Ever since it was possible to build something over our heads, architectural design has been hand in hand with structure building. Architectural design can have a religious inspiration, symbolic inspiration, structural, superstition or simply as a form of art. Ever since our ancestors built houses out of clay in Africa, architectural design has taken on an incredible life, and it is a life shared and changed with the people who are behind the buildings. Let’s take a look at where we came from and where we’re going in the world of architectural design.
Where we began:
The oldest structures that we have found to date have been in Africa, where mud and clay were used to create walls and wood was used to make a support system for the roof and corners of the home. Some of these early homes were dated back to over 10 000 years old, and have withstood countless storms and dry seasons. Their simplicity meant that they could be built nearly anywhere and be repaired easily because of the abundance of material around them. The first homes had only a structural mindset; they were built to shelter from the elements and hold belongings like food and pots inside for the family.
The Egyptian Empire:
Fast forward 5 000 years, and this is when you find buildings that are still an architectural marvel, and mystery to this day. The ancient Egyptians revolutionized architecture with their structures, some of which took decades to build and were extremely intricate in design and function. Among these marvels are the most mysterious of them all. Pyramids; massive sandstone buildings towering above the hot African desert, were a speciality to the Egyptians and their Jewish slaves. Built to bury the bodies of pharaohs after their death, these buildings symbolized a stairway to the gods that the pharaoh had to climb, and the taller the pyramid, the more symbolic and powerful that pharaoh was.
The Valley of the Kings in Egypt has the largest of these pyramids, the great pyramid of Khufu. Standing at over 400 feet tall; it was the tallest building in existence for over three thousand years. Architectural engineers and scientists have marvelled over these buildings, and have had many theories to how they were built. At this time, religious beliefs started to really seep into architectural design, and it continued on for thousands of years. Where religion really had a hold on architectural design, was during the Medieval, Baroque and Classical era.
Medieval and Renaissance:
The three time periods mentioned all had a very different style of life when it came to art, style and architecture, but most of it was centred around religion. The medieval era saw a simple style and from, buildings were practical and very structural-oriented. Designs were made to withstand attack of other kingdoms and easy to repair in case damage was done. The two tallest structures of a settlement were the castle, and the church, the church being the only structure that was allowed to be taller than the castle. This was because it was believed that the taller the cross on the top of the church, the closer it was to God. One of the best examples today is Note dame de Paris in Paris, France, where the church really showed the power it had at the time.
The churches power didn’t change through to the Baroque era either. Baroque is very well-known for it’s overly intricate design and structures, buildings were over-the-top and up to the neck in artistic design. Whilst religion still had a strong foothold on design, this is the time where art was as its most prominent in architectural design and it really show what it can do, Baroque era buildings are considered an art form even today.
Leading into the classical era, art form was still a part of buildings, but it was much more formal and linear, intricate and breathtaking designs made way for more linear and pronounced building. This is the time where the church and architectural design started to split into different categories, the church was still the tallest building in many settlements, but religion started to become less important than design and practicality. This carried through to the industrial revolution.
The industrial Revolution:
In the mid-1800′s, the power of steam and coal really took off. The industrial revolution was in full swing and buildings started to revert back to practical means rather than an art form. The best examples are in the early 1900′s where buildings were very square and simple, yet practical; serving the purpose as office space and apartments. This is also the time where wooden beams were replaced by steel and iron, and as such, much larger buildings could be built, such as the empire state building. The trend of simple yet practical stayed true through the great depression, both world wars and the Cold war. Even buildings on the capitalism/communism split in Germany were relatively the same, the only difference being the colour. Only recently has the architectural industry start to put art form back into its regular construction.
Architectural design today:
Today, buildings are starting to really divert themselves from the regular tall rectangular skyscrapers they had been for over 50 years. A great example in in Mississauga, Ontario, where they have just completed 2 condominiums that resemble woman’s legs under a dress. With new, stronger materials come more intricate and large designs like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Other skyscrapers and buildings have a more rounded shape or bulge out in different areas, all with structural integrity in mind, but with an artistic twist. With all this innovation, it begs the question: “What’s next?”
What is next? Who knows, Architectural design has changed dramatically over the history of humanity, buildings are getting stronger, larger and taller, and designs are getting bolder, bigger and more intricate allong with them. Perhaps a modern Baroque-era will arise? Maybe we’ll have buildings like in the Jetsons, or buildings like in sci-fi movies. We might not even be confined to earth anymore either, and have buildings on Mars, the Moon and even other planets in the stars. Wherever we go with our designs, one thing will be for sure: Architectural design will always be the front line in Building design, construction and innovation.