The Meaning of Architecture – A Practical Definition of Architecture

July 3, 2017 no comments Uncategorized

What’s the Meaning of Architecture?

Last year, ArchDaily published an article listing 121 Definitions of Architecture as represented by quotations of many famous architects. While we find this list inspirational, it leaves us still seeking a grounded answer. Rather than a series of mind-expanding perspectives on the practice, we present to the community our understanding of the meaning of architecture as defined by an accessible, and practical definition of architecture.

Architecture (Latin architectura, from the Greek ἀρχιτέκτωνarkhitekton “architect”, from ἀρχι-“chief” and τέκτων “builder”) is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings and other physical structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements. -Wikipedia’s Attempt

From this crowd-sourced definition we understand that architecture is a process. Specifically one that creates physical structures from ideas. Many people get caught up in the designing piece of the term, but the making is an equally important.

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How Do We Establish a Practical Definition of Architecture?

Now that we understand the process, let’s break down the the two phases into their respective requirements.

DESIGN – Starting with the design portion, we assume there must be a way to know what to design. It turns out, what to design is often the easiest part. Often there is a demand that is noticed by a client and then a project is born from this initial need. What is more challenging is how to design it. Obviously there are required program elements for certain types of projects, but to bring them together under a common physical language, there must be an understanding of context. From where the site is to whom the building is for, context directs an appropriate aesthetic and suite of design tools specific for each project. So the initial design portion of the architectural process is best explained as the contextual organization of a physical need.

BUILD – Advancing from the former phase, there are various steps that bring ideas into physical form. Initially, there must be a way to explain the idea. This is where drawings and models are created in as scaled 2D and 3D representations of what will be build. From pen to paper, pixels on the screen, and hammers upon wood, the second phase is the application of tools to materials that yield a prescribed design.

Our Practical Definition of Architecture

Bringing it all together, we are left with the following:

The process of satisfying a physical need by applying tools upon materials to realize a contextual organization of space.

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