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What Makes Architecture, Architecture? 

Written By Lisa Clarke, BA(Hons), MArch, BIA Associate

Images Supplied By Lisa Clarke

When discussing the theme for the second edition of CAD magazine, a distant memory came to mind: seated amongst 120 unfamiliar faces in a lecture hall at Plymouth University, the professor asked, “Are all buildings considered Architecture?”  


Fast forward to present day and the abundance of published discourse on this question, and we are yet to have a definitive answer. At a basic level, architecture is commonly defined as the process of planning, designing and constructing buildings or structures. By definition, a building is merely a structure with a floor, roof and walls. True Architecture goes well beyond a mere building.  


What if we focused less on whether all buildings are Architecture, and more on how we as designers, architects and the general public can form a better understanding of Architecture as an inhabitant of space? With that in mind, we ask the question: 


What makes architecture, Architecture?  


Architecture is a multifaceted and complex field that encompasses the design, planning, and construction of buildings and other physical structures. By definition, a building is merely a structure with a floor, roof and walls. Arguably, true Architecture goes well beyond a mere building and has been described as a political statement; a collaborate process; an art form; a science; and a reflection of culture. Fundamentally, almost every architect has a different definition of what Architecture means to them.   


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


“We should attempt to bring nature, houses, and human beings together in a higher unity.” -  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe  


"My work is not about ‘form follows function‘, but ‘form follows beauty‘ or, even better, ‘form follows feminine’.”  -  Oscar Niemeyer  


Ultimately, we believe several key elements distinguish Architecture as a design profession and make it a unique and vital field:   


Purpose and Function Architects are responsible for creating functional, aesthetic, and innovative designs. They consider the purpose of the structure; the needs of the occupants; and the cultural and environmental impacts of their design. Whether it is a home, a commercial building, a museum, or a public space, Architecture is driven by the need to provide shelter, facilitate activities, and enhance quality of life. Architecture is by the people, for the people. Without people to create and experience Architecture, it would not exist.   


Spatial Awareness Architecture is not just about utilitarian structures; it also emphasises aesthetics and the optic aspects of design. Architects have a deep understanding of how to manipulate space. They consider form, scale, materials, the flow of people, the use of natural light, acoustics, and ergonomics to create spaces that are not only visually appealing but also comfortable, efficient, and harmonious.   


Technical Knowledge Architects need a strong understanding of construction materials, structural principles, and building systems. They must be able to translate their creative visions into practical and functional structures.  


Historical Awareness and Cultural Relevance Architecture is not static; it evolves over time. Styles, materials, and design principles change, reflecting the cultural, technological and social developments of each era. Architectural history is a testament to this evolution. Understanding this history is crucial for creating designs that are both contextually relevant and respectful of the past.  


Environmental Considerations Modern architects are increasingly concerned with sustainability. They incorporate environmentally friendly practices and materials into their designs, aiming to minimize the environmental impact of buildings and promote energy efficiency. Architects often take into account the surrounding landscape and local traditions to create buildings that are in harmony with their context.   


Problem-Solving, Innovation and Creativity Architects are problem solvers. They work with clients to understand their needs and constraints, and then develop creative solutions to address these challenges. This problem-solving is fundamental to the architectural process; it can be a source of creative expression and experimentation.   


Visual Communication Architects use drawings, models, and digital representations to communicate their ideas effectively. These visual tools are essential for conveying complex design concepts to clients, builders, and other stakeholders.   


Collaboration Architects collaborate with various professionals, including engineers, builders, and interior designers, to bring their designs to fruition. Effective communication and teamwork are essential skills in the field of Architecture.   


Impact on Society Architecture has a significant impact on the way people live, work, and interact with their surroundings. Well-designed buildings and public spaces can enhance the quality of life, foster a sense of community, and contribute to the cultural identity of a place. •   


One simple, definitive answer to what makes architecture, Architecture does not exist. It is a blend of artistic vision, technical expertise, cultural awareness, and problem-solving skills that encompasses both the creative aspects of designing spaces and the practical aspects of construction; making it a complex and multifaceted discipline of tremendous value.

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