Topic for Debate
What is architecture?
I am preparing for the new school year as a 7th grade teacher. The semester project is based on "Architecture: A Window to Islamic Civilization?"

First of all, I would like to know the definition of architecture.

Do architects exclusively create architecture?

Does architecture include everything man makes, from paper to fine buildings?

Besides natural things, is there any example which is not considered to be architecture?

Amir Ali Sunesara
What is architecture?
Hi Amir Ali Sunesara,

I think you can read the ten books of Vitruvius transl. by Phillip Morgan, where Vitruvius, the "father of architecture," speaks about Beauty, Firmity, and Utility in Architecture.

So, architecture is not just 'man made,' from paper to fine building, but we must know about 'spirit', 'art' and 'for whom' architecture was made.

For example: 'the La villette Park by Bernard Tschumi and Derrida in Paris, the glass pyramid by I.M. Pei at the Louvre in Paris, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders as Proportion in Greek temples, and the traditional/vernacular houses all over the world.


Imam Santoso
Imam Santoso
What is architecture?
To: Amir Ali Sunesara,

Sorry about this: the ten Vitruvius books on Architecture are not trans. by Phillip Morgan, but by Morris Hicky Morgan - Dover Publications, Inc., New York.

Imam Santoso
Imam Santoso
What is architecture?
Hello Amir,

In the 'Seven Lamps of Architecture,' John Ruskin says, "...building does not become architecture merely by the stability of what it erects."

He equates it to an art, saying that architecture rises above the aspects of utility and common integration of building units: "Architecture concerns itself only with those characters of an edifice which are above and beyond its common use." Hence, any article becomes architecture if there is more to it than utility, i.e. an urge to create or design, whether beautiful or ugly.

Therefore, everything is not architecture.

There may be more parameters in addition, but I believe this to be the basic distinction. Which means that anything created by anyone other than an architect also becomes architecture if there is a concious effort to be creative.

However, this also implies that natural creations do not constitute architecture, but I personally feel that natural creations cannot be judged by any definition of architecture that we humans coin. I don't think we are competent to comment on the degree of 'creativity' or 'intent to create' in nature, though they may have attributes of beauty etc.

I quite like the semester project assigned to you and feel it will be very beneficial to the students.

All the best.
Shubhru Gupta
What is architecture?
So, can someone give me an example of something considered as architecture versus something that is not, and explain the difference between them?
Amir Ali Sunesara
What is architecture?
This is a very good topic to discuss.
Well, I am an architect, and have just become one. The whole span of my academic life was spent trying to find out what exactly architecture is.

I may not sound quite convincing and correct, but I am sure I'll make sense.

I feel that any space snatched from emptiness in a way that is pleasing and usable is architecture.

Architecture is very subjective and relative. I may find a piece of stone architecture and I'll have my own reasons, but may feel that the best temple in the world is crap.

This is what a person into architecture feels. But for your students, the best way to explain to them would be: any structure that has good aesthetics, that is functionally viable and adds up to the national glory and to the overall image of the city can be considered as architecture.

I am not a scholar but these are just my views, and just about what I feel; I may be right, I may be wrong.

Anyways, all the best Amir.
Jose Abraham
What is architecture?

To answer your questions:-

(1) Architecture is the construction of coherent design.

Coherent: anything designed for the purpose of "housing" or enclosing people and objects within definable and specific spaces. A space can either be hollowed out of a solid or enclosed within walls (the vertical plane), or (the horizontal plane) roof.

(2) The creation of architecture is not exclusive to architects. Everyone has the inborn ability to design and so many people who are not architects can and do design and build architecture.

(3) No architecture does not include everything made by humans. See (1)(4).

(4) I do not agree with "natural things are not considered to be architecture".

Another definition then: Architecture is any complex coherent design. So anything (including natural things) can be complex coherent designs if all the elements of the whole, work together to achieve the specific purpose of housing either humans , or domestic animals, or human made / human stored objects.

If a human "uses" natural objects (such as random groups of trees, rocks, etc) for shelter. Then because a human uses natural enclosed or partially enclosed spaces as shelter, the human creates a natural form of architecture. :)))
Frank John Snelling


This site is adjusted only for landscape mode. Please rotate your device for properly using
We are sorry, we are still working on adjusting for Metro IE. Please use another browser for the best experience with our site.