Our perception of Familiar and Unfamiliar Spaces

Many of us have grown up watching movies. While there are more types than anyone could be bothered to count, a genre almost universally liked are movies about travel: voyages into uncharted lands- fictional or otherwise, showcasing the beautiful buildings, culture and nature. There is something about being in new cities that makes people aware of being out of place yet, feel like a part of it. What exactly evokes that feeling? Why is it more fulfilling to see life thriving in a city or a town different from our own? Someone who has spent their whole life in Paris; might not look up at the Eiffel tower twice, after decades of watching it light up the night sky, but someone who decided to visit from another country wouldn’t be able to pick their jaw up from the floor. A layperson would say it’s the thrill of the unknown that excites them; after all, didn’t everyone, at one point, dream of going to Hogwarts or Narnia too? 

The Obscure Perspective: Revisiting the Definition of Architecture - Sheet1
Our perception of new places_©weheartit.com/entry/352729741

A city evolves to account for the lifestyle, needs, etc., of the people living there. It is also fair to say that a city one lives in shapes their lifestyle, which begs the question, “Do we shape our surroundings, or do our surroundings shape us?” If you grew up in a different city, state, country, would you still be you? How exactly does one’s immediate environment play a role in shaping reality as they know it? How strongly does architecture factor into it? As architects, we are aware of the immense influence the environment has on a person. All of these require careful planning, analysis and some crucial observations on the architect’s part. We have to make sure that the new designs go with the flow of the existing ones.

Changing Perspectives: from a Layperson to an Architect:

Going from a layperson’s perspective to an architect’s is a gradual process for many architecture students. In the beginning, it can prove to be overwhelming- not unlike a first day in the gym straining muscles you didn’t know existed- An entirely new viewpoint of looking at the world gets brought to light. A room ceases to be four walls and windows; it is now a concrete structure with each element holding information about its dweller. A stroll in the garden isn’t about relaxing; it is observing the position of trees and water bodies and how they control the microclimate, circulation, etc. Along with learning all the technical details, there is a lot of introspection involved. A design that comes to life on paper also speaks a lot about the designer. A well thought out, strategically planned model suggests a capable designer. It is what all designers aspire to.

The Obscure Perspective: Revisiting the Definition of Architecture - Sheet2
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The change of pace in Architectural Endeavours

From one angle, architecture is simply a mode of communication between the past and the future. The very first artistic ventures in all of history got inspired by nature and surroundings. The architectural tombs or temples did not come into existence from imitation- they came from the mind. The evolution of design has evolved from thinking to drawing by hand to doing them on computers. The digitization of architecture started long before Covid. Designing became faster and more convenient. For the most part, this was a colossal success. In the last two years, almost all aspects of architectural learning started relying heavily on computers. However, exploring the world through the internet doesn’t change the fact that you are, in fact, in your room. It seems there is no digital substitute for hands-on experience. Another important factor while considering online education would be peer interaction. For almost every student, one of the most significant memories of architecture school is the group projects and trophies done late into the night for months on end, passing food and laptops around the room, with heated debates and the rush before deadlines. It wasn’t just an enjoyable co-curricular activity but a crucial teaching and learning experience. In the face of an uncertain future, this is a dying tradition. 

Definition of Architecture today

Like the ship of Theseus, we too are posed with an identity question. With the numerous technological advancements and novel design systems at our disposal, is designing now the same as before? Similarly, it is time to revise our definitions of what Architecture is. Many new factors have come into play since the first structures built in history or a few years ago. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep the same ideologies or tackle similar problems as back then. A worldwide pandemic confined us indoors. We were bitterly made aware of how much our way of living needed change, which means spaces equipped to handle such problems suitably. There is information galore at the tip of our fingers, hours of relentless scrolling on social media, pushing us in a new direction. While we might not know the exact outcome of the future, we know the hundreds of possible futures that result from our collective actions. We have a rare opportunity to write a new definition of what architecture means- one that honours the past and caters to the needs of the future. 

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Clement, C. (2013). A History of Art for Beginners and Students. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company.


  1. Ricci, N. (2018). Scholarship @ Claremont The Psychological Impact of Architectural Design. [online] Available at: https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2850&context=cmc_theses.
  2. ‌Spence, C. (2020). Senses of place: architectural design for the multisensory mind. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 5(1).
  3. ‌www.designingbuildings.co.uk. (n.d.). The future of architectural education. [online] Available at: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/The_future_of_architectural_education [Accessed 22 Oct. 2021].

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