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1 ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN: Meaning, Definitions & Parameters

The word architecture (archi+tecture) has its origin in `rchi-tectonics which


literally means rules of organizational structure; principles of composition or order (of
form) or systematic arrangement of components or knowledge. rchin means to rule and
rchos means chief or ruler. `rchist hence is believer of rules1 and anarchist is the non-
believer. Nihill is the absence of any rule or basic principles. Anarchy is absence of rule
and the mechanism or hierarchical organization to rule (the Government). The archi in
architecture is just opposite of anarchy. The term architecture therefore derives the meaning
of an organisation or system, which is strictly based on hierarchy of rules or orders. These
rules obviously were related to tectonic of the nature, having its origin in cosmology and
geophysics.

The word `rchetype means original pattern, model or prototype, implying the
pattern or order of nature. It includes the earth with all its contents; all that grows on it and
the factors responsible for creation and survival of the earth itself and the life on it.
Therefore, the mountains and rivers (water bodies); Trees and plants, all living creatures
including human beings are the archetypes or prototypes or role models of tectonic for
architecture. To an architectural theorist, architecture is an act of following (imitating) the
essence (of structure and form) of tectonic from the nature. The word imitating should be
applied to material (mortal), as well as intellectual or spiritual (divine or immortal) qualities
of nature.

The Definition
In all cultures of the world, architectural form is an expression of philosophical
interaction of the forces of mass and space. This in turn, reflects the relationship between
man and nature and man and the universe. The clarity and vigour with which the mass and
space are resolved set the level of excellence of architectural work at any period of a
cultural development. Architecture is the articulation of space so as to produce in the
participator, a definite space experience in relation to previous and anticipated space
experience."2

Architecture is also defined as an art and a science of designing (defining or


ordering) spaces for the use of living beings. 3 It is an art because it has to respond to
abstract qualities like intelligence, emotion, spiritualism, religion and socio-economic
conditions, etc. It is a science because it deals with physical elements like materials, spaces
(land) and has to respond to physical, structural and other logical properties of these
materials. Though the building is an arrangement of materials in their structural logic, they
are essentially ordered to communicate cultural intentions. Architecture thus is a mythical
representation of building, and it is this feature which accounts for ability of architecture to
organize itself in to a body of technical and aesthetic knowledge.4
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All such environments, as well as, all human artifacts, are designed in the sense that
they embody human decisions and choices and specific ways of doing things. In making
these choices, certain values, norms, criteria, and assumptions are called upon. These are
often embodied in ideal schemata. Environments, in some way, reflect and encode these
schemata and the order they typify. In all traditions the ordering schemata are frequently
based on the sacred, since the religion and rituals is centre of the traditions. If built
environments are humanised environments, livable places, then by definition, sacred or
sanctified.5 Building is not necessarily architecture, as it refers to the craft of construction.
Building comprises of the knowledge and experience that man accumulates in dealing with
the contingencies of providing shelter. Architecture, on the other hand refers to the art of
building. Architecture makes us see the building craft from which it is born, from which
detaches itself as an art, and to which it alludes.

The parameters of architecture: Theories, Expression & Techniques

Theories
The term theory is extension ancient Greek word Theoria, meaning witnessing
(observing). Theory is a contemplative, comprehensive explanation of some aspect of
nature that is supported by a body of evidence. It is used as an analytical tool for
understanding or explaining. It is a rational or generalized thinking or models of the
perceived reality that works toward disambiguation of issues involved. Broadly, there are
three types of theories viz. explanatory, descriptive, and normative.

The term theory of architecture was originally simply the accepted translation of
the Latin term 'ratiocinatio' as used by Vitruvius, to differentiate intellectual from practical
knowledge in architectural education.6 He gave simple reason for creating his text.
"Because I saw that you [Caesar] have built and are now building extensively, I have drawn
up definite rules to enable you to have personal knowledge of the quality both of existing
buildings and of those which are yet to be constructed." (Vitruve, Book I, Preface)

The notion that architecture is the art of building was implied by Alberti in the first
published treatise on the theory of architecture, 'De re aedificatoria' (1485).7 Although he
was a layman, he rejected, by his title, the idea that architecture was simply applied
mathematics, as had been claimed by Vitruvious. Ten Books of Architecture consists only
of normative theory of design. The rules are usually based on practical points or reasoning;
sometimes saying that this has always been done, i.e., with historical tradition. Till end of
18th century, the classical system of the "orders" became the most visible contents of
architectural theory. Therefore, imitating or duplicating physical images from the past (and
pasting them on faade of buildings) was established as Architecture.

