Moving from an economically depressed, impoverished neighbourhood to a metropolitan city alters the landscape and impacts perceptions of cities and their morphologies. Similarly, transitioning from a school to an architecture college affects one’s capacity to read what is built and unbuilt.

The conversation with spaces is significantly transformed, as well as the lexical resources. A footpath is changed into a pedestrian walkway or just a pavement, and a balcony is no longer just a balcony but a Juliet balcony, recessed or cantilevered. Bricks are not just placed; they are bonded, and glass is not just a glass that is placed; it is a curtain wall or glazing. There is a world without architects, and the instant one joins an architectural school, the notion of space changes, and the built environment within that space is characterized using the vocabulary and lens of architecture.

The same monument from childhood recollection now has symmetry and geometry, and the stone has a name where each grain has its own identity. Steps are also no longer just steps; they are tread and riser with a flight and a mid-landing. 

Playgrounds and parks used to be open spaces that were accessible to everyone. However, accessibility was limited when the architectural design was introduced. The open space became a landscape, with purposefully planted hedges to create barriers or fenced-off areas where a few Plumeria Alba are sprouting and filling the area with aroma. Previously, boundary walls were just boundary walls. Architecture recognizes the height of a boundary wall as a measurement of visual connectedness and interaction between the inhabitants and passersby.

Even structures that weren’t all that intriguing before entering the field of architecture became the subject of study; the hut is one example. Even though it is considered a dilapidated dwelling, hut construction is indigenous expertise that uses materials easily accessible in the region. The materials used are climate-responsive, and the design itself is native. Such architectural structures are waterproofed using the husk, dung cake, and mud pastes. Every element has significance, from mud walls and floors to thatched roofs.

Architecture, an expression that transformed perspective - Sheet1
Hut, a form of traditional housing typology _©Author

The entire process exemplifies sustainable architecture. Such a structure’s interior provides a comforting feeling. The irony is that the government funds the destruction of such environmentally friendly structures while developing housing schemes that make it easier to replace vernacular, traditional structures with concrete blocks.

Architecture – an instrument of dominance

Simply tall, towering structures were what were known as skyscrapers. But as architecture gained significance, it started to represent technological, material, and cultural dominance, wealth, prosperity, and regional and global attraction. As a result, the cities that first saw the construction of such skyscrapers ascended to become major economic destinations on a global scale.

Before studying architecture, historical monuments were just a part of the past. However, the architectural perspective reveals this knowledge, showing the monuments as instruments of political expression. Building a new one in a more volatile context and achieving greater heights is what architecture does when it destroys preexisting centres to signify the emergence of a new dominant centre.

When a new centre of authority emerges within a nation and replaces the power centres of the past, like in the example of Central Vista in Delhi, architecture can be used as a political tool.

Challenging the notion

Gender plays a part in defining spaces, as can be observed by exploring community areas. Sumaya Dabbagh, the first female architect of a mosque in the United Arab Emirates, recently delivered a lecture at Genslar’s Dubai office. It is challenging for an architect to build a mosque in such a setting since religious structures have spiritual undertones. To create a building that must be a statement in and of itself and to challenge prejudices in the male-dominated profession, the outcome becomes historical in such a complex situation. An architectural structure was designed considering the applicability of contemporary Islamic architectural vocabulary.

There is a misperception about Islamic architecture, in which anything with a dome and an arch is deemed and limited to be Islamic, yet architecture defies such assumptions. Sumaya Dabbagh’s design for the Gargash Mosque in Dubai is one example of an effort that is considered a challenge to conventional notions of Islamic façade and structure geometry.

Architect Sumaya Dabbagh presenting her project at Genslar’s studio in Dubai _©Author

The architecture enables one to appraise the quality of the spaces themselves and the inhabitants utilizing them, as well as the sociology of spaces and the built environment. Henri Lefebvre once said that we must first change space to change a life.

The statements mentioned earlier about architecture show how perspective shifts as soon as you interact with it and live with it, from minute details to things at the urban scale. Through the use of architectural vocabulary, which challenges preconceptions and establishes alternative definitions, the concept is not only contested but also transformed.


Gautam, A., 2008. CLIMATE RESPONSIVE VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE: JHARKHAND, INDIA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 September 2022].

Brooks, S., 2001. Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium. [online] Metmuseum. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 September 2022].

Krichels, J., 2018. Architecture of Gender — AIA New York. [online] AIA New York. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 October 2022].


Sadiq Zafar is a practicing architect, urban policy researcher, and planner who previously worked for a national research institute and held the position of assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He researched urban poor housing neighborhoods while working as a sustainability planner in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.