“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.” – I.M. Pei

An embodiment of human intellect and imagination, architecture is intertwined with the very framework of human existence. It moulds the homes people live in, the communities they belong to, and their interactions with nature. Although architecture is often connected to physical structures, the extent of architecture goes beyond the tangible realm and penetrates the fundamental essence of humanity. These physical structures or buildings are only a chapter of this narrative, the others are about creating safe spaces that influence human lives, meet their needs, and symbolize what they desire. But what if architecture, in all of its forms, didn’t exist? Would such a world be feasible?  A world devoid of the institutions that give towns and communities their unique identities. A world without shelter, infrastructure, or necessities. In this hypothetical world, how would the intricate relation between architecture and human experience affect behaviour, transform human lives and give the world any meaning or purpose?

The Journey of Architecture

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The Stonehenge, the early architecture of humanity_©beppe Casagrande

The story of architecture can be traced by the millennia-long evolution of human life. From very simple caves and monolithic stones to the magnificent skyscrapers that crown contemporary cities, architecture has evolved to reflect the changing needs and goals of humankind. It is a dynamic entity that changes and adapts to the changes and problems that arise with each period. Architecture appeared and flourished with civilizations. Roughly 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic Era, humanity made a major shift from nomadic lifestyles to settled communities, from caves to built structures. They started building houses and structures that offered them better safety, security, and comfort, which could have been the dominant needs of the Neolithic humans- protection from wild animals and shelter from harsh weather. As societies evolved and technology advanced, architectural techniques also progressed. Today, living among the towering skyscrapers and planned cityscapes, humanity continues to challenge the limits of architecture, through diverse techniques of sustainable construction and innovative building materials.

The Bridge to the Past

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The Taj Mahal, a monument that tells the story of our ancestors and acts as a major landmark_ © Trey Ratcliff

Architecture essentially acts as a physical link between the past and the present, which keeps alive the stories and traditions of early humans. Every structure has a story to tell, about its aesthetics, technologies, and societies of the era that it belongs to. As one gazes upon these structures, it’s like flipping through the pages of a living history book. Every material, layout, and design speaks volumes about its era, offering a glimpse into the evolution of humanity. Take, for instance, the impressive ziggurats of Mesopotamia or the mysterious Stonehenge – remarkable displays of human progress. And then, there are the iconic Pyramids of Egypt and the grand Gothic churches of medieval Europe, standing as enduring symbols of human ingenuity. Through their existence, these structures give us snippets into life in their eras, serve as symbols of human history, and as a constant reminder of the achievements of humans. Overall, architecture is a bridge to the past, an immortal witness to human existence, portraying their desires, achievements, and lasting legacy through time.

The Stage for Commerce

Architecture is like a stage where commercial and trade relations unfold, with physical infrastructures that fuel economy and shape the world of commerce.

Imagine walking through a bustling commercial street, with markets, high-end stores, and offices. These are the places where the economy grows, trades develop, and humanity flourishes. From the little coffee shops on the streets to the corporate headquarters, architecture provides a canvas for commerce and business. 

Now envision a scenario where all these didn’t exist. Where there never existed a market where people bought their food, or where barter systems developed. A place that never underwent global trade, a world where there are no places to store produce or to buy and sell basic human necessities, like food, water, or clothes? There would be no economic development, and many of the professions today would never exist.

The Pillar for Culture, Spirituality and Identity

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The Water Moon Monastery, an example of how architecture creates spirituality_ ©worldarchitecture.org

Architecture is also about creating cultures and invoking spirituality in humankind. Think of the majestic cathedrals or tranquil temples and the feelings that they evoke. Such spaces inspire humans, make them feel at peace, embody their deepest beliefs and aspirations, and form a community. They are the sanctuaries where people can pause, reflect, and connect with their thoughts. Apart from having a spiritual purpose, these places invoke the need to belong and create communities and cultures. Many cities are known for their culture, with architecture as landmarks to their rich cultural heritage.  Would many cities be easily identified without their most famous cultural landmarks? Be it the Taj Mahal in India, the Pyramids of Egypt, or Machu Pichu of Peru, these imbibe a cultural significance and identity to the place. Without architecture, the world would be devoid of places to form communities, cultural identities, or search for the purpose or meaning of life.

A Life Without Architecture

In a world where architecture does not exist, life as we know it would change dramatically. Try picturing a landscape without the comforts of home, devoid of towering buildings and cities, transportation networks, and essential infrastructure for life. It seems almost unimaginable, leaving humanity stranded in a world lacking the framework needed for societal advancement. Considering the impacts that such a world would have on culture, healthcare, education, and governance, there would be no spaces to house these functions, and these sectors would probably never have developed into the systems today. There would be no sense of identity and belonging in such a world. In this world, would tourism or recreation exist?  Would the allure of global connectivity fade into obscurity?  Without global connectivity, travel, or trade, humankind would live in the bubble created around their immediate surroundings, unaware of the rest of the world, universe and planets around us.

However, beyond such imaginations, there is another question to ponder- could human existence truly flourish without any forms of architecture? Ultimately, its absence would hinder us from not just physical structures and functions but also would strip away the very essence of humanity. In conclusion, the story of architecture is the story of humanity- the story of their dreams, aspirations, resilience, and hope for a better future. Without it, what’s left would be a world devoid of purpose, direction, connections, and the beauty of human ingenuity and development- a world of wandering savages without thoughts of tomorrow.


Schuster, H. (2019) How I.M. Pei brought Modern Architecture to the National Mall, Boundary Stones. Available at: https://boundarystones.weta.org/2019/05/31/how-im-pei-brought-modern-architecture-nationalmall#:~:text=%E2%80%9CArchitecture%20is%20the%20very%20mirror,%3A%20Light%20is%20the%20Key.%E2%80%9D (Accessed: 18 February 2024). 

Timeline of the history of Architecture (2023) Urban Design lab. Available at: https://urbandesignlab.in/timeline-of-the-history-of-architecture/ (Accessed: 18 February 2024). 

SCI-Arc Channel (2017) Imagine a world without architecture, YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c8FtVMxdaE&t=1s (Accessed: 18 February 2024).