You’re likely surrounded by it at once. Architecture’s grasp—that is, buildings and therefore the designed environment—ends only in extreme conditions (the bottom of the ocean, the atmosphere, and some dwindling spots on terrestrial earth.)
Unique among creative and artistic professions, architecture should always reflect the age and cultural context that produced it. It doesn’t happen in a very vacuum and may never truly have only 1 author. Architects work with dozens if not hundreds or thousands to shape their buildings, and along this chain, a deeper and richer set of values are transmitted; ones that outline exactly how cultures see themselves and their world, and also how people see and knowledge one another.
Beyond merely providing shelter, architecture becomes the representation and context for our lives. It’s the explanation we feel empowered on the roof deck of an 80-story building, connected and thriving in a very busy public plaza, and humbled during a soaring cathedral. Communities from within and at the behest of architecture, and tackle their buildings’ characteristics.
An architect once told me: that after you find out about ancient cultures, the primary thing people point to is their architecture, because it’s so expressive of who they were. the instance they used was ancient Egypt. The commercial Revolution, which re-organized the planet together with rational standards of machine production, inevitably birthed Modernism, which used mass-produced steel and glass to duplicate this emerging order in cities. All revolutions, especially political ones, communicate architecture immediately to make their most prominent monuments. And this ability of architecture to clarify its age happens whether a building is an elaborate showpiece or a banal standby.
Spend a while observing how architecture reflects culture, and you’ll get the sense that it’s less of a profession and more of a worldview, a lens with which to interpret all of your surroundings. As such, it lends itself to such a large amount of visually creative mediums that decide on the conceptualizing of space—graphic design, video production, film, etc.
The inherently public nature of architecture implies that the work architects do is similar to sociology and psychology; setting the stage for social behaviors and interior reactions. Who is inspired to enter into an area or community, and who is dissuaded? How are people made to feel in a very given context? Why does a jail feel different from a library? and will it? The form and performance of public space are found by political means, so by extension, architects are de facto politicians.
Defining architecture only in terms of other professions does it a disservice, and there’s a body of data within architecture that’s separated from the sensible concerns of building, and it’s completely speculative avant-garde, and radically critical of the way the planet works. Gazing at the built world critically, rather than considering it a collection of established and ironclad traditions, reveals that architecture is a completely synthetic, human creation. It can take nearly any shape we would like it to. They’re actually the results of idiosyncratic accumulations of cultural values, the materials available, economics, geographic location, and climate. Architecture is futurism, and every time it offers a critique that means new ways to measure, work, or play, it becomes a feat of world-building that produces it hard to tell apart from phantasy.
And that’s quickly moving on from being a privilege to become mandatory, as long as buildings and also the built environment is the only largest source of carbon emissions driving catastrophic global climate change. The temperature change could be a design problem, and any Green New Deal meant to tackle it’ll need legions of architects to require up the cause. This may mean both increasing production of buildings that need little to no fossil fuels to run and managing the already swelling ramifications of not having done so in the past, like continually flooded coastal cities and therefore the constant siege of hurricanes. And culturally, the new political and economic structures required to arrange these revolutionary reforms will need expression in fresh architecture; another revolution to be cataloged in built form. Architecture is inherently fascinated by the long run, and designers are trained to visualize the planet not because it is, but because it may be.