What does it mean when we talk about the ‘Theory of Architecture? As much as we’ve heard, architecture is the technical approach to curating any built structure. It is about the sciences that go along with aesthetics. But is that really what architecture is, the pragmatic approach to viewing, designing, and constructing buildings? Is that it? That’s highly debatable given that Architecture is a branch that signifies ‘Calculated Creativity’ that evolved from the years of speculations and precedents; became something remarkable owing to the principles in the theory of the subject.

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Theory & History of Architecture_©John Hejduk, sketch for ‘Victims’, 1986

The Stigma around Architectural Theory | Theory in Architecture

The entire stigma around the fact that architecture is a practice of curating spaces is not entirely wrong, but it isn’t just that. Before beginning to curate, one must be aware of what ‘architecture’ really is. Is it just about the practice or something that cannot be carried forward without the theory? The mere thought makes us ruminate over these questions and more seriously as the law has declared that a person can practice architecture even without having a professional degree keeping architects and laymen under one category eradicating the significance of the designation.

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Theory and Practice of Architectural Representation_©Adrianna Ross

After such a declaration, everyone who can design is making buildings irrespective of their training and fields. A wide variety of people such as civil engineers, structural engineers, contractors, and designers are curating spaces along with the architects. This is where Architectural theory stands its grounds. Architectural theory is what differentiates architectural practices from other allied fields and marks the design under an altogether different level. The practice goes way more in-depth than just quoting, “an architect builds a home and the rest builds houses,” and by defining its discipline and education for which learning, comprehending, and exploring architectural theory becomes essential.


The acknowledgment of the relationship between the ‘thought and technique’ to the ‘theory’ of architecture is a pickle we are facing today. As Frank Lloyd Wright says: Confusion arises because there is ‘doubt in some minds’ and ‘fear in some minds’ and ‘hope in some minds’.

Giving this a thought it can be concluded that there is fear in the minds of architects that they might have to starve if they practiced as per the preaching of the ideals and doubt in public because of the lack of demarcation between the architects and the allied professions. Nevertheless, the minds of the teachers of architecture are filled with hope for the future generation wishing for architecture to establish its stature when rightly taught.

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Theory of Arts & Architecture_©MBArch

The Gravity of the Architectural Theory

Architectural theory is multilayered. To the outside world, it might seem like documentation of the evolution of various styles of architecture throughout the start of time and the analysis of the existing marvels. But that is not all. The significance theory beholds in educating people about the basics of how the whole process of design has been implemented in the different pages of history and still stands colossal with the purpose it was built with. The insight into the years of documentation and codes is imperative to the growth of the field along with society. It helps us deal with critically analyzing a structure architecturally, provides solutions based on careful speculation and precedents, and empowers the architect to keep building architecture in the wake of such times; times when building spaces have been highly monetized and started being defined in physical dimensions and packaging rather than a holistic view.

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Theory + Practice_©Margherita Abbozzo

We have n number of theories of architecture; however, the basic concept doesn’t waver from the core. For instance, as Frank Lloyd Wright puts it, “the circumference of architecture is shifting but the center remains unchanged”, where the circumference refers to the scope of practice and the theory is the center of the architecture. The theory of architecture circles critical analysis of or commentary on architectural styles/movements/works. It states standards for architectural design; ponderings on the building types; and advocacy for the newer methods to the practice. It introduces questions about how to analyze conceptual foundations and adhere to the imperatives for the practice, design, or history. E.g. The core of Vitruvian principles in architectural theory states the importance of these principles and how useful they are in defining architecture keeping the aesthetic factor aside. The raging cause of ‘Architecture Failure’ is the lack of insight into the existing context and unawareness of the architecture theories.

Theory of Arts & Architecture_©Art in context
Theory of Arts & Architecture_©Art in context

The branch of architecture lacks a well-laid, pre-existing system of teachings like medicine due to its pseudo-philosophical roots. Architectural theory is a knowledge system that helps distinguish architecture from the works of other allied professions as it is different from how it is generally perceived. The theory beholds in itself to solidify this practice into a societal gauge. Architectural theory is much more than statements, models, and hypotheses. It is a multi-layered course interspersed with a multitude of statements, models, hypotheses’, declarations, standards, laws, bylaws, and more such fingerprints that make architecture what it is- A field of ‘Calculated Creativity’.

