What is semiotics and why should architects care?
Semiotics is the meaning-making of architecture. Since the evolution of mankind, humans have always looked for familiarity in the spaces that surround them.

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“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”  – Frank Gehry

It is commonly said that “Architecture is a visual art and the buildings speak for themselves.” What is most interesting is the use of imagination and reasoning in the physical form and giving it timelessness. To speak of its time and its people, not just what they were, but also what they wanted to be. It shows the extent to which great architectural works are exhibited, not just today but since eternity. Semiotics helps to firstly – see, feel, travel along with it in time and understand it, only to reimplement it.

But this beauty is often lost when it comes to the ‘wants’ that encourage society to copy. In other words- copying just for the mere reason to have what others have. The influence of western countries has increased over the past decades. People use the signatures associated with a particular architectural style without understanding the true meaning of its existence.

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A passionate architect always has great affection for his or her work. Even the works of great architects can be studied as a simple solution to a simple question.

Often, we find ourselves comfortable in surroundings that are familiar to us. The only reason why there is always a touch of YOU required in that newly painted room or even in the spectacles you choose to wear. Architecture evolved from the very same reason of familiarity for safety.

Theoretically, when the early man went inside a hollow rock to seek shelter maybe from an adverse climate or an animal and on spending time there, he realized that the place protects him just like a mother’s womb protecting its baby.

Caves came into existence and maybe this could be taken as the birth of architecture. Semiotics is the assertion of reason and an architect’s role comes in with the understanding that a particular building type looks a certain way because it should. For example, the temple style of architecture varies drastically from legislative style where the former may be spiritually known or religiously accepted and the latter may be assertive in its imposition.

Semiotics allows the architects to understand the very reason why a particular architecture is what it is. Works of an Architect are easily differentiable because of the mere reason of thought. What each line on a piece of paper stands for and why so. Semiotics is a study to differentiate what is intended by the architect and how it is being accepted by society. Because what ultimately is delivered through architecture is for the people and how they choose to accept it or incorporate it in their days.

Hence an old palace belonging to the kings may be used as a multi-star hotel or an important historical site with a strong emotional association with the people. It helps to develop a sense of belonging to the architectural works of the past and belonging to the zeal with which these were executed. Moreover, to understand the architecture and its meaning which was by the people of their respective times. In short – to understand architecture not only as of the housing of society but as a representation of them.


Currently, a student of architecture, Charul Chhabria's inquisitive mind is trying to create a picture of radically vast architecture through her avid imagination, visual curiosity and demand for logic. She is aspiring to achieve her ambitions through an adventurous yet beautiful journey that “architecture” takes her on. Topics of interest- Architectural design, Spatial design,Sustainable architecture, Semiotics in architecture, Technology and architecture.

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