What is the first thing that comes to your mind when hearing about architects? Some of us may incline to an artistic approach of the subject – an architect should excel at arts, visual expression should come as their personal language, artistic talent should be a must. Some others would certainly have a more practical spirit and state the similarities between architecture and engineering as essential: an architect should have a good knowledge of maths and physics. In my opinion, the main condition to be an architect is to have vision, as well as the ability to visually materialize your ideas. So, I would say that, above all, an architect is a someone who can express himself of herself by shaping the space, similar to the way that words give a shape to our thoughts.
This is why it is so hard to define architecture. An architect does (or at least should do) much more than designing, even if this may seem the most important aspect, at first sight. What does “the art of building” actually involve? Are there any particular skills that someone should have in order to become an architect? And, once you make the choice to dedicate your life to the architecture field – what should you look for, in the future?
Architecture – defining a field with countless perspectives
“I call architecture frozen music”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we
have no soul of our own civilization.” (Frank Lloyd Wright)
As Oscar Wilde wisely said: “To define is to limit.” Still, it is not enough to say that architecture is a world with countless possibilities. A metaphoric description would be visually-expressed philosophy: an artistic way of giving shape to our thoughts. For this reason, it is possibly the most complex field of study – because it involves all other arts, all sciences, while asking for creativity, originality, vision, good understanding of the world and social context, good communication skills, a wide general knowledge, and, last but not least – a bit of talent and constant motivation.
Why does architecture ask for such a wide knowledge? Take your time and think about its purposes. The aim of architecture is to create an ideal environment for people’s lives, and, for that to be possible, it needs to take into consideration every aspect of our existence. We live surrounded by space – and this is not void of feelings. Every object near us has a certain impact on the landscape and, implicitly, on our perception, on our state of mind. The space is full of energy, of meanings, it is a lively expression of the human soul. Every space has its own charm – the atmosphere changes from one room to another, almost inexplicably, and this depends on every aspect, from the choice of colours and materials for decorations to the actual shape and size of the respective room. But architecture is not static – in fact, its dynamic character needs to be constantly adapted to the social needs and the latest improvements in science should be integrated in order to optimize the quality of life.
Modern world has seem numerous divisions in all fields. The tendency is to specialize in a particular aspect, due to the complexity reached by all sciences nowadays. Architecture does not make an exception. Urbanism is a branch in architecture which deals with organizing the urban landscape. Interior design does its best to provide the best features inside the buildings. Restoration architecture brings up a historic approach and assure a bright future for the great achievements of the past. Architects may choose to specialize in particular homes or share their work with others when it comes to more complex projects.
Architecture – a mission for building a future
“Architecture begins where engineering ends.”
“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”
Every art expresses the perspective of the human society in a certain historical period. The current artificial and materialistic ideals, turning architecture into an industry, slightly neglect the purpose that, in other times, had made the distinction between architecture as the art of building and engineering: the beauty and harmony that the building should express, in order to provide an ideal space of living. We are too much attracted by the idea of reaching the social standards for the “ideal home”: should it be very close to the city centre, very wide, very exquisitely decorated, very ‘in trend’. But I think we should first ask ourselves if those really can guarantee our physical and mental balance. Our homes and buildings have become a criteria of placing us somewhere in the social hierarchy – lush homes may be a sign of richness while, instead, smaller living spaces may represent a reality that we would rather hide from our “faultless” external image of never-ending happiness and prosperity. The result of such ideas are extremely crowded and polluted city centers and suburbs boasting large homes, far form the esthetic ideals, and even from practical aims.
While the accent is most often put on material and financial aspects, the purpose of architecture itself may be neglected. We can all build – there have been countless technical improvements in the recent years that make possible to build almost anything, whatever futuristic shape comes to your mind. Architects and constructors strive to set records with the size of their projects, with the efficiency of their work, with the astronomical number of constructions they have had in production. Is this the right direction the architecture should take in the future? That future, when the technique seems to overtake the art itself, and positivism – to establish science as the people’s ultimate achievement – is it what we really wish for?
As it is suggested in Vitruvius’ monumental work “De Architectura”, the world’s oldest theory of architecture that survived up to our days, architects should produce their work as monuments for eternity. However, little accent is put on quality nowadays. The immediate profit, and superficiality as its consequence is what make us forget the initial meaning of this noble field, architecture: to make the artistic essence of our civilization stand the test of time.
Today’s architecture is something that should be done as a new paragraph in the history of humanity, to honour the past; something that should portray the present, to make our current ideals immortal; and something that is left to the future, as a priceless fortune to be passed on the new generations: a living proof of the real value of the human soul, which created beauty and perfected the nature. As Gandhi said, “it is better to let life talk about us, instead of words”. In the same manner, from now on, let the urban landscape talk about the future of architecture. We will never have any control over our future if we don’t start perfecting it from this very moment. After all, present is the key to achieving everything.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”