While the tangible definition of architecture is considered an intersection of art with science, in reality, it is a lot more. Architecture is a social responsibility, a cultural manifestation, and an expression of human existence. Architecture is a dialogue between man and his environment, and a psychological journey for the users of the space which evokes and creates memories. As much as emotions are an integral part of human existence, so are language and communication. Architecture is one such gesture.
Humans saw the need to build as a means of existence as early as the megalithic structures and the very first civilizations. The primitive purpose of architecture was to provide shelter to the human body and act as protection from the weather. Since then architecture has only grown as a function of society and as a reflection of the way of life. Functionally, it has felt the necessity to extend itself as an expression of man’s physiological, psychological, and spiritual needs.
Take the examples of historic structures like the Egyptian pyramids or the Greek Parthenon, or even monumental buildings like the Taj Mahal or the Hagia Sophia, and 21st Century buildings like the Burj Khalifa or the Bilbao Museum, where architecture has been used as a powerful tool to exhibit culture and time. When buildings become an extension of human expression, the synthesis of art, design, materials, and technology comes alive, and architecture becomes conscious. Architecture, therefore, is a frozen timeline, a story that is being displayed and told to its viewers time after time, year after year.
Can architecture then be considered a demonstration of the human psyche? Architecture is human! Although the spatial experience is subjective, and varies from person to person, in most cases, it is an emotional journey. Buildings and spaces trigger various senses of the human mind – buildings can be seen, felt, touched, and smelt. Whether materials are cold or warm, smooth or rough is perceivable by the users. Colors have a direct impact on the emotional being of the human mind, whereas odors of natural or artificial materials can be sensed. The trigger of these emotions is more obvious than some of the more hidden or intangible elements like the effect of diffused light or natural views and vistas, or the cool breeze ventilating a space. While materials shape the fundamental form of the building, the less tangible elements make the building a reality.
The evolution of materials and technology in architecture has a direct relation to the time or era of its construction. From stonehenge age structures to buildings built using natural materials like clay and timber, we have moved to concrete, steel, and glass. Materiality, therefore, is very much the physical aspect of the built mass and provides the fundamental necessity for the building to exist. While light and ventilation are second nature to a building, its form, geometry, and nature of spaces are often a result of the function of the building. Sullivan‘s “form follows function” is an adage, which many designers observe and something that one cannot ignore. The functionality of a building often drives the design and spatial layout, and not vice versa. For example, how a human being experiences an office building is very different from the experience of a home or a theater.
Just like different cultures have different languages of communication, geometric configurations and proportions in architecture also relate to culture and time. Classical architecture with its round columns told a story of ancient Greek and Roman architecture, whereas Renaissance architecture told a story of the era of the rebirth of science and culture. Modern and neo-modern architecture is all about function, materiality, and technology. In addition, just like various compositions in music stir various emotions in humans, so do the different geometric configurations. The spatial design gives a sense of proportion to the human mind, and a sense of contentment to the surrounding space.
Architecture is also age-specific since it responds to the needs of the people inhabiting the space. For example, the responses of a child after seeing a kindergarten school will be different from his responses after seeing a museum. Perception of spaces differs with various age groups, which is directly related to their responses. But just like genuine music, honest architecture tends to strike the right chord with the human mind.
In summary, architecture is a story that is told spatially, which is integral to human existence since it cannot be told in isolation. It is closely connected to the world and humans through its various components of spaces, materials, composition, and geometry. Architecture is created by humans as a product of their creative minds to share knowledge, history, and culture. It is an embodied experience, a narrative of cultural nuances, created by humans as a social and intellectual observation to understand the world. Architecture is not a sculpture to be built, displayed, and appreciated, but architecture is to be lived in, worked in, experienced, explored, and also appreciated by the human mind.
Author Mark Cartwright
Article title: Parthenon
Website title: World History Encyclopedia
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