Throughout history, architecture has always stood as a representation of society, helping and promoting it by reflecting values, successes, and the eventual downfall of civilizations over a while. From the monumental structures to the residential buildings that make up the fabric of a city, we come to learn a lot about the people who inhabited them long before our time. By studying the built environment of the past, combined with modern-day research on the environment and psychology, we’re coming to understand the effects of architecture on people in entirely new ways, which begs the question: just how does culture impact architecture?
The Importance of Culture
We define culture as the customs, ideas, and social behaviour of particular people or societies. The behaviours we are accustomed to and have taught determine the type of space we live in and the level of comfort we find there.
Architecture is the designing of space to fulfill functions based on the requirements of the users. The user’s needs arise based on their activities, which are defined by their culture. Their beliefs and practices dictate what their living and gathering spaces should be like. In times past, architecture became a direct expression of beliefs and culture.
Among the things that determine the role of space or architecture, culture plays a very significant role. The location of a space, the size for that function, and the way through which it helps connect all are aided by the basic cultural significance of the space that is being designed. The relationship between space and culture is so strong that we cannot analyze a space without the factors present. First, the space is initiated for creation based on certain cultural requirements. Later, it may even influence some changes in the existing culture.
The Importance of Architecture
At its roots, architecture exists to create the physical environment for people to live in, but architecture is more than just the built environment; it’s also a part of our culture. It stands as a representation of how we choose to see ourselves, as well as how we see the world.
While the concept of shelter seems like a fairly simple thing, the climate of a particular location originally shaped the style of buildings. The readily available materials played a major role, as well as the values of the society building them. As the world became more connected, the styles evolved through influence, but even in modern construction, there is still an importance to honouring the cultural nuances in the built environment.
Culture into Architecture
To understand how culture blends into architecture, let’s see a few listed examples below:
- In ancient Rome, the pantheon, where all their gods were placed in an equivalent position in comparison to each other, reflected their strong belief in polytheism. They had transformed the idea of 12 beings equal into space and architecture. The result was a circular ace which was formed with 12 niches at equal distances. And they decorated the way they knew best, according to their aesthetics, with classical Roman orders and proportions. Today, it stands as a symbol of classical architecture and ancient Rome.
In ancient Greece, the people were involved rigorously in public debates about mythology, philosophy, art and science. They considered it a part of being Greek. That is where the famous gathering place of the agoras was born. A place for public gatherings dedicated to expressing one’s thoughts and consequently becoming a part of that society.A place that helped people connect through their culture and thoughts. The agoras were then turned into public squares and can be witnessed even today in major cities modelled after classical city centres.
In the Indian culture, we saw the women in the Indian household getting involved in group activities where they enjoyed getting engaged in conversations with their mates and found a way to work together, and that gave birth to courtyards or open spaces around the house.
The culture reflected in architecture helps maintain or create identity in today’s world of internationalism and globalization. It also helps promote and maintain the integrity of society. This makes sure that the user is a good member of the society to which he/she belongs. Hence, good societies require architecture sensitive to their culture and it’s derived most from it. It is important to consider the way culture reflects and simultaneously influences the growth of the architectural medium. Along the way, with modernism, this principle seems to be forgotten. Buildings are failing to have a unique style; they don’t even come close to maintaining or creating identities. We must realise that culture and architecture are two sides of the same coin, and one without the other is unfinished. The fusion of culture into architecture seems to have always been together for centuries, and one without the other is incomplete.
RTF | Rethinking The Future. 2022. How does culture shape Architecture – Rethinking The Future. [online] Available at: <https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-fresh-perspectives/a582-how-does-culture-shape-architecture/#:~:text=Culture%20reflected%20in%20architecture%20helps,society%20he%2Fshe%20belongs%20to.>
[Accessed 20 June 2022].
HMC Architects. 2022. How Does Architecture Impact Society? A High-Level Look | Thought Leadership | HMC Architects. [online] Available at: <https://hmcarchitects.com/news/how-does-architecture-impact-society-a-high-level-look-2019-10-18/>
[Accessed 20 June 2022].