Storytelling has been a primary medium of communication and expression since the beginning of mankind. Instances of early storytelling can be seen in many places and eras, ranging from Lascaux cave paintings to engravings in Egyptian temples. Earlier, these were done to record information, which slowly developed into different forms of art. In a way, storytelling is an art born out of necessity. This holds for architecture as well. Humankind’s exploration into the world of architecture began with the necessity to have a roof over our heads, which then resulted in the vast history of that architecture we know of now.

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Hall of the Bulls at Lascaux cave, Dordogne, France_©N. Aujoulat (2003)_© MCC-CNP
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Hieroglyphs on the temple at ancient Ombos, near modern Kawm Umbu, Egypt_©Icon72/Dreamstime.com

The world of art and architecture flourished under the reign of many generous emperors and nobles; for them, it was a way of projecting their grandness and generosity to the world.

They have commissioned some of the greatest structures of architecture and art, ranging from the pyramids of Egypt and the palaces of India to many renowned paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art created by many celebrated artists of history. It is because of them that we have such profound knowledge of our past, which eventually leads to a better understanding of our future.

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“The Spy Zambur Brings Mahiya to the City of Tawariq”_©Folio from a Hamzanama (Book of Hamza)
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Interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City_©Ron Gatepain
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Close-up of the procession passing through the Ishtar Gate_©joseph_berrigan.tripod.com

Architecture and art have been interlaced throughout history; they have evolved together. Architecture can be seen as a backdrop in paintings and art can be seen incorporated in many monumental spaces of architecture. They assist each other in enhancing the experience of the audience by providing a context that helps in better comprehension. 

The role of Architecture in modern-day Storytelling

Human beings are herd people; we survive in highly coordinated groups and with the urbanization of cities, where one lays a basic foundation to that person’s character.

From small villages and towns to the big cities and metropolitans, have a unique identity in every person’s mind, as what one grows up around shapes one’s perspective. Especially in the visual media, i.e., movies, documentaries, etc., these places play an important part in the story; oftentimes, these settings occupy the foreground and act as a main element to the story.

The cinema has an unquestionable effect on modern architecture, and modern architecture, in turn, lends its creative aspect to the cinema. Modern architecture not only supports the cinematographic set but also leaves its mark on the staging, breaking free from its confines. Without a scene to complete each plot, we cannot be carried away from our reality to the realm of the film in which we are engrossed.

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The Devil wears Prada_©screenmusings.org

Literature and Architecture

The impact of architecture is not only limited to the visual area; it has also found its way into the world of literature; it has given birth to many masterpieces through exemplary authors who were way ahead of their time. Words have the power to move people; what could not be conveyed through art could be conveyed through words. For example- we get a sincere understanding of the regency era of England through the words of Jane Austen. Similarly, we develop a heartfelt understanding of the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror by reading “The Tale of two cities” by Charles Dickens.

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The Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens_©Cover of serial Vol. V, 1859
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Early Illustration from “Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen”_©Janet M. Todd (2005), Books.Google.com_©Jane Austen in Context, Cambridge University Press p. 127

Along with the classical literature, there are works of some celebrated authors that help us to understand the human mind through the lens of architecture; for example, “Learning from Las Vegas” by Robert Venturi talks about  Las Vegas, which was characterized as a “non-city” and an expansion of a “strip,” along which parking spaces and distinct frontages for gambling casinos, hotels, churches, and bars were constructed. It highlights different features of the city, such as the commercial vernacular, lighting, patterns, styles, and architectural symbolism. Venturi and Scott Brown devised a classification system for the shapes, signs, and symbols they saw. The emphasis on signs and symbols prevalent on the Las Vegas strip influenced the two. As a result, a critique of Modern architecture emerged, most notably in the contrast of the “duck” and “decorated shed.”

Learning from Las Vegas- Rober Venturi_©Denise Scott Brown’s Photography from the 1950s and 60s Unveiled in New York and London Galleries_©Nicholas Knight

Conclusion

With the advent of the COVID-19 virus and it being a compulsion to stay indoors, it has opened up new doors to storytelling, especially in every media. The presence of OTT platforms and social media have provided opportunities for every story that they have the potential to be heard. The world has become a small place, and the possibilities of innovation are endless; the world of architecture and art is growing at a rapid speed, and it is overwhelming to be a part of it, but we strive in the hope of creating better stories for the tomorrow.

References:

  1. Dickens C.(1859) The tale of two cities,London: Chapman & Hall
  2. Austen J. (181) Pride and Prejudice, T. Egerton, Whitehall
  3. Venturi R. (1972) Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press
Author

Vrushti is an undergrad architecture student, who believes that design is where expression meets intention, her perception of the world has evolved as she delved into the possibilities of art and philosophies. She now believes that the world is a delicate balance of logic and emotions, she tires and oftentimes fails to do justice to both perspectives.

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