Architecture: Some Basic Thoughts

Mission San Rafael

What exactly is architecture?  Is it simply building design?  Are all buildings examples of architecture? Certainly the US Capitol Building in Washington DC or the Chrysler Building in New York are.  But is the shed by the side of the highway housing phone equipment architecture? Is the formulaic one-story strip mall?  There are numerous attitudes and answers to these questions, but for many people, only when building design includes a certain level of responsive thought and artistic consideration does it moves into the category of true architecture.  What are these considerations, and why are they important?

Because buildings make up the primary “building blocks” of the built environment, they are vitally important. And without the responsive thought and artistic consideration just mentioned, buildings cannot properly enhance street patterns, create and enclose public squares, punctuate plazas, function as necessary for their users, compliment what is around them, or enrich our experience.  In short, unless buildings have the characteristics of true architecture, they will not add to the built environment. Good architecture can enhance entire neighborhoods, and great architecture can go further to uplift and even inspire us.

A number of interrelated components make up successful, contributive architecture.  At the most general and basic level there are three:  The urban design consideration, the exterior appearance, and the interior design.  Overlaying each of these is a functional component, an aesthetic consideration, and an overall, overriding, unifying theme, or design spirit.

Next:  The Urban Design Responsibility of Architecture