Beginning of a Journey

Ask any architect, they can tell you with surety that Architecture school was a truly transformative journey. From learning the basics to mastering technical skills, the impact of architecture on people’s lives goes beyond just designing buildings. Students mostly start their course thinking about the tangible parts of architecture- like form and function. But you experience a shift in perspective when you learn about the intangible facets of architecture. 

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Contextual Architecture_Photo by Seri on Unsplash

One learns that architecture isn’t just erecting structures but a diligent understanding of the cultural, historical, and social contexts that become important elements of the design. Learning how color can affect psychology, or how there are cultural differences when it comes to spatial articulation, becomes an integral part of how an architect develops their design thinking. 

Architecture as a Storytelling medium

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Architects are storytellers_Image by gpointstudio on Freepik.

Architecture throughout history has been used as a medium for storytelling. Take the example of the Taj Mahal. One of the most iconic buildings in the world tells us the story of love. It can be used to leave an everlasting testimony of people’s feelings. Buildings are not isolated entities but integral components of cultural and contextual narratives. 

Through different design features and materials, architects have been telling stories since time immemorial. Like the heaven-kissing tall spires of Gothic churches or the skyscrapers of modern cities with their technological wonders, each building has its psychological impact and contextual awareness. Each of those features can be a response to the religious, cultural, or functional needs of the structure. And they change drastically depending on the place and time when these structures are built.

Designing cities and communal spaces also have these intricate dependencies. Depending on the culture and societal norms, designing the spaces also changes. Hence it is crucial to note that architecture does not have a set of rules to design a specific functional space. It will always depend on the context and needs of those specific sets of people or communities for whom the space is being designed.

Tools Used To Weave The Narratives

Beyond the conceptual aspect of architecture lies the practical, technical skills required to erect these structures. New technologies, software, and machines help architects translate abstract design concepts into tangible design outputs. These skills become the pen and ink the architect uses to write these stories.

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Material plays an important role in conveying stories in architecture_Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Similarly, the materials used also play an important role as a tool in the storytelling. Each stone has its history and it gives meaning and importance to the designs. The layout, lighting, and choice of materials all contribute to the narrative of a place. How one perceives a space depends on the elements which make up the space.

Another perfect example of narratives in architecture is the Jewish Museum Berlin designed by Daniel Libeskind. The design concept is an immersive journey through history, memory, and emotion behind the Holocaust.he structure is characterized by zigzagging lines, sharp angles, and intersecting spaces that create a sense of disorientation and fragmentation.

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Daniel Libeskind’s zigzagging extension to Berlin’s Jewish Museum_Photo by Guenter Schneider

Te building is seen as shredded or torn apart, symbolizing the ruptured history of the Jewish people in Germany. To represent the loss, there are spaces called “voids”. These empty spaces, enclosed by cold, concrete walls, represent the darkness of the Holocaust and become integral to the overall narrative of the museum. Tilted concrete pillars are used to create an unsettling environment and disorientation. By incorporating these narrative tools in his design, Daniel Libeskind transforms traditional notions of museum design.

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Enclosed dark spaces in the museum_Photo by Inga Mucke on Unsplash

The Architectural Narrative of Everyday Life

Look around the spaces in your everyday life. Each space would have its feel and story. Homes, workplaces, and public spaces all play a role in shaping the stories of our individual and collective experiences. A home represents comfort, warmth, and safety, while a busy city tells us the story of public engagement and diversity.

Reading spaces_Photo by Pauline Andan on Unsplash

A library for instance would express its own story of being a cathedral of knowledge by the lighting, layout, and materials. These elements promote the knowledge-sharing function of the library while engaging the community. 

Conclusion

Architecture becomes tales written in brick, stone, and glass. Architects can become storytellers,by using design elements, symbolism, and spatial arrangements to tell stories, whether it be conveying religious narratives, cultural identities, historical events, or aspirations for the future.

Architecture ultimately is not confined to the physical spaces we design. It extends to the stories we have to tell, the emotions we invoke, and the memories left to create. This becomes the responsibility of architects.

Author

Binu Priya is an architect and a literary enthusiast. She finds solace in the realms of books, football, movies and anime. She spends her free time learning new languages and exploring cultures. She finds joy in articulating thoughts and emotions through the art of writing.