The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Architecture as “the art or science of building” (Merriam-webster.com, 2021). To date, it has not been determined which one of the two it is. This is because ‘architecture’ is much more than a fancy word. It does not belong to any one specific discipline but is brought together by borrowed knowledge from many. Architects don many hats in the course of a project – artist, mediator, diplomat, draftsman, auditor, engineer, collaborator, leader, and more. Architecture has always been around us; affecting the perception of spaces, human nature & psychology, societal patterns, and most importantly, our surrounding environment.
Architecture does not exist solely in buildings; it permeates the essence of any space that is occupied by people. Every space we use to work, eat, sleep, walk, commute, or perform any function has been designed for that very purpose. From its humble beginnings as a cave shelter, architectural design has now developed into bungalows, high-rises, offices, parks, schools, cities, and so on. It evolved from the need for having separate spaces to do different tasks. What began from a simple division of rooms, has evolved into categorizing buildings for separate purposes at a micro-level and cities, towns, communities, etc at a macro-level.
Architecture and Society
Human society exists hand-in-hand with architecture. Our needs shape our spaces and they in turn influence our psychology & behaviors. Some of the very best examples of a community’s influence on its surroundings are found in urban settings; poorer sections of the society tend to be characterized by narrower streets, more built-up space per unit area, locally available reusable materials, and lesser green spaces. Tightly knit spaces evoke a sense of kinship among the residents which is seldom found in posher localities, whose wide avenues, large landscaped areas, and magnificent bungalows hardly encourage the spirit of interaction, isolating the residents in their detached circles.
Architecture and Psychology
Architecture can influence the behaviors and moods of a person to a great extent. Something as elementary as the design of a school can account for differences in children’s behaviors. Stoic, rigid structures with fewer views to landscaping and lack of activity pockets tend to reinforce the idea of discipline amongst students. On the other hand, classes that open up to communal zones and have play areas close by can have a positive impact on the kids’ spirits by striking a balance between learning and fun. Even something as simple as colors can change the ambiance of the space – a grey wall is dull; bright colors engage the vision and activate visual sensory nodes.
Green is well known to harbor productivity & relaxation, hence offices with landscaping are more favorable working spaces to the current generation of tech-savvy professionals. This has in turn caused more offices to go green not just in terms of their aesthetics, but also with respect to building materials, energy efficiency, and carbon footprint. Interest in sustainability as a lifestyle has grown exponentially over the last decade.
All About Perception
Architecture is not definite; it affects different individuals differently. Similar to art, it can either be a very personal experience or a fleeting observation. Let us see how one street’s design could be viewed in various ways depending on the user’s point of view – to a pedestrian, the sidewalk spaces are of more concern than the roads. To the people who use transport, the conditions of the roads are of more significance. Residents of the same street would consider having trees and landscaping dotting the footpaths of paramount importance. Good design caters to the needs of multiple users, taking into account the constraints of the environmental conditions and making the best of the resources at hand.
Architects themselves can interpret designs in more ways than one. In fact, that is one of the primary skills he/ she should develop. It helps to understand the requirements in depth & come up with practical solutions that stand a better chance of working in the real world. Architects are often known to possess a keen eye for details. At some time in every architecture student’s life, comes a point when he/ she transitions beyond the veil of just gazing at their surroundings. They begin to understand the ‘how’ & ‘why’ of designs. They perceive volumes, forms, proportions, and patterns in every room. Simple details that were previously of less significance, such as doors, windows, etc, begin to stand out as highlights that add value to the overall architectural composition. While other diners in a restaurant could be busy chatting away about everyday matters, architects would observe the interiors, floor layouts, and services. They would hardly glance at the menu or the food that they ordered.
Future of Architecture
With the advancements in technology attaining unimaginable heights, ideas on paper are now able to take flight and architects have newfound freedom to experiment in a global playground. But with this technological speed train, we are also looking at a future riddled with social & ethical dilemmas. As populations grow across the world & green cover shrinks, humans are turning to the skies as an alternative. While countries are engaged in a race to have the tallest feats of engineering, the cost of building such sky-scrapers is high; land, manpower, heavy carbon emissions in the manufacture of materials, high embodied energies of the materials & inadequate sanitation management are just some of the issues that would have to be addressed effectively.
Sustainable growth is key here. With this modern age, knowledge is at our fingertips. Architects must exercise their ability to make a difference in the world responsibly. Great architecture can teach people how to practice sustainable, eco-friendly, harmonious coexistence with nature. It is practical, responds to its surroundings, facilitates its users, harnesses climate, reduces pollution, and manages its lifecycle with as little a carbon footprint as possible. With more & more architects integrating design principles with efficient systems, we can hope to soon be living between the clouds, while the land flourishes beneath us.
Merriam-webster.com (2021). Definition of ARCHITECTURE. [online]. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/architecture [Accessed 6 July 2021].
Vangelatos, G. (2019). How Does Architecture Impact Society? A High-Level Look | Thought Leadership. [online]. Available at: https://hmcarchitects.com/news/how-does-architecture-impact-society-a-high-level-look-2019-10-18/.