From the stone age to the modern age, architecture evolved over catering to a group of people, then to a village, then a community and a society, narrowing down to a family, and now to an individual. Despite the spurting needs brought forth by man, architecture has opened doors for man to realize some beyond-the-life achievements. The whole existence of human evolution becomes questionable when one takes away the contribution of architecture. And that is where the curiosity begins, how does architecture define the life of modern man? 

The art or science of building; esp. the art or practice of designing and building edifices for human use, taking both aesthetic and practical factors into account”, 

Oxford Dictionary. 

In the absence of architecture

Humans are capable of questioning and solving problems even in mere time. To simply imagine human life without architecture is to imagine an entity devoid of character, devoid of emotions. Architecture, by the process and the product, can be purely understood as the evolution of a series of thoughts leading to creation. Such a creation would be nonexistent if humans weren’t born in the first place. Hence, architecture evolves along man, parallel to history. The very first instances of architecture started when the humans of the primitive age started to displace themselves from caves, by building tents and huts, paving for ideas and discoveries. 

“We are in constant dialogue and interaction with the environment, to the degree that it is impossible to detach the image of Self from the spatial and situational existence.”

 (Holl et al., Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture)

When evolution takes place, an entity develops a character. Any development in architecture is based on two factors: Needs and Safety. The third factor which affects the first two is Aesthetic (based on culture, climate, geography, and personal preference). These factors give rise to comfort, power, style, etc. As an exemplar of the discovery of materials and styles, architecture is a storyteller throughout time and eras. 

“Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life. It is simply a history of the process of life.” 

 (Abbott)

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Left- Suite apartment, Wilshire Comstock in Los Angeles _©jademillsestates.com
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Holden point,, London _©skyscrapercenter.com

Certain examples of Prefabricated constructions and high-rises with vertical monotony pose as architecture with the least character.

Architecture in and around us

The needs of an individual are as diverse as an Indian Thali; the difference is that the dishes are always changing, over time. The similarity? The variety and richness of the senses involved in it. A building that can suffice the needs of individuals, is undesirable, when in the absence of character. Hence contradicting the same statement. One way to acknowledge the architecture around us is to weigh it through the five senses as said in Renaissance times. “The system of the senses was related to the image of the cosmic body: vision was correlated to fire and light. hearing to air, smell to vapor, taste to water, touch to earth.” (Holl et al., Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture)

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Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto _©outsiderjapan.pbworks.com

“Since most of Japan has long, hot summers, the houses reflect that by being somewhat raised so that air can move all around.” (Japanese Architecture) Wood works well with season changes, Whereas the form of roofs was intended to merge with the surrounding landscapes. 

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St. Basil’s Cathedral, Russia, 15th century _©avantisystemsusa.com

“The onion shape, similar to a candle flame, represents the flame of faith reaching up to the heavens”, depicting the religious idea of Russia. (Architecture Differences across Cultures)

While our ancestors put their time and wisdom into building a community along with capturing the beauty and pain of the past, the current man aims to reimagine and transform spaces in a contemporary manner while consciously keeping the past in mind.  

“Architecture holds the power to inspire and transform our day-to-day existence. The everyday act of pressing a door handle and opening into a light-washed room can become profound when experienced through sensitized consciousness. To see, to feel these physicalities is to become the subject of senses.”

(Holl et al., Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture)

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Khajuraho Temple, India _ andbeyond.com

“While royalty is represented in Western and Christian cultures with deep, mystical shades of purple, in India, deep reds and ochers symbolize wealth and magnificence”. (Smith). Temples in India ideally narrate their story through details throughout their sculpture-like skin whereas the sculptured form depicts grandeur, and the inside of the temple induces calmness within. The whole structure stands to be dominated by a single material and colour ochre.

The humans of the previous era were versatile and acceptably evolved themselves around the geographical landscapes and the rock-cut, wood structures. The architecture of current times is a product of the increasing population whose needs are fulfilled by the technology machinery. Changemakers are expected to come up with ideas that cater to the wavering lifestyle needs of a man. The architecture of the past was about materiality and statement. In contemporary times it is about catering to the intellect and ideas of man. Synthetic and processed materials like glass and coated metals and plastered concrete buildings least express their age, yet the workability and durability of the same have had an enormous effect on the construction industry. Man cannot have the whole space(land) to himself. Yet to realize the ever-growing needs of modern man, multifunctioning spaces, Smart homes, technology, globalization, come to the rescue.

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Philharmonie de Paris by Jean Nouvel ©Guilhem Vellut
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Philharmonie de Paris, Ceiling detail _ ©William Beaucardet
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Philharmonie de Paris, The foyer _ © William Beaucardet

Architecture Unseen

When discussions arise, a potential part of architecture goes unseen(visually) and less spoken about, i.e. architectural services. The senses of sight (color and light) and skin(temperature), originally fulfilled by natural light and physical forms are being replaced by employing mechanical machines. A direct impact may be the lesser dependency on materials and the building form. After the advent of architectural services, the juxtaposition of form and spaces design has been led by different and challenging approaches 

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Section of Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, Toyo Ito architects, Taiwan _  (Lewis et al.)
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Taichung Metropolitan Opera House _©Lucas K. Doolan

Architecture of today 

An architectural entity is a product of space and matter. The art of blending these two indicates the life man has chosen to live. The universality in the construction makes today’s architecture stand out.  The challenge lies in keeping up with the cultural origins and universal needs. On the flip side, the very intellect of today’s man has allowed overcoming various limitations. 

Given the limitations like natural materials and time, architects often try to mimic the senses, which the architecture of the yesteryears has given. As of the 21st century, the architecture of the first world caters more to improvised security and aesthetics, whereas those of the third world tend to challenge the change-makers to come up with affordable and reliable solutions.

“Images of architecture reflect and externalise the ideas and image of life; architecture materialises our image of ideal life.”

(Holl et al., Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture)

National Museum of Indian American_ worldarchitecture.org

A living museum, the stone-cladded building is designed to mimic a wind-sculpted form. (National Museum of the American Indian)

 Architecture is a non-materialistic product resulting from the culmination of materialistic things. An interdisciplinary field letting us realize our vision and accommodate ourselves the way we want to be, the architectural community is very much capable of creating architecture involving senses, the question is how poetic and relative it is to the individual traversing, pausing, and living within. 

References

  • Smith, Kate. “Finally, COLOR EXPLAINED by an Expert in a Way That Everyone Can Understand.” Sensational Color, 2017, www.sensationalcolor.com/symbolic-colors-india/
  • “National Museum of the American Indian.” World Architecture Community, United Kingdom Architecture News, 2014, worldarchitecture.org/architecture-news/czpgh/national-museum-of-the-american-indian.html.
  • Lewis, Paul, et al. Manual of Section. New York, Princeton Architectural Press, Cop, 2016.
  • “Architecture Differences across Cultures.” Avanti Systems, 28 Mar. 2019, www.avantisystemsusa.com/architecture-differences-across-cultures/.
  • “Japanese Architecture.” Www.asianinfo.org, www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/japan/architecture.htm

Reference reading

  • Holl, S., Pallasmaa, J. and Pérez-Gómez, Alberto (1994). Questions of perception: phenomenology of architecture. Tokyo: A + U Publishing Company. 

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