AskDefine | Define architecture

Dictionary Definition



1 an architectural product or work
2 the discipline dealing with the principles of design and construction and ornamentation of fine buildings; "architecture and eloquence are mixed arts whose end is sometimes beauty and sometimes use"
3 the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their esthetic effect
4 (computer science) the structure and organization of a computer's hardware or system software; "the architecture of a computer's system software" [syn: computer architecture]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The art and science of designing buildings and other structures.
    The architecture throughout NYC is amazing.
  2. A specific model of a microchip or CPU.
    The Intel architectures have more software written for them.
  3. The structure and design of a system or product.
    The architecture of the company's billing system is designed to support its business goals.

Related terms


art and science of designing buildings and other structures

Extensive Definition

Architecture as a profession is the practice of providing architectural services. The practice of architecture includes the planning, designing and oversight of a building's construction by an architect. Architectural services typically address both feasibility and cost for the builder, as well as function and aesthetics for the user.
Architecture did not start to become professionalized until the late nineteenth century. Before then, architects had ateliers and architectural education varied, from a more formal training as at the École des Beaux-Arts in France, which was founded in the mid seventeenth century, to the more informal system where students worked in an atelier until they could become independent. There were also so-called gentlemen architects, which were architects with private means. This was a tradition particularly strong in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Lord Burlington, designer of Chiswick House, (1723-49) is an example. Some architects were also sculptors, such as Bernini, theater designers such as Filippo Juvarra and John Vanbrugh, and painters, such as Michelangelo and Le Corbusier.
In the 1440s, the Florentine architect, Alberti, wrote his De Re Aedificatoria, published in 1485, a year before the first edition of Vitruvius, with which he was already familiar.. Alberti gives the earliest definition of the role of the architect. The architect is to be concerned firstly with the construction. This encompasses all the practical matters of site, of materials and their limitations and of human capability. The second concern is "articulation"; the building must work and must please and suit the needs of those who use it. The third concern of the architect is aesthetics, both of proportion and of ornament.
The role of the architect is constantly evolving, and is central to the design and implementation of the environments in which people live. In order to obtain the skills and knowledge required to design, plan, and oversee a diverse range of projects, architects must go through extensive formal education, coupled with a requisite amount of professional practice.
The work of an architect is an interdisciplinary field, drawing upon mathematics, science, art, technology, social sciences, politics and history, and is often governed by the architect's personal approach or philosophy. Vitruvius, the earliest known architectural theorist, states: "Architecture is a science, arising out of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning: by the help of which a judgement is formed of those works which are the result of other arts." He adds that an architect should be well versed in other fields of learning such as music and astronomy. which translates roughly as -
  • Durability - it should stand up robustly and remain in good condition.
  • Utility - it should be useful and function well for the people using it.
  • Beauty - it should delight people and raise their spirits.
According to Vitruvius, the architect should strive to fulfil each of these three attributes as well as possible. Leone Battista Alberti, who elaborates on the ideas of Vitruvius in his treatise, De Re Aedificatoria, saw beauty primarily as a matter of proportion, although ornament also played a part. For Alberti, the rules of proportion were those that governed the idealised human figure, the Golden Mean. The most important aspect of beauty was therefore an inherent part of an object, rather than something applied superficially; and was based on universal, recognisable truths. The notion of style in the arts was not developed until the 16th century, with the writing of Vasari. The treatises, by the 18th century, had been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and English.
In the early nineteenth century, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin wrote Contrasts (1836) that, as the titled suggested, contrasted the modern, industrial world, which he disparaged, with an idealized image of neo-medieval world. Gothic architecture, Pugin believed, was the only “true Christian form of architecture.”
The 19th century English art critic, John Ruskin, in his Seven Lamps of Architecture, published 1849, was much narrower in his view of what constituted architecture. Architecture was the "art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by men … that the sight of them" contributes "to his mental health, power, and pleasure". For Ruskin, the aesthetic was of overriding significance. His work goes on to state that a building is not truly a work of architecture unless it is in some way "adorned". For Ruskin, a well-constructed, well-proportioned, functional building needed string courses or rustication, at the very least.
On the difference between the ideals of "architecture" and mere "construction", the renowned 20th C. architect Le Corbusier wrote: "You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: This is beautiful. That is Architecture".

