Since the advent of time, humans have done everything to survive. Whether hunting for food, killing for life, or building for shelter, every step was taken out of necessity. We ate because we needed to, drank because our bodies told us to, killed because of our instincts and sought shelter in caves, under trees, and on river banks because of the extreme external conditions. Human existence without architecture was possible for the humans of that era since shelter could be found in nature.
The rest of humanisation happened in the next 500 million years. Humans went from living under the trees to removing them from their land to build their homes, and as man evolved, his needs, wants, and needs from his shelter also evolved. What once was a way for him to avoid the sun, rain, and cold became a place used for sitting, eating, and gathering. A shelter under the tree became tipis and tents, boats, dolmens, mud homes, and elaborate caves. Moreover, from there onwards, human existence became dependent on architecture for survival, and the more humans advanced, the bigger they wanted their spaces to be.
The Celebration of Life Through Architecture
Architecture was only sometimes a competition about who could design and build the tallest building in the world. However, rather than the quality of life, it could provide people and how mere materials could be used to celebrate human existence. The best architecture that was built thousands of years ago and is still the first thing we learn about in architecture school is the architecture of the pyramids.
Pyramids were a remarkable feat of engineering, arts, and science as they were made to endure an eternity, and they did exactly that. However, let us focus on why these pyramids were built in the first place. The architecture of the pyramids is fascinating beyond the construction mode because they were the first piece of architecture used to celebrate life (however wildly they went on to do it).
The pharaohs of Egypt expected their reign in this life to continue in the afterlife in the manifestation of a God, so they made enormous spaces for themselves and filled them with things fit for a God to run his kingdom and sustain himself in the next life. These pyramids were built with the wrong intentions, but their existence on Earth was so profound that they impacted millions of humans worldwide and continue to do so.
The pyramids of Giza are one of the first indications of the capabilities of a man and how architecture can be used to commemorate human existence long after the architect has passed on. In these pyramids, we find the origins of architecture, the stories of the pharaohs preserved in stone and the beautiful scenes of every aspect of life in ancient Egypt. They are not just a story about how the pharaohs died but also about how the ancient Egyptians lived.
Therefore, in a way, human existence without architecture might have been possible, but if it were not for architecture and these pyramids, these elaborate structures, and these beautiful heirlooms, would we have known who the Egyptians were, how they lived, the cultures they had, and the stories they shared? Human existence is thriving today because we can study and share our ancestors’ experiences, which were made possible through the beautiful architecture they left behind.
Can Humans Survive Without Architecture?
Despite everything said, done, and designed in the 21st century, the debate of whether humans can survive without architecture is baseless. We spend the majority of our lives inside buildings. Our days start at home, where we gear up to travel to another building where we work. When not feeling our best, we dress up to go to a different building and spend even more time inside. We go to yet another building to get our food, another to get medical treatment, another to play games, and so on. Our life has become primarily indoors, meaning architecture has become one of our necessities for everyday living.
If you are worried, this is not a bad thing. Food, water, and shelter are the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and something every human requires to live. The only problem is when architecture is designed to cut us off from our other needs, like exposure to nature, sunlight, and the feeling of contentment and satisfaction. These needs must be accommodated in every space that a human occupies. However, this is often taught to us in architecture school but needs to be remembered as soon as we step outside our universities.
This is mainly because our requirements tend to change when it comes to “real” life and “real” architecture. Instead of adding green spaces to our homes and balconies to our apartments, we occupy even more space and call it a successful business deal. We forget our needs and focus solely on our wants, especially in low-middle-income countries where architecture is still considered a luxury.
In conclusion, human existence can survive without good architecture, but it should not have to. With so much research being done on space psychology and the influence well-designed spaces have on the human mind, culture, and experiences, it is pertinent that we make good architecture accessible and learn from the architecture that our ancestors left behind for us to learn from.
Cherry, Kendra. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Verywellmind, 14 Aug. 2022, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4136760.
Handwerk, Brian. “Pyramids of Giza.” National Geographic, National Geographic, 21 Jan. 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/giza-pyramids.