In the current fast-paced dynamic world, technology is at the center of development. It is directing the fate of the world towards a more digital, less physical world. The numerous contemporary architectural discourses of new modernism and futurism exemplify the fact that the world is developing at a ridiculously high speed.  

Human civilization has come a long way, starting from primitive civilizations to the present digital era. The evolution happened gradually over a period of thousands of years. Architecture has played a momentous role in this evolution. But what would the world look like in absence of architecture?   

A World without Architecture - Sheet1
Evolved Urban World_©ESB Professional via Shutterstock

Imagining A World Without Architecture 

A World without Architecture - Sheet2
World without architecture_©Cgtn

Evolution of Human Physiology

The theory of human evolution states that modern humans have evolved from primates – apes. Long after the man started walking erect, he was still fur-clad and hairy. Theories suggest that the human evolution of being hairless may have been because of the presence of a roof. On discovering the art of architecture and building, man could build comfortable shelter, he no longer needed fur to protect himself from the harsh climate. Thus, it is a fair possibility that without architecture human physiology wouldn’t have evolved this way. 

Living as Nomads

A World without Architecture - Sheet3
Nomadic Hunter gatherers_©Matthieu Paley

Early humans were nomads who traveled from one place to another for their survival. The search for food and water took them to different places. They used to travel and hunt during the day and take shelter in caves at night, to protect themselves from animal attacks and other catastrophes. Without architecture, humans would be struggling to survive and live nomadic life.  

Poor Life Quality and Lack of Human Comfort

For humanity, unlike other animal species, survival instincts are insufficient for existence. Architecture for us is only human, a necessity to complete us. The primary purpose of architecture is to provide shelter and shield us from harsh natural conditions. It is difficult for humans to sustain the natural climatic conditions such as extremely cold winters and harsh summers. Without basic shelter, there is a lack of human comfort and as most people will not be able to the bare it, the quality and expectancy of life would be fairly low.

No Civilizations

A World without Architecture - Sheet4
Early settlements of Catal Huyuk_©Dan Lewandowski

Primitive civilizations developed after man learned the art of building. The nomadic tribes started settling down in a place for the sole reason of architecture. Without architecture, there would be no settlements with a sizable population creating civilizations. This would further rule out any possibility of complex social systems, different occupations, and lifestyles.  

Self-sufficiency in a Trade-Deficit World

A less developed civilization would not allow humans to evolve from the hunter-gatherer nature. They would have evolved into agrarians, however, overcoming the self-sufficient nature and evolving into complex economies wouldn’t be possible without architecture. Since humans wouldn’t evolve from the self-sufficient nature and transition into tertiary occupations, trade wouldn’t exist. Humans would still be following the age-old barter systems and the world would never witness the wonders of trading activities.

Lack of Social, Economic, and Political Systems

Necessity is the mother of invention, but who would need systems when there’s no complexity in a civilization? There would be no social and economic progress whatsoever in a world without architecture. It would have a sense of hierarchy on the basis of the physical power of individuals, yet an organized social system would be a far-fetched concept for a primitive settlement. Without large-scale settlements like an established civilization, there wouldn’t be a need for a political system to control humans. A world without architecture wouldn’t require a political order because of its lack of complexity. 

A World Without Culture

A World without Architecture - Sheet5
Oldest Cave Painting – A cultural manifestation_©Adhi Agus Oktaviana

A world without architecture is a world without culture. Architecture is the fundamental anchor of identity, a pivotal endeavor of culture. It is the physical manifestation of the culture of the people in a region. The ancient cave paintings in Sulawesi, Indonesia depicted life events consisting the abstract human-like stick figures and animals that can probably be entitled as the first ever physical manifestation of culture in the form of art.   

No Urban Fabric 

A World without Architecture - Sheet6
Developed Urban Fabric_©1ivia

Without architecture, the world wouldn’t develop. The urban fabric would be non-existent. No skyscrapers adorning narrow streets, no roads, no highways, no transportation, nothing but vast barren lands. The human desire for comfort and well-being has triggered the invention of architecture and manifested itself in form of complex urban spheres that exist today. 

Alternative Architecture

Traditiona El Molo Hut, Kenya_©Belikova Oksana via Shutterstock

“If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture.” – Oscar Wilde 

The art of architecture is an adaptation of existing natural shelters. Man learned from nature. The simplest form of shelter as a fallen tree, a stack of twigs and leaves, a cave, or a lean-to assembly of a few branches covered in animal skin, evolved into a systematic architectural form of a hut. Architecture has always existed as a part of the human race. Natural shelters could take the load of a limited population, but that was never a sufficient comfortable enclosure. One cannot imagine a world without architecture.    

An Unimaginable World

“Architecture is what nature cannot make. Architecture is something unnatural but not something made up. – Louis Kahn”

Architecture is central to the progress of humankind. To imagine a world without architecture, would require reversal and retracement of historic civilizational evolution.  A world without architecture would look like a primitive civilization. Man would still be living as a caveman and struggling for basic survival. 

A world without architecture is unimaginable. It would be a world without art, culture, civilization, and humanity. It will not only be threatening to the human race, but also be a world with no low life quality. Architecture is not just about the building, it is about the quality of human life.  The presence of architecture not only ensures the survival of humans but also enhances human comfort and quality of life. It goes beyond the functional needs of accommodation, it solves problems of desire, coherence, of community. 

Architecture not so much as the art or technique of making buildings, but architecture as the intelligent way to organize our lives on earth, and infuse it with purpose”.

  • Bouman O. (2021)

References:

Bouman, O., 2022. “As Long as There Are Human Beings and their Challenges, There Will Be Architecture”: In Conversation with Ole Bouman. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/959771/as-long-as-there-are-human-beings-and-their-challenges-there-will-be-architecture-in-conversation-with-ole-bouman> [Accessed 24 July 2022].

ArchDaily. 2022. Architecture is Human: But Beauty is Found Everywhere. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/975186/architecture-is-human-but-beauty-is-found-everywhere> [Accessed 9 August 2022].

Artnet News. 2022. Archaeologists Have Discovered a Pristine 45,000-Year-Old Cave Painting of a Pig That May Be the Oldest Artwork in the World. [online] Available at: <https://news.artnet.com/art-world/indonesia-pig-art-oldest-painting-1937110#:~:text=Archaeologists%20believe%20they%20have%20discovered,found%20in%20Leang%20Tedongnge%20cave.> [Accessed 9 August 2022].

Sciarc.edu. 2022. Can you imagine a world without architecture? – SCI-Arc. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciarc.edu/news/2017/can-you-imagine-a-world-without-architecture> [Accessed 9 August 2022].

Author

Namita Dhawan is an architect and a writer. She is extremely enthusiastic about architecture, design, history, research, and writing. She believes architecture is about power, it can provoke thoughts, and emotions, and control the actions of the users subtly.