Modern concepts of architecture

The great 19th century architect of skyscrapers, Louis Sullivan, promoted an overriding precept to architectural design: "Form follows function".
While the notion that structural and aesthetic considerations should be entirely subject to functionality was met with both popularity and scepticism, it had the effect of introducing the concept of "function" in place of Vitruvius "utility". "Function" came to be seen as encompassing all criteria of the use, perception and enjoyment of a building, not only practical but also aesthetic, psychological and cultural.
Nunzia Rondanini stated, "Through its aesthetic dimension architecture goes beyond the functional aspects that it has in common with other human sciences. Through its own particular way of expressing values, architecture can stimulate and influence social life without presuming that, in and of itself, it will promote social development. To restrict the meaning of (architectural) formalism to art for art's sake is not only reactionary; it can also be a purposeless quest for perfection or originality which degrades form into a mere instrumentality".
Among the philosophies that have influenced modern architects and their approach to building design are rationalism, empiricism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and phenomenology. In the late 20th century a new concept was added to those included in the compass of both structure and function, the consideration of sustainability. To satisfy the modern ethos a building should be constructed in a manner which is environmentally friendly in terms of the production of its materials, its impact upon the natural and built environment of its surrounding area and the demands that it makes upon non-sustainable power sources for heating, cooling, water and waste management and lighting.
There is also a concept among architects that although architecture does not exist in a vacuum, architectural form cannot be merely a compilation of historical precedent, functional necessities, and socially aware concerns, but that to achieve significance, a work of architecture must be a transcendent synthesis of all of the former and a creation of worth in and of itself.


Origins and the ancient world

Architecture first evolved out of the dynamics between needs (shelter, security, worship, etc.) and means (available building materials and attendant skills). As human cultures developed and knowledge began to be formalized through oral traditions and practices, architecture became a craft. Here there is first a process of trial and error, and later improvisation or replication of a successful trial. What is termed Vernacular architecture continues to be produced in many parts of the world. Indeed, vernacular buildings make up most of the built world that people experience every day. Early human settlements were mostly rural. Due to a surplus in production the economy began to expand resulting in urbanization thus creating urban areas which grew and evolved very rapidly in some cases, such as that of Çatal Huyuk in Anatolia and Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan. In many ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians' and Mesopotamians', architecture and urbanism reflected the constant engagement with the divine and the supernatural, while in other ancient cultures such as Persia architecture and urban planning was used to exemplify the power of the state.
The architecture and urbanism of the Classical civilizations such as the Greek and the Roman evolved from civic ideals rather than religious or empirical ones and new building types emerged. Architectural styles developed.
Texts on architecture began to be written in the Classical period. These became canons to be followed in important works, especially religious architecture. Some examples of canons are found in the writings of Vitruvius, the Kao Gong Ji of ancient China and Vaastu Shastra of ancient India.
The architecture of different parts of Asia developed along different lines to that of Europe, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh architecture each having different characteristics. Buddhist architecture, in particular, showed great regional diversity. In many Asian countries a pantheistic religion led to architectural forms that were designed specifically to enhance the natural landscape.

The Medieval builder

Islamic architecture began in the 7th century CE, developing from the architectural forms of the ancient Middle East but developing features to suit the religious and social needs of the society. Examples can be found throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, and were to become a significant stylistic influence on European architecture during the Medieval period.
In Europe, in both the Classical and Medieval periods, buildings were not attributed to specific individuals and the names of the architects frequently unknown, despite the vast scale of the many religious buildings extant from this period. During the Medieval period guilds were formed by craftsmen to organise their trade and written contracts have survived, particularly in relation to ecclesiastical buildings. The role of architect was usually one with master builder, except in the case where a cleric, such as the Abbot Suger at Saint Denis, Paris, provided the design. Over time the complexity of buildings and their types increased. General civil construction such as roads and bridges began to be built. Many new building types such as schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities emerged.

Renaissance and the architect

With the Renaissance and its emphasis on the individual and humanity rather than religion, and with all its attendant progress and achievements, a new chapter began. Buildings were ascribed to specific architects - Brunelleschi, Alberti, Michelangelo, Palladio - and the cult of the individual had begun. But there was no dividing line between artist, architect and engineer, or any of the related vocations. At this stage, it was still possible for an artist to design a bridge as the level of structural calculations involved was within the scope of the generalist.
With the emerging knowledge in scientific fields and the rise of new materials and technology, architecture and engineering began to separate, and the architect began to lose ground on some technical aspects of building design. He therefore concentrated on aesthetics and the humanist aspects. The approach of the Modernist architects was to reduce buildings to pure forms, removing historical references and ornament in favor of functionalist details. Buildings that displayed their construction and structure, exposing steel beams and concrete surfaces instead of hiding them behind traditional forms, were seen as beautiful in their own right. Architects such as Mies van der Rohe worked to create beauty based on the inherent qualities of building materials and modern construction techniques, trading traditional historic forms for simplified geometric forms, celebrating the new means and methods made possible by the Industrial Revolution.
Many architects resisted Modernism, finding it devoid of the decorative richness of ornamented styles. As the founders of the International Style lost influence in the late 1970s, Postmodernism developed as a reaction against the austerity of Modernism. Robert Venturi's contention that a "decorated shed" (an ordinary building which is functionally designed inside and embellished on the outside) was better than a "duck" (a building in which the whole form and its function are tied together) gives an idea of this approach.