From Romantic Ruins to the Ultra-Real_©Archdaily
From Romantic Ruins to the Ultra-Real_©Archdaily

Architecture when blended with theoretical insights helps one form a wholesome thought about the task and provides a well-blended result in unison with the alleged requirements. Therefore, practice and theory go hand in hand when it comes to designing buildings. Theoretical analysis i.e. historical heritage of knowledge, aesthetics and structural marvels, knowledge of the present trends and their effect on the living society, and possibilities for a better future is what makes this field stand apart from the cluster of the allied fields. 

Need for Fundamental Thinking

In modern-day communities, architects are seen as more ‘trained technicians’ and less ‘calculated creativity curators’. Because of the rising impact of the science and technology sectors, they are being defined as a scientist with a touch of art rather than artists with a touch of science. Aesthetics are highlighted on the first page of the book of architecture pushing the foundational theories to the back. This shift of imperatives and priorities has made architectural education a concern in this country. Architecture is a ‘specialized field’ and its works should be recognized that way to define specificity. And for the same, there has to be fundamental thinking of the field to carry out the practice in harmony with the theory to truly justify the profession.

Theory and Practice _©Social Architecture 2020
Theory and Practice _©Social Architecture 2020

Responsibility of Schools and Colleges

The aim of education in Architecture College is to help produce good architecture. Therefore for the same, it should be interspersed with quality education about the history and philosophy of architecture to add to the evolution. The five-year curriculum which seemed to have shifted its focus from theories to pragmatic practice needs to be rechecked since it is the spine of the teaching architecture. To play their part well in imparting well-rounded education, architecture colleges must realize the responsibility of providing proper guidance and preaching practice that tends to uplift the architecture community. 

Thoughts on architectural education_©Archdaily
Thoughts on architectural education_©Archdaily

Importance of Theory | Theory in Architecture

It’s always said that ‘Practice implies theory and vice-versa.’ The theory is the foundation of the inception of the practice. It helps clarify the confusion and applicability of the ideals. The range of theory of architecture not only includes the widely used modern scientific techniques but also the subsequent consideration of the theories related to the profession; the ideals which help in differentiating the work of an architect from the work of any other allied field. 

The goals of architectural theory laid by the theorist are twofold. First, it represents a standard as to what we currently know about how to categorize architecture and how it should be carried out in practice. Second, it comprises the intent to promote modern, new methods and inculcate social, moral, and theoretical foundations of architecture.

The Future of Architecture_©Archdaily
The Future of Architecture_©Archdaily


Nevertheless, as the times are unveiling themselves, there has to be a neutral point between this ruckus of preferences between theory and practice. To avoid ‘Architectural Failure’, they must coexist in any design for a harmonious blend of techniques, teachings, and thereafter, the timeless outcome. The shift of significance from theory to practice needs to be restored to carry this community forward. To avoid confusion concerning the practices, the theoretical base of architecture must be emphasized to advocate proper architectural practices beyond aesthetics. So to shift this off-centered practice more to the core, we need to collect ourselves from the scattered ways into the objectively defined idealistic architectural practice. We must see the old and effective ideals in the light of new techniques.

Reference List

Citations for websites:

Paknikar, Prof.G.K. (1959). Theory of Architecture as a Basis for Architectural Education and Practice. Seminar on Architecture. [online] Available at: https://architexturez.net/doc/az-cf-168625 .

www.ipl.org. (n.d.). Importance Of Architectural Theory – 772 Words | Internet Public Library. [online] Available at: https://www.ipl.org/essay/Importance-Of-Architectural-Theory-PKRV9N2FC48R .

Stanford.edu. (2012). Philosophy of Architecture > Philosophy and the Tradition of Architectural Theory (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). [online] Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/architecture/tradition.html .

kreate-arch.com. (n.d.). Design & Theory. [online] Available at: https://kreate-arch.com/design-theory .


Chaos within, Beauty Beyond. She is a compulsive person who obsesses over everything, every detail she finds beautiful! She aspires to make beautiful, functional & thoughtful works to play her part well. She’s not just a human being, she is art with a keen eye for aesthetics; She bleeds through art/words.