“L’architecture transforme un état de nature, en état de culture.” – says the well-known contemporary Swiss Architect Mario Botta, who is celebrated for integrating cultural and natural aspects to create beautiful landscapes. The phrase means –

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“Architecture transforms a state of nature into a state of culture.”

Why cultural diversity matters in architecture - Sheet1
Why cultural diversity matters_©https://knowablemagazine.org/ (HIROSHI WATANABE)

Architects, by nature, are problem solvers who aim to create spaces that are suitable for people according to their needs. They design environments in which people will benefit in a variety of ways in the present and the future. For many years, people have tried to bridge the gap in the relationship between architecture and diverse cultures. The mindset now is to design in a way that adapts to a culture’s evolving requirements, rather than a stereotypical design solution that functions well for a specific group of people, for a certain period.  With all these diversities evolving at a shifting pace, the thoughts all come down to a larger picture raising the question – “Why Cultural Diversity matters in Architecture?”

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How Architectural Identity reflects the Cultural Identity of a Nation  

Cultural aspects are deep-rooted in values and beliefs – which are then reflected through the surrounding built designs. The connection between culture and architecture can be perceived from this aspect. The turning points in culture and creative design are the most critical parameters in architectural schools. Each culture and civilization begin at a moment where the previous ones came to end due to a crisis. On the other hand, following and developing historical directions, and rebuilding the structures adapting to innovative needs at times work very well. 

Why cultural diversity matters in architecture - Sheet2
Taj Mahal, India_©Photography: fahramineuse

Every society has its own culture, which serves as the foundation for its architecture, and architecture is the objective representation of that culture – as the Taj Mahal reflects the Mughal Architecture Era or as the Mosques, Forts, and Tombs reflect the Bengal Sultanate period of the overall Indo-Islamic Architecture Era. In short, architecture remained and continues to be a true indicator of a country’s cultural identity.

Culturally Responsive Architecture

“Everything we design is a response to the specific climate and culture of a particular place.”

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  • Norman Foster

The cultural approach in architecture refers to a purposeful outlook and convenient way of living. Who would have thought a few years ago, the necessity of home offices in the work-from-home culture? Or, the vital role of balconies and rooftops for a breathable space? The pandemic has made us re-shape our houses that respond to our needs. Now we realize the importance of a breathable home – where there is an abundance of natural light, where the air can flow freely, nourishing our spaces, where we do not as if we are stuck in cages, or where the walls do not seem to close in on us.

Changing Lifestyles and Culture

“The future of architecture is culture.”

  • Philip Johnson

Each innovative and diverse style of architecture is built on the concepts, methods, and traditions of previous styles. A profound relationship between different styles of architecture in the past remained – which made it hard to draw differences between them. This resemblance in many styles emerges from the culture, customs, and behavioral patterns of individuals in society, which led to the creation of new architectural styles with minor changes in changing lifestyles and cultures that are anchored in time to fulfill new requirements. With the passing stretch, the architectural aesthetics and functionality change along with the time and place of their community. Architecture has always been accompanied by time – time is what alters societies’ cultural and behavioral patterns. 

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Rethinking Spaces and Forms

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Brunswick Square Window Corinthian Columns_©alej ez

Very distinctive architectural styles can be seen throughout the pages of history. It’s easy to spot the orders of early Classical Architecture or the cathedral-like spaces of Gothic Architecture. What’s happening now, on the other hand, is less confined by a single aesthetic and more concerned with striking a balance between aesthetics and functionality. It has to do with how a structure adapts to the needs addressing the diversity of the users. 

“Architecture belongs to culture, not to civilization. God created paper for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. … Everything else is, at least for me, an abuse of paper.”

  • Alvar Aalto

Architectural periods and styles both flow together, and each architectural movement originated from ideas and construction techniques that were sometimes original and sometimes integrated, reflecting broad cultural influences. If we interpret architectural identity in terms of culture and tradition and focus on architecture that is based on today’s demands, culture, and traditions, this identity is and will always be with us. Rethinking the spaces and forms, designs should be centered on getting the most out of spaces – that will not outlive their worth in just a few years. 

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References:

Ettehad, S., Azeri, A. R. K., & Kari, G. (2014). The Role of Culture in Promoting Architectural Identity. The Role of Culture in Promoting Architectural Identity, 3(4). [Accessed 30 October 2021].

PDH, A., 2021. Architecture Reflects Culture – PDH Academy. [online] PDH Academy. Available at: <https://pdhacademy.com/2016/03/28/architecture-reflects-culture/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

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Author

A final year student currently pursuing B.Arch. in Bangladesh. Her passions are intertwined with Art, Travel, Architecture, and Literature. She aspires to travel, learn, evolve with time and thereby bring something to light through journaling her journeys.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022