Architecture has always been about intertwining the need for functionality in whatever structure, building, or infrastructure that is being designed, with a more aesthetic approach that takes in influences of the local community, the culture of a location, and the artistry of the architects, designers, and planners. It is a circle of influences that continues to flow back into one another and influences the style of architecture in local neighbourhoods, in the workplace, in educational institutions, as well as into the consciousness of a nation as a whole.
We all understand that there are basic concepts of architecture and a language that allows us to immediately plug in and understand the concept of a building or area. For instance, architecture uses the understood and accepted form of a church, temple, or mosque to symbolise a religious building. Look to a large factory or area with smokestacks and we are immediately transported to an understanding of an area being industrial in nature. Does this currently accepted form of architecture as an alphabet for our understanding of how cities and urban environments work have to stay that way for the indefinite future? Or could we see new and innovative ways for architecture to explore what we know (or think we know) about the accepted terms of how we live in urban environments?
It is interesting to consider whether any piece of art, architecture, or even town plan, can be created without being heavily influenced by the immediate surroundings, the culture on the doorstep and the neighbourhoods that will be impacted (even if only in a small way). Since the beginning of the 20th century and the birth of modernism there has been a shift away from this traditional viewpoint, but yet we do still all understand some of those basic concepts, with hospitals always looking like hospitals, and town and civic halls having a familiar look in the vast majority of cities.
The problem with globalism and the ‘smaller’ world we now find ourselves in though, is that this type of understood homogeneity in architecture is in danger of spreading in a way that makes everything generic, and nothing unique. This is surely against the principals of any architect or designer and can be seen most commonly in the high streets of many town and cities across the world. For many people when travelling they’ll find interesting things and parts of a town that are specific and unique to that place, yet in most places you’ll discover at least one street that looks like it could be anywhere from Canberra to Cardiff.
There is a breed of architects the world over who reject this homogeneity however, and look at ways to take on board the culture of the local society, the landmarks that shape a city and a region, and use that as inspiration to design and build infrastructure and new buildings. This intertwining of architecture and culture is important to provide nourishment of all kinds for locals and tourists alike, blending functionality and art.