“Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case, they are unique, poetic, products of the heart.” – Arthur Erickson

Architecture is about creating art that draws visitors, one that can hold to the memory of the tourist. It’s a constant challenge for architects and designers to satisfy the client’s expectations with an iconic style. For the people who think that architecture is all about drawing lines, it’s not. The architecture you see is the hard work of five academic years and several years of field experience, and during these times we have been taught how to design so people can feel comfortable and secure and that’s what space is designed for.

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Imitation in architecture ©i2.wp.com

Every day at architecture school we learn that the architect is associated with all the things happening in the building, be it interior, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, or anything. College life is full of stress, the stress of on-time submission, the stress of passing the exam, the stress of coping up with attendance, and a lot more. But the architecture school has yet another dimension of stress and rigor put on its students, which emphasizes the pressure of being unique. 

In every architecture school, everybody faces the challenge of being original to each other in terms of style, presentation, and everything but often few of us end up copying everything instead of trying something different. It’s not that we intend to copy something, but sometimes we refer to some project or designer so much that we end up doing the same, unknowingly. But we need to know that architecture is a broad canvas and we are here to create our painting with infinite colors.

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Zaha Hadid’s building copied in china ©bbci.co.uk

Since the first day of college, we have been told that every successful architect in the profession has their own unique style, as designers we face a challenge between the two concepts of imitation and inspiration. There is a very fine line between inspiration and imitation in architecture. Often a blurry one which most architects tend to cross from inspiration to direct imitation. But in architecture, originality matters above all. 

There is no concrete rule in architecture, there is always a new way out. The inspiration can be the foundation of the design but it needs to have its unique touch. A design could be inspired by a flower, shadow, eye, or anything, but it need not have to be a direct replica of another building or inspiration.

Architects work under both, the influence of other architects and the burden of trying to be unique, this is in their minds and in the practice of uneasy combination between influence and originality: combining the two is maybe where the architect’s craft rests.

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Difference between imitation and inspiration ©deviantart.com

In order to avoid the imitation of the references, we need to change our design process and build something that can carry out something new from us. The first process of every design is the case study. First of all, the case study does not need to be of the same project typology, we should refer to different case studies for the different parameters, be it planning, area analysis, activities, material, spaces, and so on. 

A comparative study of these case studies then provides a hybrid concept approach. We need to research the proportions of the case studies that we can incorporate into our context, design, and client. Overlooking the case studies, we need to feel free to customize our design referring to the studies. The case studies do not have to be focused on the end product, but it needs to have an insight on the design process too, since that where a reference can turn into inspiration rather than imitation. We need to be inspired by the process not only by the product.

The architecture goes along with the details. We need to consider the purpose behind the specific detail offered by the architect in order to prevent imitation in detail. Like if someone is referring to the work of renowned architect Laurie Baker and inspired by the beautiful brick jaali he designed, he does not have to draw the same jaali pattern but we have to study the reason behind the jaali and the particular position of that jaali. One can modify it by adding their own pattern on the jaali following the same concept. Choosing the same detail we can still add our unique touch before executing it.

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imitation ©googleusercontent.com

The right way to avoid plagiarism in architecture is knowing the reason behind every step taken by the architect whom we are referring to. The design process is always about studying the details and questioning it. Finding the reasons for every element is the right way to achieve a design solution. We need to evolve our design like this because no project or site has the same questions.

Architecture is more than a line; it’s about creating new stories. One can copy the form and style but can’t copy the ambiance and the experience because every site is new, every client is new. Architecture is about customizing the design according to the requirement.


Divya Singh Rathore is a graduate in Architecture who believes in learning through exploration. For her, architecture is creative freedom and a way to connect to the people. She wants to amalgamate her passion for writing with her architectural practice and share it with the world.

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