“There was a time when I experienced architecture without thinking about it.” – Peter Zumthor
Have you ever had a moment in your life when the world around you sees buildings as nothing more than structures, while you look at the architecture and wonder, how did we even look at the world before joining architecture? Yes, it’s not just you.
It is truly remarkable how the knowledge gained in understanding the field of architecture can shape an individual’s perspective in a way such that even the simplest things lead you into a whirlwind of scrutiny and analysis. This enlightenment makes us break away from misconceptions about architecture and realise that architecture is such a powerful tool that it has the power to make a lasting impression both on the physical and psychological levels.
Since the dawn of time, architecture has been perceived as just the design of the built environment. But as time passes, our needs change, which inadvertently affects the architecture. To understand this, the best example one can look at is the constant change in our living spaces. We have all seen the traditional courtyard house and experienced it. But at some point in our lives, without realising it, we moved into the concept of modern housing, and after some time, we miss the good old courtyard house. We assume it is just because of our sentimental attachment to space, which is also true. What we don’t consider is the comfort factor, which is directly related to the architecture of the space. Our in-depth understanding of architecture allows us to understand the functionality of each architectural element, which allows us to incorporate that factor into current architectural trends, leading to the modern style of housing with atriums, lush indoor green spaces, and shaded exteriors. As Eileen Gray said, “To create, one must first question everything.”
We have always been aware of the changes around us. But understanding architecture has made us enlightened as to how and why these changes have occurred.
Another example of the mind-blowing enlightenment caused by acquiring knowledge in this field can be easily explained by taking a look at our high school history classes. As a kid, all we looked at were the political and planning aspects of each civilization. But once we enter the architecture course, we begin to understand how and why each civilization had its unique architecture and planning systems and how they evolved over the years. Learning about the field of architecture changes the way we look at our past, our present, and our future!
With this enlightenment, let us look at a few architectural examples.
Community parks have always been perceived as a space where people come to escape the stressful work-based life and spend some time with their family and themselves. From a user’s perspective, a vast open area filled with luscious green trees and bushes, a few seating spaces, an unobstructed and safe play area, and silence is the definition of a perfect park. But as an architect, we tend to look at how these spaces can multi-function without creating blind spots while providing safety, positive sensory stimuli, visual connectivity, etc.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” – Steve Jobs
The amount of detail and thought given to a design is what catches an architect’s eye. Right from the bushes to the gazebos, we notice why and how each component has been placed, the effect on our sensory stimuli, visual connectivity, aesthetics and all other factors. For instance, the landscape in a park has been designed by taking into account how visual connectivity should occur, the amount of shade needed, whether a space should be visually pleasing or olfactory pleasing, or both, the number of focal points, wayfinding, etc. The most interesting part of community spaces is how different people are utilising space as opposed to how it was intended to be used.
“I don’t believe architecture has to speak too much. It should remain silent and let nature in the guise of sunlight and wind” – Tadao Ando
As soon as we heard the word “museum”, all we could think about at one point was that it was a building used to display historical artefacts, archaeological artefacts, geological artefacts, and art. But after enlightenment, we understand how spaces have been designed in such a way that our eyes are only directed toward the display. From the spatial planning to the lighting and materials used, the amount of detailing done to achieve the sole purpose of a museum is mind-blowing. I’ve always been in awe of the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Louis. I. Khan. The use of simple lines and colours draws your attention to the paintings. By using linear openings and reflective plates, the architect has allowed natural light to be used as a focus light.
Interestingly enough, a museum can be viewed differently by different people. The above image can be viewed by a few as a huge space. For a few, the artwork can be invoked, and for a few people, like us, the architectural details and human behaviour catch our eye. This truly demonstrates what Leonardo da Vinci said decades ago, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
For the general public, skyscrapers are tall structures with great views, and, most importantly, the pride of the city. They define the neighbourhood as it acts as a landmark and also stands as proof of the socio-economic status of the people. But the knowledge gained from understanding architecture makes us question the design itself. Yes, it saves space and has other positive impacts. But the amount of energy and resources spent on constructing this sky-reaching wonder and, most importantly, the complex technical aspects involved in making sure the structure withstands the challenging geographical and climatic conditions, make us question the necessity of excessively tall structures. Looking past all this, it is undeniable that, “There’s a kind of beauty to a skyscraper,” quoted by Lisa Joy.
“Architecture is not so much a knowledge of form, but a form of knowledge.” – Bernard Tschumi
From the above examples, it is clear that understanding architecture has an impact on our perspective. But beyond that, every individual’s past and interests influence their understanding, which leads to unique architects, with a unique set of design principles. It is also essential to note that understanding architecture is not just about gaining knowledge about this particular field. But rather, it involves combining different forms of knowledge attained throughout our lives, which defines our identity in the architectural field.