Civilization is described as the way of life that developed when people began to develop networks of urban settlements. The development of networks of cities like this led to the rise of agriculture and trade, which in turn led to food surplus and economic stability. The earliest cities, like that of Uruk in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Mohenjodaro in ancient Indus, created the conditions which made it necessary to develop a system of government, the complex division of labour, law, and civil engineering. This concentration of population simply couldn’t have been possible without architecture. 

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Early human beings

Whether it is the caves that inhabited the earliest known human beings or the castles of glass that dominate our skylines today, architecture has shaped mankind since its inception. Even the caves in which the Neanderthals dwelt some 100,000 years ago, albeit natural, constitute architecture. The same can be said about the huts made of mud and straw they moved into later.

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Architecture in Nature

To understand the depth to which architecture is vital for human life, we need not look any further than animals’ shelters. Honeybees live and store nectar in nests, which are some of the most breathtaking examples of natural architecture and have even inspired man-made buildings and structures. It is bees that pollinate the flowers, which then turn into fruits and vegetables we consume for our survival. Ants develop and live in deep ant nests with a labyrinthine network of tunnels. As we know, ants help in turning the soil and aerating it, and also seed dispersal and decomposition. These are just a couple of examples of how architecture is crucial for animals, vital to our ecosystem, and in turn, vital to human existence.

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Shaping cities and society

If we summarize some cornerstones in the history of human motivation – tributes to our ancestors, celebrations of glory, manifestations of ingenuity, pursuits of enlightenment, trumpeting emancipation, you can imagine architecture as mankind’s most respectable vehicle. Think of the 9/11 memorial built in the memory of the victims of 9/11 or the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, built in the memory of a lover or the Victory monument in Thailand, built to commemorate victory- Architecture has provided us with the means of symbolizing and giving an honourable response to death, failure, aggression, and greed.

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The planning of major cities has centred around a large public square for centuries. Be it the Agora in Greece or Forum in France, architecture made it possible for people to gather in crowds for religious ceremonies, public meetings, and more. Before the internet and television, these squares were where people gathered to hear political speeches and debate on important issues; they were where they convened to protest, to make themselves heard. You only need to take a brief glance at history to understand how events that transpired at these squares shaped civilizations and served as a vital driver for democracy. The architecture provided the populace with a single, publicly visible place for political life to take place and served as a catalyst for democracy and democratic society.

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Reflection of society

More than this, architecture also provides high-level insight into the prevailing culture and psyche of the people. It represents how we see the world, but implicitly and perhaps, more importantly, it also represents how we see ourselves. This is borne out by the fact the different periods in architectural history almost perfectly coincide with different periods in our political history. This is because the powers that be of every period want to leave an everlasting impression, and they have no medium more accurate with the best odds of lasting than that of architecture.

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Therefore, to think of evolution without architecture is like, to borrow an architectural metaphor, thinking of a building without its foundation. It is simply not possible. Society would have ossified, and evolution wouldn’t have taken place.  

It would be very remise of one while analyzing architecture and its impact on the past to not pass a similar, albeit short, summary on the present and future.

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The Present and Future

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare why our spaces and how we organize our lives in them need a complete overhaul. This is borne out of the fact that it became a pandemic in the first place. We couldn’t confine the virus to a geographic boundary because the design of our spaces and our scripts for moving around, engaging with each other and synchronizing as a society simply did not allow us to adapt fast enough to do so. Simple lines describing 1.5 metres, face masks and expensive HVAC systems were not enough to stop the pandemic. Architecture can help us write new scripts and, in doing so, reveal more enduring mechanisms of justice and security so that we are not caught off guard the next time something like this happens.

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As for the future, we will need architecture to fight climate change as 39 percent of the global emissions are due to building and construction, with operational emissions alone accounting for over 28 percent. Sustainable architecture and materials will be key in our fight against climate change.

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What matters is to understand that when we manage to save the world, either in social or ecological terms, architecture will be one of our most, if not the most important modalities.



  1. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 July 2022].
  2. ArchDaily. 2022. “Architecture not Exclusively for Architects”: Ole Bouman on Finding Measure. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 July 2022].
  3. Mental Floss. 2022. 7 Ingenious Ways Architecture Helped Humans Thrive. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 July 2022].
  4. Moneycontrol. 2022. 39% of global carbon emissions generated by buildings, construction. [online] Available at: <,buildings)%20accounting%20for%2028%20percent.> [Accessed 23 July 2022].

Himanshu Garg is an undergrad architecture student who likes to dissect the intersection of architecture and politics, and believes in the furtherance of social causes through architecture. His best writing is done in 24-hour cafes, squandering the WiFi and occupying a seat for hours on the back of one Americano.