It is an established study that architects look at things differently than a normal person would; The way architects perceive things, observe the minute details, the way they interpret the different spatial connotations, is what sets them apart. I remember, in the very first year of architecture school, the one thing that was emphasized the most was the quality of being sensitive to the surroundings, built or unbuilt.

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Details and Geometry_©

Right from our dwellings, to buildings, streets, places, and cities, the ability to have vivid viewpoints about day-to-day spectacles that we encounter, is a quality that every architect possesses and develops over time. The tangible elements such as texture, materiality, form that determine the spatial character as well as the intangible elements such as color, light, memory that determine the way we perceive space together form an important part of the observations and analysis of an architect.

Here’s a list of five things that we experience daily and what architects notice about them:

1. Stories that every building has to share

While not every building is built with conscious thought and most of them are merely a replication of pre-set buildings that are cast from the same set of molds, people relate to these buildings differently, despite their architectural impact. Sometimes these buildings become markers of how a person associates a particular place with, that gives them a sense of familiarity while sometimes they take a step further and shape the cultural and social identity of a place. 

While some represent monotonous landscapes, others stand out and become landmarks, while some embrace the geography of a place, some completely neglect it and have a negative impact instead. Therefore, every single building has a story to share, whether good or bad, that is determined by the people inhabiting it.

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Landmarks of city of Mumbai_©tripadvisor

2. Life on Streets

While streets are primarily viewed as means of traversing, there is a lot more to observe about these non-porous paved surfaces, the foremost being the edges, nodes, and junctions that give each street a unique character. The ratio of the height of the immediate buildings to the street width affects the perception of scale and the way humans relate to it. 

The typology of the buildings determines the activity and usage on the streets while the landmarks, signages, street furniture, vegetation, all together represent the character of these streets. Thus, streets are not just seen as individual entities serving one particular purpose of vehicular movement but an amalgamation of all the activities that showcase life on streets.

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Community Life_©

3. Commuting through the city

Traveling from one part of the city to another gives an opportunity to observe various landscapes and the way people utilize and inhabit them. The most interesting aspect about these places is how each of them portrays a different character and activities which change or evolve throughout a day, a month, a year, or over several years. The same place can bustle with different activities during different times of the day thus, varying the type and number of users. 

Similarly, seasonal changes and festivities further change the character and usage of the same place throughout the year thereby displaying dynamism. Therefore, the city keeps evolving and shaping itself constantly owing to the different circumstances while its architecture may or may not remain static.

4. Movies as spatial narratives

While for a normal viewer, movies are all about the plot, actors, cinematography, and execution, architects add another point where the backdrop and settings are just as important factors that support the narrative. 

Whether it is one particular architecturally stunning structure like that in ‘Parasite’ or whether it’s the way a city and its history is portrayed like in ‘Midnight in Paris’ or whether it is about a utopian architectural reality like that in ‘Her’, all of these movies have a spatial narrative to share.

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Architecture of ‘Parasite’_©architizer

5. Liminal Spaces

While the in-between spaces are observed as mere transitional elements, ambiguous and unprogrammed, for architects these spaces are more than just elements of backdrop for other important functional spaces. These spaces are observed as the reason why a particular functional space that they transition into, is appreciated and valued. 

These in-between spaces allow the users to think, reflect and feel the change thus, becoming an important part of the overall experience of the space.

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Therme Vals, Peter Zumthor_©archilovers

Every single place is a reflection of lifestyle, form, and narratives, experiencing which means bringing forth the act of all senses together. To observe and rise over first glances is what architects are wired to do, where they view each space through the lens of a critic, constantly analyzing how spaces function and evolve. 

Thus, this unmatched quest for spaces and the stories behind them is what drives their creative mind making them notice the smaller details and appreciating them for what they represent.


Surabhi is a student of architecture and is trying to figure out how she can contribute to the field and society. She finds architectural writing as an escape to a world full of possibilities and hope. Her curiosity, zest to learn, explore and share, is what keeps her going.

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