The battle between architecture and engineering takes place in the background of most of the architectural and construction design and either of these two professions, discussions and compromises in this field are part of your work. Regardless of the fact of a mutual need for cooperation, these professions tend to place their responsibilities and skills above the other. 

Today, let us put ourselves in the role of a judge who considers the arguments of both sides: architecture and engineering, tries to understand how each of them works and finally passes the judgment.

Architecture 

Architecture is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or other structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art.

Architecture is a profession at the frontier of art and engineering that focuses on designing buildings and their sites including aesthetic and utilitarian aspects. It contributes to improving current living conditions taking into account social, legal, economic, environmental and historical factors

Moreover, buildings are a physical reflection of the historical achievements of civilization which causes the architects’ ambition to create those with a unique style and innovative solutions. Architectural design is a careful and collaborative process and its effects are due to the work of more than one person.

Engineering

Construction engineering is a professional discipline that deals with the designing, planning, construction and management of infrastructures such as roads, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, facilities, buildings, dams, utilities and other projects.

Civil engineering is a related field that deals more with the practical aspects of projects. Engineering is a mixture of mechanics, mathematics and design. It has to implement and detail architectural drawings and convert a concept into specific numbers and dimensions of building elements. Engineering is responsible for ensuring that a building or other facility, e.g. a bridge, is structurally safe and meets the needs of users in terms of installation. 

Construction Engineers are involved in the design process and responsible for costing and planning. Engineering has to solve technological problems and take care of the integration of individual environmental systems.

Charges and Defense of Each Side

Architects and engineers even if working together on the same project tend to perceive this process from different perspectives. Architects are said to have more theoretical and ideological thinking while engineers have a mathematical one. While architects focus on designing the space and atmosphere, constructors design the structure and count the loads. 

Here often appear the problems of the superiority of aesthetics over construction solutions. Similarly, architectural unusual forms and beautiful materials usually collide with the construction costs. 

Evidence

  • Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects

The complex of buildings by Zaha Hadid Architects in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan was designed to fit national cultural events. Heydar Aliyev Center’ architecture is characterized by fluidity and curved lines, which makes the buildings seem to be devoid of any structure. The construction of course exists and is very complex because of the challenging architecture. 

The concrete system consists of ceilings and columns that support the spatial grid framework. Apart from the costly construction, the disadvantage of this form is the existence of unused spaces due to the difficulty of connection between the floors and parametric external skin. Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the iconic buildings in which the structure had to fit into the designed architectural form.

The Dilemma of Architecture and Engineering Sheet1
The architecture of Heydar Aliyev Center_©Zaha Hadid Architects ©Iwan Baan
The Dilemma of Architecture and Engineering Sheet2
The construction of Heydar Aliyev Center_ ©aeworldmap.com/2011/08/28/heydar-aliyev-cultural-center/
  • Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe

The Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe was built in New York in the 1950s. This rectangular building consists of a steel frame: beams and columns. In this case, the engineering determined the appearance of the architecture. Construction beams are partly visible on the elevations which are characterized by rhythmic division and the same size of windows. 

It was one of the first tall buildings which used a vertical truss bracing system and composite steel and concrete frame. Although from the perspective of modern times, the Seagram Building’s structure could be described as simple and as an example of the design where the cost of construction and the obtained architectural value are in balance. 

The Dilemma of Architecture and Engineering Sheet3
The architecture of Seagram Building_©Ben Pentreath
The Dilemma of Architecture and Engineering Sheet4
The construction of Seagram Building_©House of Patria

Final verdict 

Two examples of buildings are presented above, the first one designed by Zaha Hadid, which arouses controversy in terms of implementation costs and the second one by Mies van der Rohe, in which the balance between architecture and structure complex seems to be preserved. 

On the other hand, Heydar Aliyev Center is innovative today but Seagram Building’s structure was also innovative for its times. Here, there is a need to consider if rectangular architecture determined by the economy of construction in today’s world would be satisfactory enough. If repeating already known solutions would allow architects to show off and provide new challenges and discoveries in the field of construction? 

The Dilemma of Architecture and Engineering should be considered individually for each design and the expected results, but there is no doubt that in each project that is to be successful, architects and engineers have to cooperate and take into account the arguments of both sides.

References

En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Architecture – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture> [Accessed 6 August 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Construction engineering – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_engineering> [Accessed 6 August 2021].

Baan I. Heydar Aliyev Centre. [Photograph]. Available at: https://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/heydar-aliyev-centre/ [Accessed: 30 May 2021].

Heydar Aliyev Centre – Baku, Azerbaijan. [Photograph]. Available at: https://aeworldmap.com/2011/08/28/heydar-aliyev-cultural-center/ [Accessed: 30 May 2021].

House of Patria. [Photograph]. Available at: https://archeyes.com/seagram-building-new-york-mies-van-der-rohe/  [Accessed: 30 May 2021].

Pentreath B. [Photograph]. Available at: https://www.arch2o.com/seagram-building-mies-van-der-rohe/ [Accessed: 30 May 2021].

Author

An architect from Poland who was educated also in Finland. Being at the beginning of her career she looks for a balance between architecture and nature. Despite the interest in the history of architecture she search for modern design solutions.

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