A glimpse at a historic building tells tales worth generations. The architecture, the city on which it stands and the political scenario of the place are interconnected, evolving simultaneously at a pace beyond comprehension. Time mercilessly brings back the art and architecture from the past, recurring itself throughout history. But as the traditional systems return, the essence of the earth in architecture is lost somewhere along the way.
With westernisation, the use of sustainable materials and techniques subdued.
Although architects across the world realised the degenerating consequences of the methods used over time, unnecessary standardisation of building norms restricted them. Thus, studying architectural styles helps understand the crux behind every inch built.
1. ANCIENT EGYPTIAN ARCHITECTURE (3,050 BCE to 900 BCE)
Egyptian architecture was a collective of various styles followed during ancient Egypt over two millennia. But the unifying factor that brought the structures under one umbrella was the closeness of architecture to the earth. Construction primarily involved sunbaked bricks made from the damp silt found near the banks of River Nile, which when mixed with straws made the blocks stronger. Sparse growth of trees in the region reduced use of wood in construction. The houses built in 1300BCE observed the earliest use of wind catchers called ‘Malqaf’. They were shafts constructed to face the prevailing wind unidirectionally.
2. CLASSICAL ARCHITECTURE (850BCE to CE476)
Classical architecture denotes the architecture from the Greek to the Roman characterised by magnanimous structures with imposing columns and features. Apart from their architectural brilliance, they designed engineering systems and devices for an enhanced lifestyle. The use of water-powered grain mills that originated in Rome was first of its kind in the world. Aqueducts transported water from the river to the populated areas and the public baths. The public baths, known as Thermae, used geothermal energy systems known as Hypocaust which produced and circulated hot air through pipes from underground to the floor and wall. Colonnaded courtyard or peristyle was a widespread custom in Rome that allowed air to flow through the building.
3. BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE (527 to 565)
Recognised by the circular dome that derived its symmetrical nature from Roman temples, Byzantine architecture set the base for Islamic, Gothic and other architectural styles. Stone, mud/ clay bricks and timber were the readily available materials used in the structures. The mortar prepared used broken pottery and other waste for added structural stability. These pieces adorned the exterior walls as a mosaic for aesthetic purposes. The bricks used to build vaults and domes were a sustainable option, compared to the concrete vaults used later.
4. ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE (800 to 1200)
Romanesque architecture observed architectural embellishments to facade purely for aesthetic purposes, such as the use of blind arcading to the exterior. The long nave gave rise to groin vaults as barrel vaults did not easily fit in the area, which resulted in building additional columns for support. The thick walls and small windows reduced the natural ventilation and sunlight, making the space dingy. Interior walls were plastered and painted on vast expanses of walls. Mural art and stone sculptures observed widespread popularity during those times.
5. GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE (1100 to 1450)
Unlike Romanesque Architecture, Gothic promoted large windows and openings that let in natural light and ventilation, which reduced the suffocating atmosphere. Clerestory windows became more popular during this era. Pointed arch had benefits more than an aesthetic purpose by allowing the load to distribute through the structure efficiently. This architecture established open-plan architecture with its verticality and thin walls, allowing spaces to merge as one while the ribbed vaults allowed flexibility in design.
6. RENAISSANCE ARCHITECTURE (1400 to 1600)
Renaissance brought rise to several technologically advanced systems that established the earliest known mechanisms for buildings. The Greek and Roman atrium houses built around courtyards and gardens as it acts as an interface to create a distinct microclimate. Geothermal cooling systems that functioned on fluid dynamics and underground ducts emerged in several villas in Costozza, Italy that still operate to date. San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane in Rome had openings in the crypt, allowing fresh air to enter the space.
7. MUGHAL ARCHITECTURE (1556 to 1754)
Mughal architecture embraced both architecture and science. Its intricately carved Islamic patterns covering the buildings and the imported materials from far on the monumental structure contributed heavily to the cost of construction. Mughal built gardens such as Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar were vast and installed fountain systems which channelled water through terracotta pipes by hydraulic pressure caused by Persian wheels. The water systems in the city of Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh operated on gravity and continue to be the primary source of water supply.
8. VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE (1837 to 1901)
Although Victorian Architecture lasted for a short period, it was a vital turn from traditional architecture. The large scale of the structure is a shocking contrast to the small rooms and closet space as a massive structure signified higher caste, thus resulting in injudicious use of space. Moreover, the interior trims were unique, so the maintenance was expensive and required high skill. The abundant use of asbestos and lead paints caused hazardous impacts on both humans and the environment.
9. BAUHAUS ARCHITECTURE (1919 to 1933)
The Bauhaus was a revolutionary movement established by architect Walter Gropius. The school of thought focused on industrial mass production of building units, which resulted in faster completion and low errors on site. Though the construction involved the use of reinforced concrete that used portland cement, the materials exposed its true self without using plaster or paint. Pivot windows were mass-produced and facilitated in easy adjustment and movement of air.
10. DECONSTRUCTIVISM (1980 to present)
Deconstructive ideology revolved around how to use land through unique forms efficiently. The dilapidated appearance was not just an aesthetic feature but played a significant role in sustainability with new functions arising from old buildings through adaptive reuse of the structure. The mindful design resulted in less environmental issues and consumption of energy from material production, transportation, demolition and reconstruction.
As a multidisciplinary field, sustainable architecture involves both science and art, which must be in perfect balance. But the most critical factor of all is to remember the sole reason behind an element in that building. From the transition of barrel vault to the glass vaults with no structural purpose, the trend of using architectural elements for the sake of it is prevalent in the present scenario. Thus, incorporating the legendary details purely for its function and learning from their perspective must be taken for achieving sustainability.