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The Role of Architecture in the Society

Introduction

Architecture is the outcome that results from the combination of art and science through planning, design and construction (Booth, 2011). Architecture has been used for years to represent the art and culture of all the civilizations that have been present in the world. Through architecture, societies have been able to identify and represent themselves and their values. This has been achieved through the uniqueness of their architectural designs that have differentiated them from other communities. In addition, different eras have always been represented by their dominant architectural designs. For instance, the romantic was represented by gothic, exotic and the Italianate architectural designs (Williams, 1996). Thus, architecture has been and is still being used as a representation of time, culture and modernization.

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Architecture plays a critical role in the growth and development of all societies in the world. It is through architecture that towns, cities and small villages develop their identities and a balance between the past and the present (Zachary, 2010). Consequently, architecture also plays a critical role of ensuring that space is utilized in an effective and efficient manner hence meeting the needs of the society. This is perhaps the main role that architects play in ensuring the economic and social development of a given community is achieved. It is with regards to this that the process of city planning and construction ensures that the social needs of a given community are met. Buildings such as churches, schools, hospitals, residential houses, skyscrapers, offices, malls and so on play a significant role in supporting the social needs of a given society and developing its trade and commerce. Although the works of architects play a significant role in the growth and development of a society, there are also some negative impacts that come about as a consequence of their designs (Williams, 2001). Thus, architects should take into considerations all the factors that ensure that their designs are effective, efficient, and sustainable to eliminate or reduce as much as possible the negative impacts that such designs might have on the society and its economy.

Ethical Considerations of Architects and Architecture

Being a professional career, the practice of architecture is usually governed by rules and codes that ensure that architects practice their profession in an ethical and professional manner (Gotze, 1998). Therefore, several rules, codes of conduct and considerations have always been put in place to ensure that architects have an ethical responsibility to the society that they serve. For instance, architects are expected to continuously increase their knowledge base and expertise in the field of architecture (Gotze, 1998). This will ensure that the services that they offer to their clients and the society at large are of high standards and conform to their needs and requirements. Architects are also expected to respect the human rights of individuals. On these grounds, architects are not supposed to discriminate any individual whatsoever on the basis of their religion, race, gender, political affiliation and so on. Most modern societies are usually heterogeneous in nature. These societies contain individuals from different cultures and backgrounds. Thus, it is essential to come up with rules and practices that will ensure that these individuals live in peace and harmony while respecting the rights of one another. Through their practice, architects should uphold, maintain, and ensure that this goal is achieved.

Architecture plays a critical role in ensuring the sustainable growth and development of an organization. It is therefore the role of architects to ensure that communities experience change over time (Picon and Ponte, 2002). However, this change should always be positive and lead to a better society. It is perhaps due to this fact that architects need to constantly expand their knowledge and expertise to ensure that they have a deeper understanding of a given society, its needs and ways in which these needs can be met through architecture. The gradual change within a society that is instilled by architecture is always driven by political and economic factors as well. The political stability and the ideology of a given society usually influence the manner in which the profession of architecture is managed within a given society. Through politics, architects come up with effective designs that will embrace a given political era. In ancient Rome for instance, several buildings were constructed under the directions of the emperors.

The Pantheon is a prime example. This temple was constructed to honour the gods of the pagan Roman during ancient time. The current pantheon was constructed under the directions of Hadrian who constructed the temple to replace the old Pantheon that was constructed by Marcus Agrippa that was burnt to the ground in 80 AD. Due to this fact and the religious importance that the temple had, it became to be one of the most appreciated works of architecture of ancient Rome. In the modern world, several buildings have been constructed to meet the economic needs of the society. In America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and most cities in Africa, malls have been constructed to enhance the process of commerce (Dietsch, 2011). Architects have come up with designs in which space can be utilized to concentrate and enhance the shopping experience in one area. With these two examples from different eras, it is evident that architecture is a tool that is used to transform a given environment as well as its inhabitants to meet their current as well as future needs.

Through their designs, architects need to assure the safety of the people within a given society or environment. For instance, architectural designs need to reduce the level of crime within an area (Fermilab, 2008). It is with regards to this fact that architectural models and designs ensure that the utilization of space reduces the crime levels. In most cases, architects achieve this by maximizing the defensible space. In ancient Europe, cities were constructed inside a periphery of strong walls protecting them from external invasion and attacks. In the modern world, offices and houses have designs and systems that prevent the level of crime. This includes grills, strong doors and walls, burglar alarms and so on.

