This page is about the built environment . For other usesof the term "Architecture" see Architecture (disambiguation)
Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings . A wider definition would include within its scope the design of the total built environment, from themacrolevel of town planning , urban design , and landscapearchitecture to the microlevel of furniture and product design . Architecture, equallyimportantly, also refers to the product of such a design.
Scope and Intentions
According to the earliest surviving work on the subject, Vitruvius ' DeArchitectura, good building should have Beauty (Venustas), Firmness (Firmitas) and Utility (Utilitas); architecture can besaid to be a balance and coordination among these three elements, with none overpowering the others. A modern day definition seesarchitecture as addressing functional, aesthetic, and psychological considerations. However, looked at another way, functionitself is seen as encompassing all criteria, including aesthetic and psychological ones.
Architecture is a multi-disciplinary field, including within its fold mathematics , science , art , technology , socialsciences , politics , history , philosophy , and so on. In Vitruvius' words, "Architecture is a science, arisingout of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning: by the help of which a judgement is formed of those workswhich are the result of other arts". He adds that an architect should be well versed in fields such as music , astronomy , etc. Philosophy is a particular favourite; in fact one frequently refers to the philosophy of each architect when one means the approach. Rationalism , empiricism , structuralism , poststructuralism , and phenomenology are some directions from philosophy influencingarchitecture.
Theory and Practice
The importance of theory in informing practice cannot be overemphasised, though many architects shun theory. Vitruvius continues: "Practice and theoryare its parents. Practice is the frequent and continued contemplation of the mode of executing any given work, or of the mereoperation of the hands, for the conversion of the material in the best and readiest way. Theory is the result of that reasoningwhich demonstrates and explains that the material wrought has been so converted as to answer the end proposed. Wherefore the merepractical architect is not able to assign sufficient reasons for the forms he adopts; and the theoretic architect also fails,grasping the shadow instead of the substance. He who is theoretic as well as practical, is therefore doubly armed; able not onlyto prove the propriety of his design, but equally so to carry it into execution".
Architecture and buildings
The difference between architecture and building is a subject matter that has engaged the attention of many. According to Nikolaus Pevsner , European historian of the early 20th century, "A bicycle shed is a building, Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture". In current thinking, the division is not too clear. Bernard Rudofsky 's famous Architecture Without Architects consolidated a whole range of structures designed byordinary people into the realm of architecture. The further back in history one goes, the greater is the consensus on whatarchitecture is or is not, possibly because time is an efficient filter. If like Vitruvius we consider architecture as goodbuilding, then does it mean that bad architecture does not exist? To resolve this dilemma, especially with the increasing numberof buildings in the world today, architecture can also be defined as what an architect does. This would then place the emphasison the evolution of architecture and the architect.
Architecture first evolved out of the dynamics between needs (shelter, security, worship, etc.) and means (available building materials and attendant skills). Prehistoric and primitivearchitecture constitute this early stage. As humans progressed and knowledge began to be formalised through oral traditions andpractices, architecture evolved into a craft . Here there is first a process of trial anderror, and later improvisation or replication of a successful trial. The architect is not the sole important figure; he is merelypart of a continuing tradition. What is termed as Vernacular architecture today falls under this mode and still continues to be produced in manyparts of the world.
Early human settlements were essentially rural . As surplus of production began tooccur, rural societies transformed into urban ones and cities began to evolve. In manyancient civilisations such as the Egyptians' and Mesopotamians' architecture and urbanism reflected the constant engagement withthe divine and the supernatural. However, the architecture and urbanism of the Classical civilisations such as the Greek and the Roman evolved from more civic ideas andmany new building types emerged. Architectural styles developed and texts on architecture began to be written. These became canons to be followed in important works, especially religious architecture. Someexamples of canons are the works of Vitruvius, the Kaogongji of ancient China and Vaastu Shastra in ancient India . In Europe in the Classical and Medieval periods, buildings were not attributed tospecific individual architects who remained anonymous. Guilds were formed by craftsmen toorganise their trade. Over time the complexity of buildings and their types increased. General civil construction such as roadsand bridges began to be built. Many new building types such as schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities emerged.
