“Architecture is a social act and the material theatre of human activity.”– Spiro Kostof.

While flipping through our history books, it is evident that architecture is one of the only wonders that has stood the test of time representing society, reflecting the values, triumphs, and the collapse of civilizations during different points in history Kostof’s description of the architecture is beautiful and accurate and shows us how we can learn a lot about the people who lived in cities long before our time by looking at the monumental structures, houses, and buildings that make up the fabric of our cities. By combining our studies of the man-made environment of the past and the modern-day research on psychology, environment and sociology, we are reckoning the downright new ways in which architecture can affect people’s lives, which puts out the question – How does architecture impact our lives?

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Saint Basil’s Cathedral, is a former church in Red Square in Moscow, Russia_ⒸBoomsbeat
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Architecture reacting to the cultural influence_ⒸRomeo Belarmio

A dive into the Past

We, humans, were formed by the components of our natural surroundings long before we were influenced by structures. According to Darwinian theory, all species should be drawn to the environments in which they thrive. This implies environments that provide the correct combination of knowledge and shelter, in the case of humans. 

While the shelter is a very simple notion, the architecture of structures was incipiently moulded by the environment of a specific place, the materials that were readily accessible, and the values of the civilization that built them. At its core, architecture exists to create the physical environment in which people live, but architecture has always been more than just the built world; it is also a part of our culture and traditions. It’s a metaphor for how we perceive ourselves and the world.

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Shelters during Pre-historic periods_ⒸPinterest

Can the Built World influence us?

Although architecture may not have the potential to transform the world in a single instant, it does have the ability to impact the environment we live in daily. Architects all around the globe have tried to figure out how to form the society around us in many ways, from modifying the tiniest aspect in design to influencing entire areas.

Social Impacts of Architecture

People from all around the world are linked together by their socio-cultural beliefs and views. Architecture is a vital element of many civilizations, serving as a gathering place for these people to commemorate, worship, and also as a relic of their existence on this earth. 

Humans have become increasingly alienated from one another over time as their lifestyles have changed. With an ever-increasing population and demand, architecture can give better solutions and enhance pre-existing methods for the benefit of society.

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Place de la République in Paris_ⒸClément Guillaume
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The National Memorial for Peace and Justice by MASS Design Group_ⒸAlan Karchmer

Physical and Psychological Impacts of Architecture

Architects and urban planners have historically tried to enhance public health by properly constructing buildings, places, and cities. Architecture provides methods for augmenting society’s wellbeing through designing cities to reduce pollution, encouraging physical activity to counteract unhealthy lifestyles, expanding green areas and gardens, adequate sanitation, and water supply services.

Unlike our forefathers, who spent their days labouring in the sun, about 75% of people now spend their time indoors, in homes, classrooms, workplaces, and other enclosed locations.

According to different researchers, architectural impact plays a huge and vital part in human psychology because it can activate our nervous systems through visual, aural, and sensory cues. This means that a well-designed constructed environment can improve people’s moods, stimulate positive thinking, boost self-esteem, and increase confidence.

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Architecture impacting the social interactions and connections between people_ⒸPinterest

Economic Impacts of Architecture

The number of tourists who come to explore the heritage of a nation impacts its economy. The tourism industry in each nation is heavily impacted by distinct monuments, sites, constructions, and design elements that are exclusive to that region. Places such as ‘The Seven Wonders of the World’ attract a great number of tourists, bringing prosperity to their respective nations.

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Taj Mahal_Ⓒturtix
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Pyramids_Ⓒsculpies

On the other hand, architecture particularly developed for low-income neighbourhoods can help these individuals lessen their cost of living and provide them with an opportunity to improve their lives and to close the economic divide between the affluent and the disadvantaged. 

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Economic Housing_ⒸTim Crocker
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Low-cost Housing In Brazil_ⒸPinterest

Architecture Then vs. Now – Amidst the Pandemic

Historically, architectural education has been far more practical than academic. Materials must be obtained, textures and colours must be chosen, and models must be built. We must visit building sites, assess their surroundings, and supervise their progress. Architects are professionals who operate intending to create something concrete, something that we can see.

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ⒸAvel Chuklanov

But during the last three years, our world has been undergoing drastic and inescapable changes. We would have had to grow accustomed sooner or later, but not so abruptly to the changing architectural impact. We have been pushed outside of our comfort bubble and told flat out that we must cope and deal quickly.

ⒸChaay_tee

For the students, digital learning means no more site visits, cancelled end-of-semester juries, rescheduled or cancelled conventional thesis presentations and exhibits, and other activities that are integral to our academic programme. Instead, digital apps such as Teams and Meet have grown widespread and vital. This pedagogical stir may appear abrupt and unnecessary, but the truth is that it has been in the works for a long time. This transition needs curriculum updates to lower the weight of conventional manual skills courses in favour of more digital-content courses. It also requires that the studio’s physical surroundings be upgraded to be more technologically advanced.

So what’s in store for us in the Future?

From ever-changing technologies to the most recent trends, we’ve grown to expect the unexpected. Architects, much more than anyone else, are competent in adjusting to this odd, new situation wherein we find ourselves. Architects and urban planners have a crucial role in creating entire cities and buildings that are better equipped to respond to such pandemics and emerging outbreaks. Architects are among those who can aid us to upgrade our way of life. This pandemic does not indicate that architects have ceased to work. It simply implies that our approach to our work has shifted, and so does the architecture’s impact on our lives.

References:

  1. Vengelatos, G., 2019. How Does Architecture Impact Society? A High-Level Look | Thought Leadership | HMC Architects. [online] HMC Architects. Available at: <https://hmcarchitects.com/news/how-does-architecture-impact-society-a-high-level-look-2019-10-18/#:~:text=More%20Than%20Just%20a%20Building&text=Everything%20from%20the%20layout%20of,contribute%20more%20to%20their%20company.> [Accessed 13 February 2022].
  2. Patil, M., n.d. 10 ways architecture impacts society – RTF | Rethinking The Future. [online] RTF | Rethinking The Future. Available at: <https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-fresh-perspectives/a2966-10-ways-architecture-impacts-society/> [Accessed 11 February 2022].
  3. Libeskind, D., 2017. We mustn’t forget the emotional impact of the buildings around us. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/daniel-libeskind-architecture-emotions/index.html> [Accessed 10 February 2022].
  4. Asadpour, A., 2021. Student challenges in online architectural design courses in Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic. E-Learning and Digital Media, 18(6), pp.511-529.
  5. Bernheimer, L., 2017. How architecture shapes our cities – and our lives. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/nov/26/how-architecture-shapes-our-cities-and-our-lives#comments> [Accessed 13 February 2022].
Author

A final-year architecture student who enjoys traveling and learning about culture, architecture, and history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and scribbling down her ideas. She attempts to capture many perspectives on the world through her writings.

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