However, architecture cannot fully meet the needs of the society if it does not take into account the impacts that it has on the environment (Cucinella, 2008). The world is currently facing a lot of environmental issues such as global warming, rising in tides, changing climatic patterns, depletion of natural resources and so on. Thus, architects need to put these factors into consideration to ensure that their models and designs are environment friendly and utilize the available resources sustainably. Thus, these designs and models need to ensure that energy is used in a sustainable manner and the elements that are used in the process of construction are not toxic to the users and the environment. At the same time, architects have always modified ancient buildings to ensure that the resources and space are utilized effectively and efficiently. More importantly, modern architectural designs ensure that buildings are well insulated and lit to reduce energy consumption and to guarantee a good living and working environment. Given all these considerations, it is evident that architecture and architects play a significant role in meeting the needs of a society to ensure that it grows and develops in a sustainable manner.

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Contemporary Practice and Social Needs

For architects to be successful in their work, they need to constantly enhance their performance and expand their educational base. Therefore, architecture is a profession that is always growing and developing with time. However, there is a major difference between modern and ancient architecture. Ancient architecture was primarily based on meeting the social needs of a given community regardless of the monetary or any other rewards that may accrue as a result of their work. In ancient times, an architect was expected to view his design as a work of art that is used to express his/her personal views as well as the views of the society (Koch and Worndl, 2001).

For a society to be sustainable, all the activities that are conducted within the community need to be supported by all the stakeholders. Architecture as well requires the support and participation of its stakeholders. Thus, the profession should not only involve the architects themselves but it should also involve the members of the public. This is an ethical consideration that architects need to put in place while developing and implementing their models and designs. Most societies usually have forums through which public engagement and participation in architecture can be achieved. This is essential as it guarantees that most if not all of the social needs of a given society are met through the sustainable use of available resources. In this respect therefore, the public plays a critical role in influencing the architectural designs and models of their societies and the consequences that accrue under such situations. Furthermore, through public engagement and participation, architects usually get feedback and information that plays a critical role in the development of designs that conform to the needs and requirements of the public hence ensuring the growth and sustainability of a given society.

However, in the modern world, this situation has changed. Architects are now focusing on different types of developments and typologies that are a characteristic of modern cities. These developments and typologies include high-rise buildings and structures that are a characteristic of most modern cities in the world. Cities such as Hong-Kong, Dubai, New York and so on are renowned for the tall buildings that they have. At the same time, architects have also laid a lot of emphasis in the construction of shopping malls. In the modern world, malls have replaced the traditional marketplace where buyers and sellers would come and exchange goods and services for money and other valuable commodities. Shopping malls have the capacity of bringing together a variety of retail activities in one place (Lewis, 2002). Most malls have supermarkets, movie theatres, food courts, and a variety of shops that sell different commodities. Another characteristic phenomena of modern cities are highways. Due to the increased traffic congestion in modern cities, architects in conjunction with other city planners and designers have developed highways that aim at increasing the efficiency of transportation from one point to another. Highways enable people who live in cities to get from one place to another within the shortest time possible.

All these developments aim at meeting the current needs of modern societies. However, architects only focus on such developments at the expense of more important and critical developments that top the priority list of societal needs due to their economic value, as profit generation is the main purpose of the modern society. Modern architects have neglected societal needs such as schools, hospitals and parks since such developments do not have a strong economic impact in the society. Due to the profit mentality, contemporary architectural designs usually overlook the role that parks, schools, hospitals and churches play in sustaining social interactions. These designs brought about social unity and participation unlike the modern designs that bring about polarisation and social disintegration. For instance, the only people who can work and hold high offices in the high-rise buildings are qualified individuals who hold key positions in various organizations. Under qualified individuals in low positions are pushed out of the cities. At the same time, those people who have cars and money are the only ones who can enjoy the privilege of shopping at the mall. Those people who initially held land or lived in the cities are continuously being pushed further away from the city since they do not have the money to maintain land premiums in such localities. Therefore, although contemporary architecture has met the economic needs of modern societies, it has failed at sustaining its essential needs. Therefore, reforms need to be put in place to ensure that all societal needs are addressed in an equitable manner to ensure the sustainability of societies in the short run and in the long run.

