“We shape our building, thereafter they shape us” (Churchill,1943)

Paradigm Shift – The aspiring architects undertake the field with the simple desire to create beautiful houses, with little realization of the huge inevitable undertaking that comes along with it, that of shaping the society and culture. Unlike other art forms, Architecture, being a functional art, is a reflection of our inner beliefs which manifest themselves in the form of structures and vice versa. While performing mundane chores in day-to-day life, we think about our surroundings and their impact on our wellbeing. Our everyday credentials sublimate the effect of even non-pleasing surroundings. Only after you became one of the procuring members of such surroundings, you tend to look more closely and examine the role we play or can play in the unfolding of future space.

Architecture, unlike other professions, has to not only educate to perform a particular skill, but it also educates to develop critical thinking and, importantly, so. The tool that architects acquire is a strong imaginative power along with skills to manifest their thoughts into reality. Architects, being visionaries, have little choice but to be futuristic and think beyond the present situation. As with great power comes greater responsibility, here for them the whole world becomes their canvas to paint the vision which will ultimately be symbolic of that era.

Historical Background | Paradigm Shift

Architecture that has stood the test of time has played a vital role in deciphering the cultural and societal norms and beliefs of people that lived centuries ago. It becomes a glimpse into the past to understand people and their way of living. One of the earliest civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, discovered in 1922 by R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, is widely recognized as one of the early cities of South Asia. The findings revealed an astonishing understanding of people who lived approximately 5000 years ago built structures like wells, granary, great baths, a well-maintained drainage system, and also different housing units about certain hierarchies.

All communities have certain beliefs and standards of living they follow. Similarly, in architecture, we do tend to perceive certain phases of architecture with the innovation of certain elements or material prominently used during that time.   

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Paradigm Shift-Excavated site with tall wells__©en.wikipedia.org

Western culture symbolizes and perceives architecture by its key styles which have been through considerable changes over a course of time. Every era is marked and remembered by its particular architectural characteristics that were used prominently. The key stylistic characteristics of Greek temples, the pediment, and the portico of columns both had structural as well as decorative functions. The Roman period marked important technological discoveries including the use of concrete and the development of domes. The idea of beauty, proportion, harmony was strongly pursued which became the basis for the later Renaissance in Italy and during the 18th and 19th Neoclassical. The monumental grandeur and aesthetic vocabulary of architecture became a medium to assert power and authority over citizens.

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Paradigm Shift-Rome Pantheon(c. 125 CE)__©ancient.eu
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Paradigm Shift-St. Peter’s Basilica(1626)Renaissance Style__©britannica.com

The wave of industrialization swept globally in the early 19th and 20th century, it accounted for architects and designers to experiment with creating new styles rather than being based on a style of the past. In the late 1920s, the building became plain and unornamented, and hence emerged the work of architects like Le Corbusier and the German Bauhaus school. An emphasis on creating something whole new marked the later developments in various styles until the 20th century. Industrialization brought inspiration from machines, the use of geometric ornament, and modern materials including plastic and chrome. Machine-manufactured steel; glass enables large high-rise structures as a public building as a result of which currently we have made all the cities look exactly similar with no contextual and climatic responsibility and, in return, do considerable harm to the environment.

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Paradigm Shift-Bangkok City  Skyline__©westend61.de
Paradigm Shift-Mumbai City  Skyline__©smartcitiesworld.net

Future Fore View

Mankind has effectively produced and perceived architecture following his inner realm governed by socio-economic factors prevailing in that particular time. Now, there exists a vicious need to reevaluate our priorities, needs, and beliefs which will, in turn, reflect in our buildings. Many such efforts have been made by several contemporary architects, e.g., architects like Louis I Kahn who through his designs took the opportunity to think hard about how architecture could influence public life. He says “A great building, in my opinion, must begin with the unmeasurable, go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasurable. The design, the making of things, is a measurable act. “[Louis I. Kahn, quoted in Green, “Louis I. Kahn, Architect,” ]

Our similar-looking cities are filled with crummy buildings that meet functional needs but completely overlook psychological needs. Architects like Shirish Beri approach their design from the totality of life. According to him” Any serious architect’s approach to his architectural design would evolve from his understanding of life. For me, the outer manifestations in space are reflections of the quality of our inner space and vice versa. It is our duty as architects to redefine and expand upon the brief given by the client to give him much more besides satisfying the functional requirements in terms of the design’s environmental relevance, quality of space, and joy.”(Shirish Beri,2021)20

From the past century, evolution in technology has immensely affected the way we practice and perceive architecture. Technologies like BIM modeling and virtual reality have mended the bridge between vision and reality, creating unique and complex shapes never attempted before. Architecture can’t be separated from its inhabitants. Each has played a strong influence on the other. According to current architectural and societal viewpoints, patterns have all become static and saturated with only satisfying our consumerist greed. With increased mental stress and ecological imbalance, priority must be given to spatial quality and architecture should help connect man with himself and nature. The situation calls for new ideologies in congruence with the latest technological advancements and collectively take action to pave a better and new path for the future. The highly nuanced art form that is called architecture where, other than the artist, many other skill sets are vital in bringing the desired outcome. The reform in human and built-form relationships could elevate everyone and hopefully raise the level of civic life. Can we pause and reflect on the overall journey and introspect on making the remaining ride to be sensitive towards humans as well as our planet?


Trupti Agrawal is an architect by profession, an artist from the heart. She is an ardent reader and a believer in the power of art, being a great tool in uplifting human consciousness. She strives to tap into intangible aspects of human psychology through her art, which makes her a keen learner and an earnest listener, and a deep observer.