“As Long as There Are Human Beings and Their Challenges, There Will Be Architecture”  —Ole Bouman

Buildings are essential; they exist primarily to give shelter. Shelter, however, goes beyond just survival. Consider the security provided by a modest rabbit burrow versus a lion’s lair. Buildings, which enable usage in conjunction with protection, also have an environmental impact. However, the importance of design goes beyond those results and explains our reasons, much like most human actions.

Imagine a world with no architecture. Is that even imaginable? There would be no place to hang and admire innovative pieces of art, no place to preserve books and volumes of the recorded thoughts molding mankind, and no structures in which to worship a higher power. Ole Bouman once said, “Architecture is not the solution, but the solution will be architectural.”

Architecture has always been about and for people, even since prehistoric times. Spaces have and will continue to center on humans and their comfort. Only with the rise of structuralism in the middle of the 20th century was architecture wrongly seen as a system of signs, a lifeless expression apart from people, their identities, circumstances, cultures, lifestyles, and their environment. This approach stood in stark contrast to the functionalist architecture of the mid-1930s, which is frequently associated with socialism and modernism.

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Amsterdam Orphanage,1960. Aldo Van Eyck believed a house to be equivalent to a small city_©See360

The use of raw materials, smooth, clean lines, and proportionate composition to produce a minimalist and lit setting that is acceptable and healthful for the user’s physical and mental well-being is illustrated by functionalist architecture.

The fact that architecture translates known human knowledge of the world into a constructed environment makes it clear that it is comparable to spatial storytelling. It is never cut off from the world in which it lives and is always connected to the people who constructed it for themselves or their fellows.

Human Evolution and Architecture

Human evolution is a phenomenon that is closely related to architecture. Homo sapiens progressed from hairy apes to having minimal body fur. Our humanoid ancestors needed to protect their bodies from the scorching heat of the day and the cold of the night when they lived in the forests. Body hair decreased as cave shelters, clothing, and fire evolved, removing the extra insulating layer and allowing perspiration to cool the skin. The need for primal shelters evolved alongside this evolution, as did the evolution of the globe, humanity, and human knowledge.

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El Castillo contains a negative hand, one of the oldest forms of imagery in existence_©D v. PETZINGER

The human skill set and control over the natural materials lying around them arose with the discovery of agriculture and the emergence of human civilizations. Their focus shifted to how their houses should appear. That is how architectural science developed. It became necessary to establish authority with the emergence of numerous civilizations and empires, social inequities, cultures, and religions. The building of magnificent palaces, temples, and ceremonial plazas became a symbol of might and grandeur. Even now, architecture is always evolving and attempting to influence individuals and their surroundings.

Let’s go back to the question of a world without architecture. After a long day at work or school, there will be nowhere to relax, eat, read, buy, exercise, swim, worship, or play. There is no room for psychological requirements, social duties, or spiritual characteristics. The consequence would be anarchy and complete disaster. Architecture is what pulls us together; it provides a gathering space for ourselves, our friends, and our families. Essentially, as long as there are people and their problems, there will be architecture in some form or another.

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Imagination of the world without The Divine_©sciarc
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Imagination of the world without The Divine_©sciarc

Architecture: Spatial Storytelling

Around the world, architecture has served as a narrator for a variety of occasions and times. It is the most reliable indicator of societal advancement. Architecture advances through human achievement—making and using—rather than remaining at a standstill as if it belongs to a lifeless world by documenting the evolution of human history, social transformation, and the joys and sorrows of human life.

Humans use media like art, architecture, written records, language, and music to preserve the evolution of human history, social and cultural changes, and the joys and sufferings of human life. We may thus draw the conclusion that architecture advances with human achievement rather than standing at a standstill as if it belonged to a lifeless planet. Humans create environments and buildings as means of spatial narrative. They use their bodies as the primary means of perception, experience, and comprehension to mediate human knowledge of the world. 

By examining the three meaningful components that make up the world, people, and architecture—materials, configurations, and time—it is possible to comprehend spatial narrative or architecture. (Tschumi, 1996, p. 3). The significant material presence of the built environment justifies the similarity between the history of humanity and the history of architecture. By juxtaposing this vocabulary with well-known architectural structures like the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Empire State Building in New York City, viewers are reminded of the historical context of some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Each of these tourist attractions is a work of art in terms of architecture. They serve as living memorials to their respective times and civilizations.

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The Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall in Chengde, Hebei province._©ZHOU WANPING

Significant materials, including both materials from the outside world and human materials, are used to build architecture. Builders take into account attributes like atmosphere when imagining and evaluating whether the employed materials can actually generate the desired sensations of the building, in addition to the actual construction of the architecture, in order to make it more user-friendly and actualize a better sensory experience of materials. The materials used in architectural design and construction invariably and unavoidably show human understanding of the world, people, and architecture. On the other hand, configurations created using these materials are created in accordance with user requirements or in accordance with what is believed to be suitable for humans based on previously gathered and understood human knowledge. Formal and spatial configurations could be made, evoking particular feelings in people. Designing time in architecture not only defines and sharpens sensibility but also expands and sharpens architects’ awareness of human behaviour, action, movement, and life.

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Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum_©Timothy Hursley
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Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum_©Timothy Hursley
Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum_©Timothy Hursley

Architecture is an artefact of embodied experience that is made by people, appearing at the very beginnings of humanity and as a final, creative, and immediate result of human instinct (Le Corbusier, 1926).


Can you imagine a world without architecture? – sci-arc (no date) SCI. Available at: https://www.sciarc.edu/news/2017/can-you-imagine-a-world-without-architecture (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Le Corbusier and Charles-Edouard, J., 1926. Vers Une Architecture. Paris.

Tschumi, B., 1996. Architecture and Disjunction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

ArchDaily. 2022. “As Long as There Are Human Beings and their Challenges, There Will Be Architecture”: In Conversation with Ole Bouman. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/959771/as-long-as-there-are-human-beings-and-their-challenges-there-will-be-architecture-in-conversation-with-ole-bouman>


Divya is passionate in how design can connect people, their interactions, places, sites, and their environment. She enjoys exploring new places and studying architecture. Inclined toward architectural solutions that are sensible and sustainability-centered, she thinks that architecture can build a global society.