Architecture exists in every part of our lives. It shapes the homes we live in, the places we work at, the communing systems we use and the spaces we look forward to for leisure. Since the dawn of human civilization, these spaces have grown from simple structures to much more complex systems. 

It is difficult to determine when architecture really began but one can assume the origin of architecture began when humankind decided to step out of the caves and create their shelter. However, during the same time architect didn’t exist as a profession. Initially, structures were built for the primary necessity of having a roof over the head. It was only over time that this primary need got more complex and advanced. Eventually, the primary need of having a roof over the head grew from just having a shelter to creating a shelter taking care of other requirements like food and sanitation. With the population growth, people becoming more civilized than before, and advancement in technologies and construction techniques this simple shelter turned into mass housing schemes and thus into larger civilizations with public institutions leading humankind into a more holistic way of living. 

Architecture in response to necessity

Even in the absence of specialists that we today call architects, the structures built earlier were constructed with a thorough understanding, for instance, houses made during the ancient civilizations. One of the earliest forms of shelter was a simple house made out of perishable materials like grass and clay with a flat roof. With the realisation of the fact that baking the clay made the house stronger, people started making houses with more elaborate details. Further, they began treating the facades improving their imperviousness to water so that they can withstand a storm. The objective of the building grew from the basic need of a home to a home which is efficient and comfortable. 

Architecture in response to climate 

The form and material used varied from region to region. Like in the case of ancient Greek houses were made out of stone with a slanting roof to allow the snow and water to slide off.  With the growth in population and human needs, the scope of built forms expanded from homes to spaces for public gatherings.  The intent was now not just restricted to the home. It now also meant having a durable home, climate responsive along with spaces which allowed opportunities to interact with one another. 

In due course of time with an increase in the importance of public spaces, the planning of these spaces became much more complex. For example, the Romans began with the concept of a central heating system. This was in response to the cold weather conditions. Earthenware pipes were laid under the roof or floor which had hot water or air running through them which enabled keeping the spaces warm. Even today, a lot of HVAC services are developed based on this simple technique which was once developed without a dedicated professional. 

Architecture in public spaces

The design and planning also branched out to public spaces. Public spaces such as baths, temples and open-air theatres were built. These spaces were not just a space for gathering but also a means of expressing culture. 

The ancient public baths designed for bathing provided possibilities to rejuvenate and socialise. These baths incorporated a wide range of facilities like pools, private baths, a library, garden, becoming a crucial element of the cityscape. These baths were open for all irrespective of their social backgrounds. 

The Roman theatres, for example, were built for spectacle, an integral part of their cultures. These theatres hosted processions, public banquets, combats, wild beast shows, athletic competitions theatres and other scenic entertainment. It hence provided a stage for demonstrating the shared interests and culture of the people.

Architecture before the onset of architects - Sheet1
Roman Theatre_©B. Rui

Architecture in planned civilization

The development of architecture without architects was not just limited to houses and individual buildings. Traces of well-planned sophisticated cities can be found like the Indus Valley civilization.  The entire city was planned in a grid pattern with an advanced drainage system. The walls of the cities were raised to control floods. The city was divided into two specific sections, each fortified separately. One was built on an artificially raised platform consisting of important public buildings. The other section primarily consisted of housing built on ground. There was also segregated regions for different functions. Every section consisted of a different building typology namely public buildings, houses, markets and so on. 

Architecture and art

Another important driving force that played a crucial role in the expansion of architecture was the influence of art. Art and architecture are correlated, with art bringing a sense of culture into architecture. The construction of buildings included a wide range of labourers, artists and craftsmen, thus creating an inspiration for the public. The inclusivity of art in architecture resulted in the creation of distinctive elements and architectural styles. This inclusion also became a strong representation of the culture of the society, inflicted through its built forms. 

It can be concluded that architecture grew out of necessity and broadened concerning the materials available, the functions involved, the weather condition and the context it was built and the capability it provided for human interactions.  Though the term ‘architect’ was coined much later, the sense of space, planning, designing and functionality always existed. 

Architecture before the onset of architects - Sheet2
Painting of the Parthenon_©C.Frederic



Prachi is an architect by profession,an avid reader and a potential ‘keen observer’. She juggles with words in order to make the best out of them to recite her simplest stories with minute details. She now intends to expand her scope of knowledge and understanding of architecture through her adventures and experiences.