Architecture as a process often extends beyond the tangible manifestation of built forms to the intangible to find meaning, identity and distinct function. It is deeply embedded in several historical layers of evolution. Architecture, as we see it today, is a process comprising social, economic and cultural narratives. It centres around its user, and the pragmatic approach as developed and documented has humans as its core. Thus, to imagine architecture developed without humanity is merely impossible. Humanity is the sum of society’s social, cultural and economic well-being. And as is prevalent throughout our past, the monarchies which have thrived have left a tangible built entity, whether the Pyramids of Giza of the pharaohs or The Taj Mahal from the Mughal era.
From the various species that existed in prehistoric times, such as the Neanderthals and Homo Erectus, to our present lineage of Homo Sapiens, humans have survived because of their inherent skill to alter and adapt to spaces as per their needs and functions. Prehistoric times such as the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras, provide evidence of how architecture had been an essential component in the form of rock shelters. The concepts of surface ornamentation in the form of rock paintings give clues about other contributing factors such as anthropometry, social settings, hierarchy and governance.
Architecture: Evolution and manifestation
Early civilisations like Mesopotamia and Harappan evolved in close proximity to natural resources. Apart from providing aid to agriculture, these resources also ensured the availability of built materials for the infrastructural amenities. Public buildings such as granaries and public baths enhanced the notable living culture of the society; it opened new avenues to dialogue and overall development of the civilisation and aimed at holistic well-being. As traced a long history and various monarchies that followed, a benchmark of prosperity was also measured through architectural ensembles. Whether it is the Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the Rock Cut Temples of India, these manifestations still help us to trace and understand the learnings from several timelines of world history.
Human practices have also resulted in the architectural domain’s evolution of new styles and vocabulary. Basilicas from earlier eras were converted into churches in the early Christian era and new spatial terminologies such as transepts, aisle and naïve were introduced. Alterations in social practices, rule and religion were best narrated through architectural ensembles. Best examples, such as Roman aqueducts, and sewerage systems, were studied and followed in the later eras globally. Public buildings from the Roman era such as the Colosseum, became the module for the modern stadium. Modern concepts of parliament also drew notes from the Roman Senate. Whether it is the scale or function of the built structures or the utilitarian needs of humanity, architecture always had the answers where the amalgamation of various domains such as science, arts and culture of the corresponding era of humanity took place.
Art and Architecture
Trade, commerce and navigation of people also ensured the exchange of thoughts and ideas amongst various geographical contexts. Thus, the Renaissance movement originated in the city of Florence and travelled to various other parts of Italy and thereafter, Europe and other continents with a cultural revival in the arts and architecture. Florence’s cultural capital and Uffizi’s artefacts resonate with the excellence in arts of artists like Botticelli and Caravaggio. Furthermore, what soon followed was the influx of various domains which were practised as one. Legends like Leonardo Da Vinci, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo were masters of several professions. Renaissance, the revival of humanity in the 15th- 16th century, is only possible to imagine with notable architectural contributions. Conclusively, it is inherent for the two to co-exist.
As subsequent global colonisation happened in the 17th century, the French, Portuguese and British took the architectural principles and concepts with them. The impact of which is seen in the Indian subcontinent. The influx of various elements and the vernacular has resulted in Noveau architectural styles in several regions, and the concept of shared heritage also evolved.
Beyond its built form, Architecture has the inherent capability to invoke emotions in the user. In contemporary times, the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind has done the same by exploring the power of building. The exhibition of various events of the Jews, including the holocaust, goes beyond the display and is convened through the principles, elements, geometry and elements used in the structure. One more notable structure worth mentioning is the Church of Light built by Tadao Ando in Japan, which symbolises the framework between nature, light, context and the built. The argument thus follows is if architecture were ever dissociated from humanity, we wouldn’t have witnessed tactile marvels of science, engineering, technology, culture and arts – all at once.
Architecture has come a long way to iterations in parametric design and augmented reality with innumerable possibilities. The advent of science and technology has also resulted in the evolution from a basic prima trabeated system to a system of arches, the development of domes to shell structures. The domain of architecture is multifaceted. It ensures living sustenance through various disciplines and their built components. It is the spaces which give human meanings and a tangible component for their social and cultural practices. Various activities in the piazzas and open urban places extend the notion of architecture from the built to the unbuilt. To ensure this sustenance, allied disciplines such as conservation, urban design, landscape, urban planning and project management ensure the holistic development of humans as we strive towards a better future each day.
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