A world without architecture? So- an India without Taj Mahal? A childhood without Alice in the “wonderland”?  

A world without architecture - Sheet1
A suit in a cave_©AMr Eissa

Throughout history, architecture has played various roles from the predominant functional requirement of a shelter, protection from weather and the wild to monuments being a representation of the rulers’ power and awe-striking places of worship (Notre Dame, Jami Masjid) that make believers of atheists. From the monumental structures to the residences and buildings that make up the fabric of a city, one understands who the people inhabiting them before our time were- the spatial arrangements define their family structures, lifestyles and social status. 

Across all this, architecture has always been a physical manifestation of identity, ideology, and culture. It is an act of intentional designing that allows an individual to create a sense of belonging and have control over the surroundings. Taj Mahal is more than a marvelous structure, it is a representation of emotion – of Akbar’s love for Mumtaz, etched forever in the history and future. Without architecture, where did Alice get lost? Where did Potter learn magic? Fictional or real, architecture brings narratives to life. It is a form of visual storytelling. The Roman forum and the Central vista, both speak of the different ruling methods of their times. A temple and a mosque, speak more about their religion than the Bhagwad Gita or the Quran- while both aim to seek a connection bigger than one-self.   Architecture forms a visual, spatial link between the past, present, and future, becoming a point in the timeline of a place and culture.

While architecture is the strongest reflection of one’s lifestyle, it has also played a major role in shaping how we go about our day. It not only has a profound impact on its occupants on a personal level but also affects society on a high level. Spaces affect emotions and experiences with subtle or strong interventions- a slow reveal creating curiosity which then leads to a sense of happiness upon discovery, or how a narrow silent corridor instills a fear, how eyes on the street prevent crime and automatically invoke a sense of safety. In a world with infinite space, it becomes the act of carving out one’s own place as per needs and desires. While nature is beautiful, architecture creates a lens to appreciate the beauty. 

Architecture can promote a slow life or can add to the anxiety and stress of today’s lifestyle.It can break through the passive mode of perception that we often find ourselves in, and enable us to live in the present. Simple thoughtful interventions that make streets pedestrian friendly can promote less vehicular movement and hence increase non-motorised means of movement. Traditional pol-houses and modern villas have drastically different architecture- where both suggest a different life-style. Pol houses have neighbours as families and windows open to each- others houses. There is no attempt to get privacy that is distinctly clear in the villas.

Without architecture, the strongest traces of historical identity would not exist. Without the pyramids of Egypt, what would Egypt be? The grandeur that marked the presence of the powerful pharaohs would be lost- to Egypt itself and the rest of the world. The world would be monotonous and the individual independent identities of not only individuals but also of nations would be lost. The streets of Siddhpur lined with colorful Havelis, each engraved with the owners’ individuals would instead be a dull blob of shelter that would match the rest of the world. Temples, mosques, offices, and governing houses would look the same, feel the same. Work would be where we live and we would sleep where we eat. The quality of everyday life, the rich variety of experiences that we enjoy today would all cease to exist. The separate spaces of relaxation that would create a pause in the routine would be lost, and the sense of ownership over one’s surroundings that comes only from having designed one’s surroundings would not be there. 

A world without architecture - Sheet2
Architectural landmarks that become identities of countriesr_©freepik

Architecture, which shapes communities physically, can echo thoughts and visions associated with groups’ perceptions of their built environment. Traditionally, architecture has simultaneously reflected and influenced culture. It has brought communities together through the physical existence of their shared ideas of life and spirituality. It makes space for rituals that connect one to a reality that is greater than oneself. Without architecture and very different spaces of worship, religion would lose its value.

Architecture has facilitated all the development and change that we see today. Unfortunately, it has also contributed to global warming and has unknowingly facilitated crime. One such case would be the Pruitt-Igoe housing where spaces allowed and encouraged vandalism and juvenile delinquency. With 36% of global energy devoted to buildings and 8% of global emissions caused by cement alone, the architectural community has been a large cause of climate change.

A monotonous world without architecture might not be better or happier, but it would definitely be greener.

Architecture and climate change_©Archdaily



Mahek is a pluviophile, in her final year of architecture school and strangely fond of emojis. She believes architecture is most about generating experiences using both- form and function and is convinced it has the power (and the responsibility) of making a change in the world.