Growing up in a city like Kolkata, surrounded by heritage architectural buildings can be a paramount facet of a child’s ideology towards buildings and their aesthetics. However, in terms of understanding the core of any architectural establishment, all you need is to submerge yourself within the ocean of architecture, where art and science coexist and complement each other. Although it is quite difficult to acknowledge the value of spaces and the purpose of any architectural creation without having a piece of basic knowledge of the subject.
While roaming around in the streets of northern Kolkata, the majestic buildings with giant courtyards, open terraces, cast iron balcony railings, wooden doors, green shuttered windows, and artistically carved brick walls have always intrigued me with their visual appearances until I came to know about the Indian-European structures and their features which is the traditional typology of the Architecture of North Kolkata.
Architecture primarily teaches us to apprehend buildings through innumerable elements rather than only being tempted by their visual aesthetics. One would never question any features or the construction process or the choice of materials prior to join the field of Architecture. They probably would not have any possible insight into the design’s existence or the built environment or even about its effects.
It is important to understand that whether it is a heritage building or a modern skyscraper, they have their own different elements through which they express themselves as a part of the built environment and help convey the atmosphere. Each building has its own functionality and there is a purpose behind every aesthetic that a building conceives. The style of building revolves around some fundamental factors like the climate of a particular area, necessity, and availability of materials, spatial arrangements, design strategies, construction systems such as load, stability, and physics concepts like shear force, strain, and material strength.
These are the lessons that an architecture undergrad institution provides from the very first week of its course. Initially, they introduce students to the terminologies, basic concepts like the expression of ideas, the value of spaces, and activities like sketching, model making, etc. It helps to perceive the ability to analyze any used or unused space and come up with a probable solution according to the requisition. Later on, students are taught about design concepts, principles, famous architects, and their design strategies, so that they can understand the purpose or factors of any design and learn to criticize. Along with design, the course brings the details of structural aspects which make a design stable in normal or extreme forces. Then it follows up to the nitty-gritty of site-study, user experience, and anthropometry, in order to understand the human scale and proportion, the quality of spaces, and to make a strong cognizance of areas and their proportional aspects. As the design developments evolve around the living environment, the students get to know about the cultural and social aspects of humanity such as sociology and human psychology which helps them to grasp the perception of the influence of design on humankind.
After going through the procedure of a certified course, one can easily become a proficient observer who could critically think of a space development from scratch to the final design.
Also, can examine any design through the preliminary design parameters such as concept, planning, aesthetic, ambiance, scale, and height by keeping the points of sustainability, and climate responsivity in the head. So that while passing through a skyscraper or hanging out in a public place, they should be able to focus on the spatial and structural orientation of the design instead of only looking upon the appearance of the space or structure. They should understand and feel the why’s and how’s beyond the visual representation that they would not have achieved before knowing the basics of architecture.
As an example, skyscrapers are much more than their massive height and scale. They leave a distinct impact on the urban landscape of a city and also reflect a kind of economic activity with social implications. “The modern skyscraper is a major force with a strong magnetic field. It draws into its physical being all of the factors that propel and characterize modern civilization. The skyscraper is the point where art and the city meet,” quoted Ada Louis Huxtable, an architectural critic, and writer.
Similarly, public places are not only for gathering, they are designed to attract people most to a place more than the sun or the aesthetic or the form, but to the presence of other people, sit-able places containing restaurants, cafés, bars, etc. It is all about promoting social activities and human contact which can provide maximum comfort to its users.
In the book, City: Rediscovering the center, William H. Whyte stated, “It is difficult to design a space, that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”
So the basic difference between before and after Architecture is understanding the science and strategies hiding in the ambiance and aesthetic of any design. It is a game of necessity and quality over only looks and appearance. And knowing architecture is the key to unlocking the functionality of the optical facade because a building does not miraculously happen to sing in its spatial quality as there exists a harmony between space and time. Like Norman Foster quotes, “As an Architect, you design for the present with an awareness of the past for a future which is essentially unknown.”