Not everyone takes notice of the significance that architecture has in our lives. Through time it has intricately woven itself into our very being but we hardly take notice of its influence. For most, it is just a subtle reminder that presents itself whenever an obstacle is blocking their way as they are getting by. However, as architecture professionals, we have an extra eye that allows us to make out exactly what makes a design impactful. Architects effectively use this skill to bring a quality of life to humanity hoping to inspire good. History shows us of many such impactful designs.

History

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us” famously stated by Sir Winston Churchill, puts into words the repercussions that a building has on its users over time. This can be accounted for throughout history, from the Indus valley to Mesopotamia. These were historic civilizations that were way ahead of their time even in lifestyle, clearly evident from the architectural ruins of these cities. The architecture and city planning were a breakthrough to a great civilization that lived. History shares with us the effect that great design has had on our predecessors. 

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Mohenjo-Daro is an ancient Indus Valley Civilization_©Suronin

Sense of Identity

Throughout history, buildings have mirrored our ideologies as a community and as an individual. Architecture is a visual representation of our attributes; values, aspirations, triumphs and eventual tribulations that may have brought an end to a great civilization. The built environment that envelopes us manifests a true sense of persona as a society. The advancements in this field are also evidence of our evolution in lifestyle, culture and technological advancements. Vast cityscapes are a depiction of how we identify ourselves and in turn how the world identifies us as a community. Varying through geographies and time zones has distinguished our cultural influences and values. However, with people coming together and communication advancing, borders are not able to withhold these attributes anymore. We have started looking to other regions for inspiration in turn leading to a fusion of building styles. This has led to the blend of contemporary and vernacular styles which are widely popular among most. Urbanization and westernization have geared this change, but this has also caused communities to lose their flavour, their distinctness that one’s unified them as a whole. Cities all around the world have started to look similar with glass cladding the monotonous rectangular forms that leap into the sky. Slowly its influences are also creeping into the rural settings which are our last salvation grounds, an ode to our history.

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The Seagram building by Mies Van Der Rohe is said to be an early influence to the slick and monolithic style of building; © Ken Tan

Wellbeing

We do not realize how much of our wellbeing is attributed to the physical structures that mould our world. An occupant’s mental and physical health can be affected by a simple layout or the materials used. There are even illnesses that are caused by spending time in an unhealthy environment. Sick building syndrome is a condition where people inhabiting a building experience symptoms like fatigue, dizziness and asthma. It can be caused by poor ventilation leading to poor air quality, poor lighting and the presence of air pollutants. It is shown that light can elevate cognition, increase productivity and improve your mood. Therefore, designers have to keep in mind that ventilation is of prime importance. They also need to be choosy while selecting materials they are working with as some paints are responsible for releasing hazardous chemicals into the air.

Well designed spaces tend to become the epitome of successful endeavours. This has been proven in the case of offices where employees are alert, stress-free, productive and take fewer sick leaves as they are content in their working environment. This requires vibrant innovative spaces instead of void and sterile ones. Designs that forge a connection with nature tends to keep people relaxed and engaged. Biophilic design has become a key element in modern designs to eliminate characterless spaces by bringing nature back into our lives, the way it should have been all along.

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Arkansas’ Thorncrown Chapel is a fine example of biophilic design that speaks to the soul_©Randall Connaughton

Wayfinding

Architecture has become our primary tool for wayfinding, especially with urbanization uprooting our natural landmarks. It aids us to experience a sense of place, giving us a feeling of comfort that in turn affects our wellbeing. It has become an instinct that gives us a sense of direction as we move around every day, distinct details of these buildings are etched in our memory guiding us through streets and roadways. Healthcare facilities and campuses require effective wayfinding to help people get around. Even the interior layout has to be designed to lead people in and out of buildings with ease. 

The sense of feeling lost is a prominent fear while travelling to a new location, but if monotonous buildings can be replaced by unique architecture won’t the travellers feel much at ease with the newness of their surrounding. A lot of complex psychological impacts can be caused by our built environment and as architects, we need to understand that ease in navigation should come before all other aspects.  

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The streets of New York are uniquely lined with buildings that reminisce monumental styles_©Sorbis

Shaping Humanity

With advancements in psychology, researchers can understand how historical townships fueled the development of a society. The Greeks are monumental evidence to this with several contributions in mathematics, astrology, philosophy and science that still influence us to date. Greek cities were visionary, built-in giant scales that were unusual during those times. The cities were well-planned and were pioneers in the arts and theatre which created many great thinkers like Socrates and Plato that are etched in our history.

The Acropolis in the city of Athens_©Neil Beer

History has taught us that the architecture of a civilization can propel its people to prosperity. Creating designs that keep these elements in mind is surely how buildings should be developed. We are key influencers to the development and growth of a community and therefore should take our roles more seriously.

Reference List:

  • Neil Beer. The Acropolis [Photograph]. Getty Images
  • Sorbis. New York street [Photograph]. Shutterstock
  • Suronin. Mohenjo Daro [Photograph]. Shutterstock
  • Ken Tan. The Seagram Building [Photograph]
  • Randall Connaughton. The Thorncrown Chapel [Photograph]
Author

Mary is a final year B.Arch. student eager to find her place in the multiverse that is architecture. She believes that words have a hidden ability to inspire, providing an in-depth perception. Deeply passionate about preserving the natural world and its heritage, she also finds solace in penning down her thoughts, travelling and enjoys being cooped up with a good book.

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