In today’s world, it can be difficult to imagine a world without architecture when architecture and human existence are intertwined and cannot be thought of independently. Architecture has influenced so many levels of human history and culture. Especially, considering it has been called the mother of all arts. When taking the lens from today’s understanding of space, thus the world we live in that is created by the discipline of architecture and going back to the beginning, is it possible to imagine human existence without architecture?

Need for Shelter

Looking back, architecture is as old as human history. Undoubtedly, the need for shelter has been a constant theme for people, like any other animal. Contrary to other animal species, humans also sought a sense of belonging. Although the exact origin of architecture is unknown, it is thought to have begun when humans stopped living in caves. So, is architecture just a solution to the need for shelter? To say something like that would be to underestimate the entire discipline of architecture. If we proceed through Duo Dickinson‘s approach to this issue, all animals need shelter, and some build their own. Such as, birds build their nests using mud, leaves, ivy, feathers, and paper. In the same way, bees build their nests out of chewed-up pulp and spittle and build their paper-like walls. However, does that make them architects?

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Anthidiellum strigatum working in its nest_©Sebastián Jiménez López

Architecture is not the result of instinct. Therefore, these nests cannot be called design; even though they are beautiful, they are just the product of their instincts. Undoubtedly, architecture should supply the need for security. Therefore, any building should protect those who use it. However, the discipline of architecture goes beyond that. Aesthetics is also an undeniable fact for a human being. Duo Dickinson says, “Humans who intentionally make anything perceive the art it embodies. The distinction between outcome and motivation exists nowhere but in the human eye and mind.”

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Bird Nest_©Nils Söderman

Architecture in the Past and Present 

On the other hand, even when interregional interaction was limited, people created authentic structures that were unique to themselves and responded to their own needs. Corey Jon Boss writes in his article that “regionalism is essential to creating an appropriate and meaningful architecture of place that people can identify with. All the contextual forces of a region, such as a climate, resources, culture, economics, historical context, and technology, inform the design. Cultural values are represented through architecture.” Thus, architecture is not an idea that emerged from a single brain but a discipline that arose in line with the needs and desires of people by considering time and region.

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Temple in Kyoto_©Oyvind Solstad

The PNAS article titled “The Persistence of Ancient Settlements and Urban Sustainability” includes a table outlining the major similarities and differences between ancient and modern cities. In this table, while mentioning major differences brought about by technology, energy sources, consumption, and industrialisation, the similarities part is quite interesting. The similarities are shown in human behaviour and sociality, social interactions and outcomes, and institutions’ role. Thus, throughout the existence of humanity, the main need of people has been to be secure and have a place to call home. Next to it, there is a need to socialise and interact with each other. In line with these simplest human desires, different functions have emerged, and new spaces have begun to be created in this context. For example, temples were built to meet the need for worship. Also, baths, theatres, markets, and squares were born with the need for hygiene, health, trade, interaction, and socialisation. This understanding and need continue today among people and, therefore, in their cities.

After all, without architecture, there would be no libraries or books containing the recorded thoughts that have shaped humanity. There would need to be placed to exhibit and appreciate innovative works of art. There would be no places for people to gather to worship a higher force.

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens, Greece_©Carole Raddato

The Purpose of Permanence

When reconsidered in light of Joseph Karam‘s opinions, architecture justifies our notion of being human. In nearly every period of history, humanity has fought for its existence. We are mortal, but we desire to be eternal, and culture is humans’ weapon to win this war. Because of culture and architecture, we can convince ourselves that we are not only here and now but also, in a sense, forever. Therefore, throughout the centuries, the concept of architecture has evolved and changed. However, the main purpose never did. The purpose of permanence. Besides architecture meeting the need for security and protection for humans, the discipline of architecture has become one of the greatest tools to prove the permanence of humanity in the world. The need to become eternal and leave a trace in this world created the greatest work of art that we still appreciate today.

As a result, Leon Battista Alberti says, “Some have said that it was fire and water that was initially responsible for bringing men together into communities, but we, considering how useful, even indispensable, a roof and walls are for men, are convinced that it was they that drew and kept men together.” In light of all that has been said so far, human existence without architecture would not have been possible. People are social creatures. For them, the need for a sense of security is never the sole purpose of specialisation. Man has existed by thinking, coming together, sharing, and creating and will continue to do so.

Reference List :

  1. Architecture Is Human Duo Dickinson, FAIA architect. (n.d.). [online] Available at:  [Accessed 23 Dec. 2022]
  2. Smith, M.E., Lobo, J., Peeples, M.A., York, A.M., Stanley, B.W., Crawford, K.A., Gauthier, N. and Huster, A.C. (2021). The persistence of ancient settlements and urban sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(20), p.e2018155118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2018155118.
  3. Corey, J. and Boss (2009). REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE: A SUSTAINABLE ARCHETYPE FOR KAHO’OLAWE. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Dec. 2022].
  4. (n.d.). Can you imagine a world without architecture? – SCI-Arc. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Dec. 2022].
  5. (n.d.). When Did Architecture Start? | BGW Architects. [online] Available at:
  6. Düchs, Martin & Illies, Christian. (2018). The Human in Architecture and Philosophy : Steps towards an “Architectural Anthropology”. ‌

İnci is an architect who is passionate about interdisciplinary discussion in the field of architecture.In her point of view architecture is not only about aesthetics and art but is an understanding and constant thinking of creating space for living thing.She loves to research,read,learn and write about different perspectives of architecture.