Frustrated with the facsimile production of the Roman and Renaissance facades,
based on the logic that "all the proper forms of expression have been discovered long ago"8,
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the modern architecture discarded imitation altogether. In fact, it was a movement to
liberate from one cycle to create another. As a result, its forms were the raw facts of
industrial technology and materials utilised. Thus extreme realism short-circuited any
possibility for emergence of a symbolic form. Post-modernism assumed that saturated
imagery would enhance architectures meaning. By trenching upon the properties of other
branches like scenography and graphics, it lost sight of tectonics; architectures
distinguishing feature. Its indulgence in superfluous meaning has led to a travesty of
architecture.9

The Theory signifies the total basis for judging the merits of buildings. Such
reasoned judgments are an essential part of the architectural creative process. Theories
about Architecture are concerned with identifying key variables like space, structure, social
process etc.10 The semioticians believe that most of the architectural objects not only
function but also communicate that they function, and function in a particular manner, thus
signifying the cultural, technological, and economic aspects of the society11.

Two theories are associated with the nature of philosophy of architecture in the late
19th century. The first theory regards the philosophy of architecture as the application of
general philosophy of art to a particular type of art. It believes that theory of architecture is
an extension of the generic theory of arts. The second, on the contrary, regards the
philosophy of architecture as a separate study, which may have some characteristics
common to the theory of other arts.

Techniques
The techniques of architecture are normally the methods by which the buildings are
formed, from particular materials. These methods are influenced not only by availability
and character of the material but also by the total technological development of the society.
Architecture depends on the on an organised labour force and upon existence of the tools
and skills necessary to secure, manufacture, transport and work durable materials. The
techniques are evolved and conditioned by two forces viz. economic and expressive. The
first tries to maximise the stability and durability in building with a minimum of material
and labour, and the other desires to produce meaningful forms.

Technique is the major contributor to architectural forms by exploiting the


properties of materials. Regions with heavy or moderate rainfall produced lots of trees, and
timber and bamboo became the building material. Such regions developed body of
techniques called timber technology. The timber trunk was placed vertically as column;
horizontally as joist and inclined as rafter. Livable spans were created with light weight
roofs. Triangular roof, being a technical necessity (to avoid deflection or sagging and drain
off water), became form of buildings.

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Dry regions with low rain fall have fewer trees and more stones (Rajasthan, part of
Karnataka). Such and other areas with ample stones obviously used stones and developed
stone technology. Egyptian and Greek architecture used stones in its own logic. West
Asiatic region had neither of these, but alluvial soil. They developed bricks. Clay being
poor in tensile stress, brick was too small to span livable areas. Bricks therefore developed
the technique of arch and domes, which created spans bigger than its two competitors.
Romans and Mugals liked arches so much that they reduced stones to bricks (in size &
character). Arch is a technique, where the structural weakness of brick is made an asset.
Others technologies perceived it as a form and imitated. Concrete being a plastic material,
does not have technical requirement or suggestion for its form, it simply follows the mold.
Since the concrete has no technique to generate form of its own, it is more eager and in
need of the forms to express it self. Concrete, using its own techniques, imitates forms of
other technologies with ease and therefore finds its application everywhere.

Expression
Expression in architecture is the communication of quality and meaning. The
functions and techniques of building are interpreted and transformed by expression in to art,
as sounds are made in to music and words in to literature.12 The nature of expression
varies with the character of culture in different places and in different times, forming
distinct modes or language of expression that are called styles. Style communicates the
outlook of a culture and the concepts of its architects. The principal forces in the creation of
a style are tradition; the experience of earlier architecture; influence of the contemporary
expression outside the immediate cultural environment and innovation. These forces
operate to produce an evolution with in every style and ultimately generate new styles that
tend to supplant their predecessors. The components of expression, which communicate the
particular values of style, are content and form. Since contents can be communicated only
through form, the two are organically united.

