What is architecture? Wikipedia defines it as “Architecture is both the process and the product of sketching, conceiving, planning, designing, and constructing buildings or other structures.”  This definition makes architecture a pretty vast field, and to understand what role it plays, one has to disintegrate it into layers. In this short essay, the role of architecture and consequently how these roles will be disrupted without architecture will be discussed. 

What Role Does Architecture Play In Our Lives?

Architecture lies all around us, whether it be small things like the chair you’re sitting in right now while reading this or sizable surroundings like the walls that surround you. The effect and the subsequent role it develops in our lives is an evolutionary study which means architecture adapted itself to accommodate our needs with time. For a concise understanding, let’s understand the role of architecture under the headings: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

Life without Architecture - Sheet1
Role of Architecture_©Anqa Ahmed

Primary Role

  • As basic as it can get, architecture shelters us. From the first man-made caves framed from tree branches and stones to developed stages of making homes with earthen bricks, all is a giving of architecture. 
  • When shelters evolved, accordingly communities came up. Human interaction developed and humanity as we know it laid its foundation. 
  • From small communities, came up big cities; arguably the sole creation of architecture and engineering. 
  • The organization of different institutions became self-explanatory as architecture became the pillar to uphold various institutions be it schools, hospitals, banks, etc. 
  • Another result of architecture establishing itself was the requirement of connectivity. Transportation evolved and was nurtured by architecture
Life without Architecture - Sheet2
Architecture as shelter_©Rich Tracy

Secondary Role

  • Once architecture provided us with our basic needs, its responsibilities upgraded to now deliver to us aesthetics, so much so that today architecture can not be thought of unaccompanied by aesthetics. 
  • Further, Architecture became a tool to give a palpable, logical form to religion. It was through impactful religious buildings that religion expressed itself in society.
  • With side by side progress of architecture and society, there was a need for recreation facilities. Architecture once again stepped up to provide us with parks, gardens, stadiums, etc. 
Life without Architecture - Sheet3
Architecture for creating community spaces_©Christian Columbres

Tertiary Role

  • Architecture has lent beauty to our environment by helping us understand the scales of nature. 
  • It has helped us in navigation by having created landmarks of all scales
  • It became a medium for civilizations to create their mark in history, a mark that lived longer than the civilization itself. It created eras of design, from classical orders to post-modernism; architecture documented history through physical form. 
Life without Architecture - Sheet4
Mosque of al-Mudhaffar serving as landmark in Yemen_©Pierre Blanchard

Now, being aware of how architecture has played a role in our lives, let us take a moment to think that all of a sudden architecture exists in our lives. What will we be left with?

How Would Life Be Without Architecture?

Let’s now discuss how our life will be without architecture, in the same context of its roles that we discussed above.

Primary Setbacks 

  • First of all, without architecture, we would have no shelter. There would be but one song that we all would be singing, “Rain Rain Go Away!”. The architecture provided us a way to deal with extraordinary natural conditions and we wouldn’t have been able to sustain them without a built environment. 
  • Without a built environment, communities wouldn’t have developed as humans probably wouldn’t have settled at a particular place, without a stationary built environment anchoring them down with perks of convenience. 
  • Without communities and cities, human interaction would be next to none. Without interaction, there would have been no organization and no setups which are the flag bearers of modern society. 
  • Even if somehow human interaction had advanced and people had come up with ideas of organizing society, it would be very difficult to do so without building matter manifesting the abstract organizations. 
  • In the absence of architecture, transport would be absurd as there would be little to no need for connectivity. Any transport that would have somehow developed, unescorted by architecture, would be incomplete. 
  • Perhaps without transport development, industrialization would be delayed, if not entirely inexistent. The world as we know it, would simply not be there. 
Life without Architecture - Sheet5
A bridge between built and nature_©Yanlong Tong

Secondary Setbacks 

  • Architecture made our world beautiful. In the absence of aesthetics, life would be monotonous; expression would be limited. Inventions in all fields would be impeded. There would be no places to exhibit the greatest feats of humanity. Imagine Vinci‘s Lisa somewhere under the vast open sky, not outliving its creator and generations of artists left uninspired. 
  • Without its iconic architecture, religion would sure have faced difficulties in being passed on from generation to generation, from civilization to civilization. Whether for good or bad, religion would have lost its impact.
  • Recreation facilities’ unavailability is inconceivable. Cafes, restaurants, and theaters would be wiped off and life would lose a little more reason
Architecture as expression for religious spaces_©Krisada Boonchaleow

Tertiary Setbacks 

  • Without architecture as a bridge between nature and humans, there would be no meaningful context to help understand the world better. Built spaces helped us in navigation and hence developed our cognitive mapping skills, in the absence of which humans as a race wouldn’t have progressed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, architecture guided our lives, and our lives guided architecture. Both are complementary gears of a single cycle. In the absence of architecture, we would have become a race completely alien to who we are today. Our comforts and discomforts, both, are at their core linked to architecture. A small understanding of the relevance of architecture in our daily lives makes us understand how deeply we are connected with this field and how it is all the more important to understand architecture in terms of its user.

References

[1] Wikipedia. (2022). Architecture. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture#cite_note-4 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2022].

Author

Anqa is a practicing architect, working in the field of hospitality, residential and commercial spaces with Renesa Architecture Studio in Delhi. Hailing from Srinagar, Kashmir, her interest in architecture discourse arises from observing the culture of different cities and how architecture reacts to that. Her interests lie in theories and effects that architecture produces ranging from interior scale to urban scale