildings shape us.”
Whether you live in an urban apartment or a rural home, your environment has these qualities: trees, roads, streets, buildings, market places, etc., relative to your context. Imagine how a neighbourhood would feel if it has no context, no particularity. Architecture provides a framework for meaningful and happy communities.
Everything from the layout of the space you live to the material finishes greatly affects your health, mood, and productivity. You might know some of your go-to spaces that uplift and cheer you up whenever you visit those places. You know the feeling: It just feels right.
David Adjaye beautifully puts it in his words,”Buildings are deeply emotive structures which form our psyche. People think they’re just things they maneuver through, but the makeup of a person is influenced by the nature of spaces.”
Unimaginative spaces are known for causing higher stress levels on the users. Architecture can help by creating a comfortable and uplifting environment. Buildings and the neighbourhood create a larger sense of place.
As Paul Goldberger says: “Buildings are not just inanimate objects; they are occasions for human contact, and they are shapers of human contact, which makes them a living part of our world.” (Paul Goldberger, 2010)
As we have seen, architecture is not as simple as it seems. And it is more than just some pretty buildings. It has so many aspects that are required to be understood. Subconsciously, we always feel and experience it in our daily lives. Remember, in the beginning we said it is similar to a tree. Just like tree’s branches spread out and provide food, shade for others; architecture is bound to serve humanity in the long run!
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Corcoran, H. (2016). Five Global Challenges Designers and Architects Can Solve in 2017. [online] Artsy. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-five-global-challenges-designers-architects-can-solve-2017.