Utilization of Art

For centuries, buildings were transformed by how art was utilized inside them — countless examples through history reveal that wonderful buildings were a result of a clever utilization of unique and intriguing artwork to find a perfect balance between art and architecture. What’s important is that the amalgamation accomplishes something that, visually to a majority of people, makes a building a special place that they enjoy and remember because of its impactful aesthetics. Man’s instinctual desire to decorate his habitats has been with human civilization for as long as the need to have shelter. This creative process has, from time immemorial, given depth and meaning to the built environment, each building being a narrative of the lifestyle and culture of its period. Architecture, sculpturing, and painting seem to have once belonged together; they seem to have been admirably intertwined at various points in history—we can see that in the ancient cultures of East and West, ancient Indian architecture, and the European Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. It is only during relatively recent times in human civilization that art and architecture have begun to be viewed as separate subjects.

In addition to the visual role, art in architectural design has a vital role to play in the modulation of scale, proportioning, nature of the movement, and in creating a perceived sense of belonging and boundaries. The relationship between art and architecture has for long fascinated designers and artists, although creating a successful blend between the two can be hard to achieve right, and the process can be a challenging one. This article takes you through how art can help enhance architecture to build stunning structures. 

Artists in Architecture

Andy Warhol

Inside Jay Johnson’s and Tom Cashin’s dreamy home, ”Flowers,” a suite of ten magnificent Andy Warhol screen prints from 1970, hangs in the hallway against a custom printed Billy Sullivan wallpaper by Studio Printworks. In a well-ventilated gallery overlooking the beautiful Pacific, designer Madeline Stuart installed a custom-made Paul Ferrante chandelier right above Warhol’s “Flowers” paintings, 18th-century Italian stone consoles, and rugs made from woven palm matting by J. D. Staron. The Architecture was by Island Architects.

How does Art enhances Architecture - Sheet5
The residence of Jay and Tom_©Andy Warhol Foundation for The Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society
How does Art enhances Architecture - Sheet1
The Gallery Designed by Stuart_©Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society

Zaha Hadid

Internationally well-known for her avant-garde search for architectural proposals that reflect contemporary living, artist-architect Zaha Hadid created abstract topographical researches for several of her projects, intervening with fluid, flexible and expressive designs that evoke the dynamism of modern urban life. Her work expands the field of architectural exploration through abstract exercises in three dimensions. Her artistic designs propose a new and different world view, questioning the physical constraints of design, and showing the creative underpinnings of her career. 

“I was very fascinated by abstraction and how it really could lead to abstracting plans, moving away from certain dogmas about what architecture is,” Hadid explained. The renowned architect also used graphic studies to rethink existing urban spaces, as in the case of “Grand Buildings Trafalgar Square.” In this painting, apart from including a public podium recognizing the tradition of public meetings in the square, Hadid inserted tall structures with public terraces, with heights that correspond with different landmarks in the city. In 1992, for “The Great Utopia,” an exhibit on Russian Constructivism at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Zaha Hadid was called on to create a collection of paintings. For this, she realized a marvelous interpretation of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (1919-1920), and also experimented with recreations of other Russian artists including Kazimir Malevich.

How does Art enhances Architecture - Sheet2
Painting by Hadid_©ArchDaily
How does Art enhances Architecture - Sheet3
Great Utopias_©ArchDaily

The size, scale, texture, and value of art in architecture make them satisfying visual experiences, which adds considerable power to design, and imparts the structure or monument with a narrative capacity. Strong examples of this include the Johnson Center for Fine Arts at Franklin College. In this institution, there is a backlit dichroic glass structure “plaque” custom-made by Schmidt Associates, a gallery for flexible placement of work, and niches throughout the built, specifically for the placement of sculptures and wall art panels. At the Evans Center for Health Sciences at Marian University, the project aimed to incorporate the Centre’s Catholic iconography into its architecture in a well-considered and artistic way, addressing the spiritual requirements of the institutions’ occupants; yet another example of how art brings a meaningful vibrancy to the building.

Johnson Center for Fine Arts_©Schmidt Associates
How does Art enhances Architecture - Sheet4
Evans Center for Health Sciences at Marian University_©Architect Magazine

Good building design should consider how its interiors not only function well for its inhabitants but also how it inspires and appeals to them emotionally. Art is a vibrant component of many inspiring interior designs—and sometimes exteriors as well. Art helps humanize architecture, making it more relevant to us as a society.


Sowmya is an architectural journalist and writer. In this column, Sowmya takes you through stories on eco-architecture, biophilic design, and green buildings from across the globe.