Expressions involuntarily do two functions; to denote and to connote. While


denoting refers to the primary function say a house, connoting refers to secondary function
say residing at a location or in a style. Umberto Eco adds five more types of expressions,
viz. conative, emotive, phatic, multilingual and referential. Conative is one of three parts of
the mind. The cognitive part of the brain measures intelligence, the affective deals with
emotions and the conative drives how one acts on those thoughts (e.g. impulse, desire,
volition, and striving). Stairs though primarily a means to change levels, induces impulse to
climb. Phatic expression performs a social task, as opposed to conveying information.
"You're welcome" is a phatic response to being thanked and not the message of invitation.
The referral reminds of another object not directly linked. This raises debate over primary
and secondary functions. We build or buy a house to live in, and it also serves as an
investment. When we buy a house as investment, the house should express its capital value.
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Juan Bonta differentiates significant form from physical form. Significant form is an
abstraction of physical form which includes some of its features which are intended for
meaning, and excludes others. It is like a sketch which differs from a photograph. Photo
honestly reproduces every thing in the frame, but a sketch reproduces only that is
significant to convey the event. Significant form generally corresponds to a class or type,
and therefore may represent or suggest more than one physical form. Besides meanings,
forms also have values, which may differ with time, place, culture and religion. Window
chajja is device to protect the opening from rain and sunrays, but has become
ornamentation; and indices not of the region, but of the financial or socio-cultural status of
the user.

A piece of architecture should express only that for which it is intended and nothing
else. All components of form / elements of expression should have a reason to be there. As
Ayn Rand puts it Every piece of it is there because the house needs itand for no other
reason. This probably, could be the meaning of articulation in context of architecture.

Synthesis
In order to know the nature of architecture, it is essential to analyse the domain of
art and science/technology in architecture. Architecture always works with the `facts (and
not abstraction) of technology. But the sympathy architecture always has with technology
is not instanced by the literal adoption of technological facts. Instead, architecture
receives facts from technology, and returns forms to the world.13 It is in this sense, that
art is sued to the wanting image of facts. (The conceptual shapes/forms of houses, temples,
churches, etc. were initially constructed as they were required structurally. Being first of its
kind and being replicated, the shape got attached to the function without functional logic,
and became symbol of the function itself. The triangular shape of sloping roof in timber is a
technological fact. Architecture abstracted it as an image of shelter. This has become a form
for bungalows and villas to be constructed using concrete technology, where the shape is
irrelevant to the material & structural logic. All classical temples in India are built in stone
but using timber technology, because they imitate the model (form) built in bamboo and
timber

All art are, in their general conception, models of imitation. All arts therefore, in
the first instance imitate their models in a partial and incomplete way, due to the limitations
set by their medium of execution.14 All of them differ from each other due to the limitation
of medium employed by them. Painting imitates reality by means of light and colour,
sculpture by means of relief, architecture by means of tectonics, music by means of sound
and poetry by means of language. All arts are equal contenders of reality; each one makes
the claim with the weapon it knows the best.15 The essence of imitation in the arts is to
represent reality by means of an image and the success lies in the distance it establishes

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between itself and its model. The scope of artistic imitation is to represent reality by means
of an image that is wanting and incomplete.

The tree was the original perceived shelter, and therefore the model of house.
Columns were conceived from tree trunks, beams from horizontal branches, and slabs from
the network of leaves but as essence of structure or tectonic and not as replication of form.
Imitation has therefore nothing to do with aping or production of facsimile copies. Success
of imitation is in inseparable and meaningful fusion of the three parameters in a way that all
of them coexist without losing their identity and the purpose, yet not contradicting the
totality of fusion, called architecture.

1
. Shipley T. Joseph, Dictionary of Word Origins, 1945, Anarchist = one who believes in no ruler/ rules, Nihilists = one who
believes in no basic principles,
2 .
Bacon Edmund N. , Design of cities,
3.
Amos Rapoport, Cultural origin of Architecture, 1979,
4
. Demetri Porphyrios, Building and Rational architecture.,
5
. Amos Rapoport, Cultural Origis of architecture, 1978
6
. Encyclopedia Britanica.
7
. Eng. trans. Ten Books on Architecture, 1955
8
THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand pg 15
The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks.
Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then
your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are,
making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood.
9
. Demetri Posphirios
10.
Bruno Zevi quoted in Introduction to Architecture, p.22
11
. Umberto Eco, Sign, Simbol & Architecture, 1979, pp.12-13
12
. Encyclopedia Britanica.
13
. Jose-Ignacio Linazasoro, AD, Vol. 56, 5/6 1984.
14
. Aristotles Poetics, MSS, Parsiness 2038, quoted by Demetri Posphirios,
15
.Demetri Posphirios, AD 1984