Predicting a human existence without architecture gives a vague image. Humans had been instinctively practicing architecture before even knowing what it actually is. Architecture is a manifestation of a safe and comfortable space for users so that they can live there with ease for a longer duration, and to fulfill “shelter” needs, humans have been doing it forever. Architecture isn’t just involved in buildings but in every aspect of life where discipline is needed.

Without architecture, would human existence have lasted? 

Humans originally curated their shelters to save themselves from natural disasters, weather conditions and various animals. Thus architecture started along with the instinct of survival in humans, so it is futile to assume a world without architecture. Natural shelters such as trees initially saved humans from animals that could not climb up, but trees couldn’t protect them against heavy rain and storms. A different type of shelter came into being: a cave. It offered better protection against bad weather but less protection against wild animals.

Without architecture, would human existence have lasted?  - Sheet1
Bhimbetka Rock Shelters (c. 8000BCE) from Mesolithic Age_©

Architecture as a Historical storyteller

Apart from survival, architecture has witnessed everything that human history has gone through. Architecture tells an age-old tale of human history, era to era, since ages. As human beings evolved and accomplished more and more, architecture came with it as well. Architecture and human life have run parallel since they came into existence. Architecture has existed loudly, singing the stories it has witnessed since human beings came into existence. The first civilization teaches us much about architecture and its importance in human life. Human life is beauty, creativity and serendipity. Architecture is not just beautiful; it’s faith, culture, identity and necessity (Patte, 2010). It has to act to fulfill its purpose; thus, an architecture that’s just a thing of beauty will not lead to survival at its best. Multi-story buildings were common in the Indus Valley Civilization due to the high population density of the period. Religions and social stratifications arose with these early civilizations. 

Without architecture, would human existence have lasted?  - Sheet2
Houses of Indus valley civilization_©

Human Evolution without Architecture

Envisaging Homo sapiens without architecture by their side creates a lot of complex wonders in mind. An existence without shelter would not be for a long duration; without that sense of security, how would survival be possible? There poses a few questions, one being an intangible thought: Would humans have survived like the other animals on planet earth? There would be so many possibilities around humans, and they would still live an animal life. There would be no room for global perspectives. This would lead to chaos. 

Peter zumthor very well quotes:

If you look at the Earth without architecture, it’s sometimes a little bit unpleasant.
So there is this basic human need to do shelter in the broadest sense of the word,
whether it’s a movie theater or a simple log cabin in the mountains.
This is the core of architecture: To provide a space for human beings.”-Peter zumthor

Without Architecture: Calm or Chaos

Speaking of chaos, visualizing what architecture today leads to is complete chaos in the name of growth and development. The human being has been practicing architecture blindly, unrecognizing the profound resources our planet had rooted for us even before we knew it and not utilizing it responsibly. We take great pride in our capacity to obstruct and even change the flow. By doing this, we impact all species, not just our own. It is interpreted that the earth, without unnecessary development, was calm and had no chaos. Undisturbed, untouched, just being, breathing and giving. Due to the chaos caused by utter development, sustainable shelters had to take over. Because nature does not need humans, humans need nature. “One of the most distinctive characteristics of the human species is a fraught relationship with change” (Antolneli, 2020). The same goes for architecture; it has evolved from a mere cave to skyscrapers and futuristic buildings immersed deeply in technology.

Earth without human interruption_©Life After people

Climatically, The genus Homo, to which our species belongs, could adjust to various environmental conditions, and Homo sapiens is exceptionally able to cope with a broad range of climatic conditions, hot and cold environments, arid and moist ones, and all kinds of varying vegetation. We have been using resources from a wide variety of plants and animals and use many specialized tools. Nevertheless, the idea that significant adaptations in our evolutionary history arose in response to environmental variability, even shelter remains. 

So, broadly and scientifically, without architecture, humans would have found other means of leading a life, probably one with a short duration, but still would have managed to remain intact from various climatic conditions. The question ahead is how well our sources of resilience as a species will succeed as our alterations of the landscape, atmosphere, and water interact with the tendency of the earth’s environment to shift all on its own.

Reference list: 

  • Antolneli, P. (no date) ‘The natural evolution of architecture’, pp. 1–24.
  • Patte, M. M. (2010) ‘Can You Imagine a World Without Recess?’, Childhood Education, 87(1), pp. 55–56. 
  • Valley, I. and Houses, C. (no date) ‘Houses in the Indus cities’, pp. 1–3.

Nishima holds a master's degree in sustainable architecture. She is meticulous in her way of life and really values minimalism. She believes in finer threads of design & that "process > product." An Architect, artist and a wannabe storyteller fueled with the passion to gracefully amalgamate art and stories through writings in Architecture.