“Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.” – Frank Lloyd Wright (writing in 1957, as cited in Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit: A Collection of Quotations).
Art is an integral part of architecture but has always shared a blurry line. Although some believe architecture is an art, others do not entirely agree with it. While architecture may not be a pure art such as painting, sculpting, literature, drama, music, theatre, and so on, it still checks all the boxes that an art form usually caters to. The sole reason for anyone to doubt the credibility of architecture as an art is that it does not share a direct equation with art but more of an indirect one.
Art is at the crux of architecture but not in the traditional sense. Architecture is often referred to as the artistic process of planning, designing, constructing, and executing structures and spaces. It is a collection of multiple art forms ranging from frescos, sculptures, paintings, carvings, and so much more! It is the fruit of an artisan, a craftsperson, mason, as well as the architect labour. Architecture, like art, is just as much about the process as it is about the end result.
Although architecture initially emerged from the basic need of having a roof over your head, it quickly became a form of self-expression. Architecture marvels the world over are considered an extension of the architect themselves. Be it their affinity to curves, to straight lines and clean facades, earthy exposed bricks, colourful elevations, filtered light, and so much more! They each represent the architect’s beliefs, ideology, and resolve. Every architectural marvel has a riveting story to tell, and they all have one thing in common, artistic expression and creative synergy.
Both architecture and art are often a reflection of the culture we grew up in, a culture we relate to or understand. It is a story built with love, care, memories, and nostalgia, of age-old beliefs that have trickled through the grasp of time, of stories told and passed on, of affinity towards certain social ideologies, and also a dash of a sense of belonging.
Architecture in recent times can also be considered the art of devising the city’s skyline. So much of the architecture in the cities around is dictated by the idea of how the landscape of the city is perceived from varying angles, distances, and altitudes. Gone are the days when almost all cities had similar skylines. Today, each city has its own distinct and distinguished skyline that helps build its identity and makes it stand out.
Architecture does not just train you to have the ability to construct buildings; it also teaches you to design and create spaces that make people feel a certain kind of way. Art, more often than not, makes various people feel differently. Similarly, people associate different experiences with the same architecture. Architecture, like art, makes people think. It may not always be about what has been built, but it could also be about what has not been built. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, for instance, consists of only concrete slabs, and yet, it is enough to evoke a sense of loss, sorrow, and pain.
The architecture resembles art and is often governed and limited only by one’s imagination. As an artist, designer, and creator, the sky is the limit. You may have yet to see a certain kind of structure or artwork, but it could be brewing in the minds of architects and artists alike, and before you know it, it is on paper/ canvas, and you can see it come to life. A structure, painting, sculpture, or a piece of art that was beyond imagination is suddenly tangible and comprehensible.
Architecture, much like art, does not always have to make sense. So many of Antonio Gaudi’s structures are considered architectural marvels, but they are not understood, liked, or appreciated by all. This broadly aligns with the belief that architecture, much like art, need not be liked and admired by everyone. It may just exist and be critiqued by a few and yet applauded by others. Not everyone understands the process the architect and artist have gone through to reach a stage they are at, but the ones willing to do so see the effort and thought behind it.
Famous architectural spectacles are, in fact, ageless, they have no expiry date, and they seem to stand the test of time. Sometimes, they blend into their surroundings, they stand out where they need to, and often leave a mark in the hearts and minds of the people. This very nature of architectural marvels is identical to that of art. Art also stands out and blends in seamlessly whilst continuing to endure the challenges with changing times. Architecture and art are both timeless in that sense.
Lastly, one can draw so many parallels between art and architecture that the lines seem to converge at a point; but simply put: architecture, much like art, is meant to move you.
- Maria Popova. What Is Art? Favorite Famous Definitions, from Antiquity to Today [online]. Available at: https://www.themarginalian.org/2012/06/22/what-is-art/ [Accessed 9 March 2022].
- Bob Borson(2021). Ep 080: Is Architecture Art? [online]. Available at: https://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/ep-080-is-architecture-art/[Accessed 10 March 2022].