Architecture today

Part of the architectural profession, and also some non-architects, responded to Modernism and Postmodernism by going to what they considered the root of the problem. They felt that architecture was not a personal philosophical or aesthetic pursuit by individualists; rather it had to consider everyday needs of people and use technology to give a livable environment. The Design Methodology Movement involving people such as Christopher Alexander started searching for more people-oriented designs. Extensive studies on areas such as behavioral, environmental, and social sciences were done and started informing the design process.
As many other concerns began to be recognized and the complexity of buildings began to increase (in terms of aspects such as structural systems, services, energy and technologies), architecture started becoming more multi-disciplinary than ever. Architecture today usually requires a team of specialist professionals, with the architect being one of many, although usually the team leader.
During the last two decades of the twentieth century and into the new millennium, the field of architecture saw the rise of specializations within the profession itself by project type, technological expertise or project delivery methods. In addition, there has been an increased separation of the 'design' architect from the 'project' architect within some architectural office collaborations.
Moving the issues of environmental sustainability into the mainstream is one of most significant recent developments in the architecture profession. Sustainability in architecture was pioneered in the 1970s by architects such as Ian McHarg in the US and Brenda and Robert Vale in the UK and New Zealand. The acceleration in numbers of buildings which seek to meet green building sustainable design principles is inline with a growing world-wide awareness of the risks and implications of accelerating man-made climate change.
It is now widely expected that tomorrow’s architects will integrate sustainable principles into their projects. The American Institute of Architects acknowledges that half of today's global warming greenhouse gas emissions come from Buildings - more than Transportation or Industry, and that architects are chiefly responsible. AIA states that immediate action by the building sector is essential to avoid hazardous man-made climate change. They have an "Architecture 2030" plan to reduce new building energy consumption by 90% in 2030, and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Passive solar building design has been demonstrating essential elements of 70% to 90% energy consumption reduction in roughly 300,000 buildings since the 1978 U.S. Solar Energy Tax Incentives. Many of these basic building envelope energy efficiency features can be added at little-or-no additional net cost during new construction. Newer zero energy buildings have reduced net annual energy consumption, producing excess energy and selling it back to the grid-connected power company during moderate months. They are receiving significant publicity. The emerging demand for zero energy buildings is growing rapidly - Tens of thousands of U.S. Dollar zero energy building subsidies are available - The supply of zero energy buildings has fallen far short of current demand. Off-the-grid buildings are now demonstrating total self sufficiency. Energy considerations are becoming significant portion of architecture. The 2009 Bank of America Tower (New York) has many innovative energy features.
President George Bush’s 2006 Solar America Initiative expects architects and builders to actively design and construct new zero energy buildings by 2015. The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 funded the new Solar Air Conditioning Research and Development Program, which should develop and demonstrate multiple new technology innovations and mass production economies of scale. Significant construction industry-wide re-education will be required very soon.


