Architecture is a pretty huge topic. It generally refers to the make-up and construction of things, but it usually ends up meaning so much more. In its material (or virtual) form, architecture can relate to buildings, structures, or even the inner workings of microchips or computer programs. In its non-material form, architecture can refer to process, planning and construction. It requires a command over nature, material and technology in order to create something of sound form and utility.

Architecture in any of its forms can have cultural or historical significance and implications. It is something which often upon inspection can be indicative of its origins and creators if applicable, as sometimes the workings of nature are described as architecture.

Architecture can (and usually should) involve a wide degree of engineering; which is to say that principles of mathematics and science are involved in the application of planning and design in some way.

For much of human history, aesthetic properties have been considered an important consideration of structural architecture, though after some time it has come to be argued that the appearance and aesthetic design (while still a valid consideration) are not necessarily crucial to the form and function of the building. In most cases we would have to agree; if you are surviving in the wilderness and have to make a shelter to keep you dry from the rain – you will still need to exercise a degree of planning and build something sturdy, but the style of it and way that it looks will not determine how effective it is at keeping you dry.

That said, if you did want to design and construct a visually stimulating shanty hut, the function and consideration of its appearance alone would still be considered architecture.

This leads us to an inspection of the key elements of architecture; form and function. Durability and utility. If you are going for something of beauty (or intentional ugliness), it can arguably be considered part of the utility and function of the structure. A basic house resembling only the materials it was made from will do the job of being a house. A computer program will run no matter how the code was written and laid out, so long that it functions correctly. If you are building a structure to serve no purpose other than being a poorly-designed structure, you are still putting consideration into it, and even if it does not do the job of utility and function well, it can be argued that doing a poor job of utility and function is the utility and function of the structure. It’s still architecture.

No matter what, the consideration of material and technology come into consideration; what do you have to work with and how do you manipulate it to your requirements?

Architects are those who perform architecture; from the planning, design and overseeing construction of anything that comes together in form and function. Depending on the intricacy of structures, architects are often required to have a thorough understanding of many technologies, sciences and engineering principles in order to plan things out properly, so architects are often well-educated and schooled in many practices. That’s not to say that anyone can’t be an architect, but most modern structures and designs are incredibly technical and require considerations of many systems, materials and even laws and finance. Don’t worry though, if you are even just designing and building a simple shelter, you are still an architect in our books.

Barring the extensive education and training that most architects require, you can follow these simple guidelines if you find yourself having to design and overlook the construction of something.

  • What’s the purpose? Designing, planning and construction take a lot of time, resources and effort; so unless you have a lot of that kicking around, make sure you have a reason or need to construct something. Experimentation is always a valid purpose, but be reasonable. If you are testing a structure or material, try doing this on a small scale before going full size. If your design doesn’t end up suiting the purpose of your requirements, don’t move forward.
  • Is it strong enough? Materials and how they are placed will define structural integrity and how well any construct will hold up under stress. No matter how well the structure serves a purpose, if it fails to exist longer than it is needed then is not doing its job. A forge can reach a temperature required to melt metal, but if the structure was not engineered to withstand that temperature itself, it will destroy itself and subsequently was not strong enough. If a building was intended to house 100 people, but collapses under the weight of 100 people, it does not meet the architectural requirements of form or durability. This would be a failure in architecture.

There are many, many different forms and style of building architecture, each with indicative features that set them apart from others. Increasingly, buildings are being constructed in a more culturally-neutral style known as international architecture; most modern cities sport an international, common skyline of steel and glass skyscrapers.

Overall and much like neurosurgery, architecture is one of those things that you should educate yourself about thoroughly before attempting anything too complicated. We can teach you more with some detailed practices and techniques here.

  • Basic Load-Bearing Structures
  • Building a Better Bridge