With the Renaissance and its emphasis on the individual and humanityrather than religion, and with all its attendant progress and achievements, a new chapter began. Buildings were ascribed tospecific architects - Michaelangelo , Brunelleschi , Leonardo da Vinci - and the cultof the individual had begun. But there was no dividing line between artist , architect and engineer , or any of therelated vocations. At this stage, it was still possible for an artist to design a bridge as the level of structural calculationsinvolved were within the scope of the generalist.
With the consolidation of knowledge in scientific fields such as engineering and the rise of new materials and technology, the architect began to lose ground on the technicalaspects of building. He therefore cornered for himself another playing field - that of aesthetics . There was the rise of the "gentleman architect" who usually dealt with wealthy clients andconcentrated predominantly on visual qualities derived usually from historical prototypes. In the 19th century Ecole des Beaux Arts in France , the training was toward producing quick sketch schemes involving beautiful drawings without much emphasis oncontext.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution laid open thedoor for mass consumption and aesthetics started becoming a criterion even for the middle class as ornamented products, oncewithin the province of expensive craftmanship, became cheaper under machine production. Such products lacked the beauty andhonesty associated with the expression of the process in the product.
The dissatisfaction with such a general situation at the turn of the twentieth century gave rise to many new lines of thoughtthat in architecture served as precursors to ModernArchitecture . Notable among these is the DeutscherWerkbund , formed in 1907 to produce better quality machine made objects. The rise of the profession of industrial design is usually placed here. Following this lead, the Bauhaus school, founded in Germany in1919, consciously rejected history and looked at architecture as a synthesis of art,craft, and technology.
When Modern architecture first began to be practiced, it was an avantgarde movement with moral, philosophical, and aesthetic underpinnings. Truth was sought by rejecting history and turning tofunction as the generator of form. Architects became prominent figures and were termed masters. Later modern architecture movedinto the realm of mass production due to its simplicity and economy.
However, a reductive quality began to be perceived in modern architecture by the general public from the 1960s . Some reasons cited for this are its perceived lack of meaning, sterility, ugliness, uniformity, andpsychological effects.
The architectural profession responded to this partly by attempting a more populist architecture at the visual level, even ifat the expense of sacrificing depth for shallowness, a direction called Postmodernism . Robert Venturi 's contention that a"decorated shed" (an ordinary building which is functionally designed inside and embellished on the outside) was better than a"duck" (a building in which the whole form and its function are considered together) gives an idea of this approach.
Another part of the profession, and also some non-architects, responded by going to what they considered the root of theproblem. They felt that architecture was not a personal philosophical or aesthetic pursuit by individualists; rather it had toconsider everyday needs of people and use technology to give a livable environment. The DesignMethodology Movement involving people such as Chris Jones , Christopher Alexander started searching for a more inclusive process of design in order to lead to abetter product. Extensive studies on areas such as behavioural, environmental, and social sciences were done and startedinforming the design process.
As many other concerns began to be recognised and complexity of buildings began to increase in terms of aspects such asservices, architecture started becoming more multi-disciplinary than ever. Architecture now required a team of professionals inits making, an architect being one among the many, sometimes the leader, sometimes not. This is the state of the professiontoday. However, individuality is still cherished and sought for in the design of buildings seen as cultural symbols - the museumor fine arts centre has become a showcase for new experiments in style: today Deconstructivism , tomorrow maybe something else.
Buildings are the most visible productions of man ever. However, most of them are still designed by people themselves ormasons as in developing countries, or through standardised production as in developed countries. The architect remains at thefringes of building production. The skills of the architect are sought only in complex building types or those seen as culturaland political symbols. And this is what the public perceives as architecture. The role of the architect, though changing, has notbeen central and never autonomous. There is always a dialogue between society and the architect. And what results from thisdialogue can be termed architecture - as a product and as a discipline.
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