Architecture is a medium of expression of the cultural and geographical diversity of a region. Tourism is a sector which has been growing rapidly in the last few decades owing to advancement in technology and economy globally. Architecture is an indisputable source of history and is linked to tourism since ancient times. Architecture contributes immensely, attracting tourists all over the world to visit landmarks and other scenic places. 

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Architecture and tourist experience ©
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Bali Temple ©
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Milan Cathedral ©

Structures like temples are built to worship higher forces, multiplexes and grand malls for entertainment and leisure. Therefore every building ever constructed revolves around beliefs and user profile of people. People all over wish to interact with such structures and understand more about the region they are visiting. The tourism industry brings indefinite income to many countries and therefore, government bodies invest funds in maintaining historical monuments and places of interest. Being valuable assets, the architecture gives context to a visitor’s experience and profoundly fit their anticipations. Urban developers all over the world, try to create more activities for not just tourists, but citizens as well, to initiate balanced development of metropolitan areas to avoid creating a concrete jungle. With the active participation of residents, these undertakings create curiosity among people to encounter the architecture of a destination and tourist’s self-transformation.

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Colosseum ©

The hierarchy of developing vistas, starting from streets and avenues to piazzas and main crossroads describe the lifestyle of residents vividly.  Iconic architecture is what creates memories for tourists in the first place. For example, when we reminisce about Paris, we remember the Eiffel Tower, the boulevards, cafes around the corner. When we think about Rome, we recognize the grandiose of the Colosseum and several cathedrals and basilicas. When we think about India, we remind ourselves of the glistening white Taj Mahal, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Each landmark portrays an account of the history and influences tourist psychology. Modern architecture derived from vernacular values are just as important as traditional architecture. Charles Jencks, a prominent destination land artist, wrote in his book, “In the past, public buildings expressed shared meaning and conveyed it through well-known conventions. Today a new type of global landmark has a more difficult task.”

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Guggenheim ©

When the Guggenheim Museum was first opened in Bilbao, Spain, it became instantly synonymous with the identity of the city. This is the overwhelming power of iconic architecture, turning a place rumoured to have economic troubles to a destination of a lifetime.

From works of contemporary architecture to tall glass skyscrapers, these symbolic structures of modern or urban identity bring in hordes of visitors, even in a marginal place. Landscapes, both artificial and natural and terrain of different altitudes contribute to tourism and their identity too. 

Be it rural or urban, country or coast side, metropolitans or the mountains, each country is striving to create hospitable destinations and generate interest. 

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Rural areas ©

Architecture offers a sensual connection to people, engulfing exciting interactions. For a tourist, luxurious resorts, cafes, museums, malls and places of interest are architecture. Architecture is what a tourist identifies a location and can communicate the same with other people, it charms them.

Some cities, identified through universal multicultural modern architecture include Sydney, London, Copenhagen, Chicago and Dubai. A tourist isn’t necessarily a wanderer, they could be students or researchers, artists or photographers. This leads to cultural or educational tourism.

Architecture poses as a great source of history, demographics and statistics, heritage and the way of life. Rural destinations, which identify with agricultural economies can also become a world-class destination. Bregenzerwald in Austria is a paradise of forests and green pastures, creating “an integrated eco-social living and experience space” with contemporary architecture. Today, many five-star hotels are presenting contemporary designs, cycling and trekking paths adorning the natural landscape and eco-buses for easy travel are available. 

Amusement and theme parks like Disneyland are considered innovative architectural interventions. It contradicts the phenomena of the inherent sense of place, which is known to be the starting point of various interventions. Every place has its own narrative, a spell-binding story and therefore, plagiarism doesn’t work. We can’t create replicas of success stories, can we?

Spatial structure and spatial behaviour are interdependent. Architecture assists various activities which makes tourists experience light and sound,  materials, enclosures, heat and ventilation, titillating all the senses and engaging the mind towards aesthetics and many other aspects of a structure. 

Every location worth visiting from cathedrals to aquariums, from roads to bridges is owed to design. Visitors interpret architecture in their profound way and interact with the physical elements present. Therefore, there is an opportunity for architects to create conversational designs. The hunger to consume information among postmodern tourists such as signs, symbols and cultural capital by the ‘tourist gaze’ is artifactual. Every travel memory is a living breathing visual adventure. Afterall, what do scenic photographs and picture postcards capture? Architecture


Asmita Kothari is currently pursuing B.Arch at the School of Architecture, VIT University. She is an avid reader and a movie buff, who loves watching architectural and travel documentaries and shows. She believes that ambitious and curious souls make the world a better place.