Architectural Design – The tradition of architecture has been central to humanity’s development. As humans took their first steps into the world of permanent settlements, relying on sustenance farming for their resources, they faced a new challenge: to create spaces to reside within. Gone were the days of cave-dwelling or nomadic hunter and gatherer bands that didn’t require anything beyond temporary campsites. In their place came the necessity for the first permanent living spaces – or, in other words, the beginning of architecture.
The Evolution of Architecture, From Past to Present | Architectural Design
Every choice made by these early architects had significance. Back then, form fell prey to the optimization of function. The roofs of homes in Çatalhöyük – an early, large-scale agricultural settlement in modern-day Turkey – were the primary entry and exit route into homes to ensure that flooding water from two adjacent rivers could not enter people’s homes. The height-based separation of the upper and lower cities in Mohenjodaro was, once again, a design choice that belayed a sense of authority to the royal family that occupied the palace within the upper city. Even within early architecture, basic aspects of the architectural design had deep thought behind them.
As time has passed and humanity has evolved, the form of architecture has evolved beyond function and can now also contain a more complex meaning. The earth tones and curved edges of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater are not in place for functionality; instead, they allow the home to blend into its natural surroundings, keeping it and its residents at one with nature, as Wright had wanted. The use of concrete-based brutalist architecture in the capitol complex of Chandigarh is not just for its ease of construction. Instead, it represents function’s influence on form and the idea of a newly independent nation being able to sustain itself, seen in the use of concrete based on locally mined stone. Seeing this thought behind the architecture is how I think architecture has changed my perspective: it has allowed me to understand that the physical forms of our world contain multitudes of meaning, both intentional and unintentional.
Re-imagining Our Understanding of Architecture
When we consider the influence we can have through architecture, we must re-evaluate our understanding of architecture from a more theoretical standpoint. Consider, for instance, the extensive work of Louis Kahn – a famed Philadelphian architect – on the Indian subcontinent. His design for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad is visually stunning beyond reproach. However, de-classified communications between him and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reveal their concerted work to propagate a capitalist system of governance in India through the architect’s American designs. Another example of the architect’s subliminal desire to influence South Asia is his work on the national assembly building of Dhaka. Once again, his subsidized work on a building so integral to the processes of a functioning democracy worked to create an unmissable monument to the concept of mass governance – again, a vested anti-communist interest from the United States government during the times of the cold war. Kahn’s work demonstrates the darker side of how architecture can be a tool for external influence.
A Silver Lining to Kahn’s Design: Why Context is Key to Architecture | Architectural Design
Despite this darkness in Kahn’s work, one small, almost always unnoticed part of his design in Dhaka provides another interesting path for how the ideals behind architecture can allow us to abstract form. The structure has a small appendage on its southern edge, angled oddly away from the building. Within this appendage, Khan housed a mosque. This mosque was unique because it simultaneously followed the modernist form of the larger structure and fulfilled its purpose as a mosque. This duality in form spoke to the unique ability to re-imagine traditional forms by understanding their underlying meaning and then representing that meaning in a new kind of design. This process is also the key to many other postcolonial countries’ architectural landscapes. In situations where the progression of local design traditions was interrupted by colonialism, this process of analysis and abstraction allows for a modern but distinctly culturally-rooted design language.
Understanding architecture as a system that involves so much subliminal messaging also means that architecture must be a fundamentally interdisciplinary field. If articulating theoretical concepts through design is a vital aspect of architecture, it becomes necessary to provide students of architecture background learning in history, anthropology, and sociology. This is especially relevant in an age where globalization involves architects from one end of the world working on a project on the other end of the world. If architectural education involves thorough teaching of culture, global collaboration will be convenient and culturally relevant.
However, this question of localization for architecture brings up a new set of considerations and questions. What of situations where the style of an architect is so distinct that it in itself trumps the desire for local consideration? Would a building designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid’s firm truly be a representation of her trailblazing style if its localization for context resulted in the loss of the design’s ability to effortlessly bend and curve? The same could apply to Frank Gehry’s sculptural designs – his design for the Beekman tower in New York City might not necessarily fit the context of New York’s traditional sandstone constructions, but it still adds so much to the skyline’s character.
The ability to ask these questions is why I love studying architecture so much. Architecture is not simply a discipline that encourages you to change your perspective once; instead, it opens up a massive world of possibilities where your mind can continually expand. I appreciate how architecture has changed my perspective today, but am even more appreciative of how it will continue to help me change my perspective tomorrow and the day after.
References | Architectural Design
Abrinsky, n.d. Bangladeshi National Assembly. [image] Available at: <https://images.adsttc.com/media/images/52b0/93a8/e8e4/4e04/e300/003e/large_jpg/louis_kahn.jpg?1387303844> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
Kahn, L., n.d. Plan of Bangladeshi National Assembly. [image] Available at: <https://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5037/e5de/28ba/0d59/9b00/031b/large_jpg/stringio.jpg?1414426064> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
Lewandoski, D., n.d. An Artist’s Impression of Çatalhöyük. [image] Available at: <https://www.archaeologs.com/i/111/catalhuyuk?gobacklng=en> [Accessed 21 June 2022].
Stanstead, L. and Ruschak, R., n.d. Fallingwater. [image] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/60022/ad-classics-fallingwater-frank-lloyd-wright/5037ddef28ba0d599b000094-ad-classics-fallingwater-frank-lloyd-wright-image> [Accessed 21 June 2022].