Formal and Aesthetic Architectural Designs and Social Benefit

Through their profession and practice, architects always strive to serve the public to meet their needs and interests. Through their aesthetic works, architects work in accordance with the social values to balance between the past and present needs of a given society. To ensure that there is continuity within a given society and architecture at large, architects, in their aesthetic models and designs ensure that the present and future needs of a given society are also in line (Mumford, 2008). Although architects are usually driven by the needs of the society, it is essential to note that different architects have different values and ideologies (William, 1999). It is perhaps due to this fact that architecture has different schools of thought. For instance, conflicts have always been present between rationalism and romanticism. However, all architects want to serve the overall need of the society to ensure that their communities are sustainable in the short run and in the long run.

Through the aesthetic values of architecture, architects use their profession as a platform through which they can express their ideas, thoughts and motives in a bid to achieve societal development. Architects have always viewed their work as a form of art in which they use the available materials, tools and expertise to develop new styles and designs that conform to their ideologies while meeting the tastes and preferences of their clients as well as that of the community. This form of self-expression should always be a basis in which architects develop their designs from. This is critical as it ensures the diversity and continuity of architectural designs over time. For instance, The leaning tower of Pisa, Taj Mahal, stature of liberty, the Sydney House of Opera, the demolished World Trade Centre and amongst others are buildings and monuments that have one thing in common; symmetry (Hargittai and Hargittai, 1994). Despite their differences in time and cultural representation, all of these buildings have different elements of symmetry that makes them unique features. Symmetry has been one of the main fundamentals of art and architecture. However, since the 21st century, the extent to which asymmetry is being utilized has increased tremendously. Asymmetry, as an architectural design is a style that is used to show informality, movement and on some rare occasions, surprise. The Victorians, for instance, embraced the concept of asymmetry in their architectural designs. They believed that the ruggedness that was presented with this design resulted to an element of harmony with nature. Asymmetry brings about the feeling of continuity in nature as well as a tension effect in architecture (Gardner, 1999).

Therefore, the formal and aesthetic values of architecture play a critical role in the development and advancement of architectural designs over time. These values act as a symbol of identity for individual architects as well as a form of symbolism of a given society. For instance, when one looks at the Taj Mahal, the vision of India comes into play. Therefore, aesthetics can greatly be viewed as a symbol of representation and continuity in architecture.

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Conclusion

Architecture is an essential component in the growth and sustainability of a society. Through their models and designs, architects are able to determine and meet the current and future needs of a given society. Architectural designs are also useful in embracing the continuity of time and development within an organization. Its aesthetic values are critical in embracing the ideas of individual architects as well creating an identity for a given society. Thus, architecture always strives to meet the needs of a society.

References

Booth, N 2011, Foundations of Landscape Architecture: Integrating Form and Space Using the Language of Site Design, John Wiley & Sons, London.

Cucinella, M 2008, Ethical architecture to intergrate environmental and social needs, Web.

Dietsch, D 2011, Architecture for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, London.

Fermilab 2008, ‘Fermilab History and Archived Projects’, Ferminews, Vol 1 No. 7, pp. 21-30.

Gardner, M 1999, Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings, Sage, London.

Gotze, H 1998, ‘Friedrich II and the Love of Geometry’, Nexus: Architecture and Mathematics, Edizioni dell’Erba, Florence.

Hargittai, I and Hargittai, M 1994, Symmetry: A Unifying Concept, California: Shelter Publications, Bolinas.

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Koch, M and Worndl, W 2001, ‘Community Support and Identity Management’, ECSCW2001 vol. 3 no. 2, pp. 319 – 338.

Lewis, S 2002, ‘Plans for sustainable development’, Journal of Human Settlement, vol. 2 no. 1, pp-22-31.

Mumford, L 2008, The Culture of Cities. Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York.

Picon, A and Ponte, A 2002, Architecture and the Sciences: Exchanging Metaphors, Sage, Rome.

William, J 1999, E-topia: Urban life. MIT Press, Massachusetts.

Williams, K 2001, ‘The Universality of the Architectural Concept’, Nexus: Architecture and Mathematics, Edizioni dell’Erba, Florence.

Zachary, M 2010, ‘Symmetry and Asymmetry in Architecture’, Journal of Modern Arts and Sciences, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 67-75.

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