a. A design architect is one who is responsible for the design b. A project architect is on who is responsible for ensuring the design is built correctly and who administers building contracts - in non-specialist architectural practices the project architect is also the design architect and the term refers to the differing roles the architect plays at differing stages of the process.
architecture in Min Nan Chinese: Kiàn-tio̍k
architecture in Afrikaans: Argitektuur
architecture in Arabic: عمارة
architecture in Aragonese: Arquiteutura
architecture in Asturian: Arquiteutura
architecture in Bengali: স্থাপত্য
architecture in Min Nan: Kiàn-tio̍k
architecture in Bosnian: Arhitektura
architecture in Breton: Arkitektouriezh
architecture in Bulgarian: Архитектура
architecture in Catalan: Arquitectura
architecture in Chuvash: Архитектура
architecture in Cebuano: Arkitektura
architecture in Czech: Architektura
architecture in Corsican: Architittura
architecture in Welsh: Pensaernïaeth
architecture in Danish: Arkitektur
architecture in German: Architektur
architecture in Estonian: Arhitektuur
architecture in Modern Greek (1453-): Αρχιτεκτονική
architecture in Spanish: Arquitectura
architecture in Esperanto: Arkitekturo
architecture in Basque: Arkitektura
architecture in Persian: معماری
architecture in French: Architecture
architecture in Western Frisian: Boukeunst
architecture in Friulian: Architeture
architecture in Irish: Ailtireacht
architecture in Galician: Arquitectura
architecture in Korean: 건축학
architecture in Hindi: वास्तुशास्त्र
architecture in Croatian: Arhitektura
architecture in Ido: Arkitekturo
architecture in Indonesian: Arsitektur
architecture in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Architectura
architecture in Inuktitut: ᐃᒡᓗᕐᔪᐊᑦ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᓯᒪᓂᖏᑦ/iglurjuat aaqqiksimaningit
architecture in Ossetian: Архитектурæ
architecture in Icelandic: Byggingarlist
architecture in Italian: Architettura
architecture in Hebrew: אדריכלות
architecture in Javanese: Arsitektur
architecture in Georgian: არქიტექტურა
architecture in Kashubian: Architektura
architecture in Kirghiz: Архитектура
architecture in Swahili (macrolanguage): Ujenzi
architecture in Haitian: Achitekti
architecture in Ladino: Arkitektura
architecture in Latin: Architectura
architecture in Latvian: Arhitektūra
architecture in Luxembourgish: Architektur
architecture in Lithuanian: Architektūra
architecture in Limburgan: Architectuur
architecture in Lombard: Architetüra
architecture in Hungarian: Építészet
architecture in Macedonian: Архитектура
architecture in Malay (macrolanguage): Seni bina
architecture in Dutch: Architectuur
architecture in Dutch Low Saxon: Architektuur
architecture in Japanese: 建築
architecture in Norwegian: Arkitektur
architecture in Norwegian Nynorsk: Arkitektur
architecture in Narom: Architectuthe
architecture in Novial: Arkitekture
architecture in Occitan (post 1500): Arquitectura
architecture in Polish: Architektura
architecture in Portuguese: Arquitectura
architecture in Romanian: Arhitectură
architecture in Quechua: Sumaq wasichay kamay
architecture in Russian: Архитектура
architecture in Sanskrit: वास्तुशास्त्रम्
architecture in Sardinian: Architetura
architecture in Scots: Architectur
architecture in Albanian: Arkitektura
architecture in Sicilian: Architittura
architecture in Simple English: Architecture
architecture in Slovak: Architektúra
architecture in Slovenian: Arhitektura
architecture in Serbian: Архитектура
architecture in Serbo-Croatian: Arhitektura
architecture in Saterfriesisch: Baukunst
architecture in Sundanese: Arsitéktur
architecture in Finnish: Arkkitehtuuri
architecture in Swedish: Arkitektur
architecture in Tagalog: Arkitektura
architecture in Tamil: கட்டிடக்கலை
architecture in Thai: สถาปัตยกรรม
architecture in Vietnamese: Kiến trúc
architecture in Tajik: Меъморӣ
architecture in Turkish: Mimarlık
architecture in Ukrainian: Архітектура
architecture in Venetian: Architetura
architecture in Võro: Ehitüskunst
architecture in Waray (Philippines): Arkitektura
architecture in Yiddish: ארכיטעקטור
architecture in Yoruba: Architecture
architecture in Zeeuws: Architectuur
architecture in Samogitian: Arkėtektūra
architecture in Chinese: 建筑学

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bauhaus, Byzantine, Egyptian, English, French, German, Gothic, Greco-Roman, Greek, Greek Revival, Italian, Persian, Renaissance, Roman, Romanesque, Spanish, academic, action, anagnorisis, anatomy, angle, architectonics, argument, arrangement, assembly, atmosphere, background, baroque, build, building, casting, catastrophe, characterization, civil architecture, color, complication, composition, conformation, constitution, construct, construction, continuity, contrivance, conversion, crafting, craftsmanship, creation, cultivation, denouement, design, development, device, devising, early renaissance, edifice, elaboration, episode, erection, establishment, extraction, fable, fabric, fabrication, falling action, fashion, fashioning, forging, form, format, formation, forming, formulation, frame, framing, frozen music, functionalism, getup, gimmick, growing, handicraft, handiwork, harvesting, house, incident, international, landscape architecture, landscape gardening, line, local color, machining, make, makeup, making, manufacture, manufacturing, medieval, milling, mining, modern, mold, molding, mood, motif, movement, mythos, organic structure, organism, organization, packaged house, pattern, patterning, peripeteia, physique, pile, plan, plot, prefab, prefabrication, preparation, processing, producing, production, pyramid, raising, recognition, refining, rising action, scheme, secondary plot, setup, shape, shaping, skyscraper, slant, smelting, story, structure, structuring, subject, subplot, superstructure, switch, tectonics, texture, thematic development, theme, tissue, tone, topic, tower, twist, warp and woof, weave, web, workmanship
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