Historical References of Architecture





Historical References of Architecture


Indeed, it is considerably evident that the existing architecture identifies various historical civilizations. As much as architecture comprises the processes of planning, devising and constructing buildings, one cannot ignore the deeper connotations architecture possesses in terms of the historical context. Irrespective of modernism, architectural works such as buildings delineate a particular society as well as the events encompassing the establishment of the works. Alternately, surviving architectural works assume the role of cultural symbols in societies and as such, outline the historical genealogy surrounding the architecture. In addition, every period in history constitutes a different and superior form of design exuded by architecture in the different eras and as such, distinguishes each period from the other. Nevertheless, architecture facilitates the account of a civilization by referring to its history.

Historic Expositions

With respect to buildings, architecture comprises planning, devising and constructing appearance, space and atmosphere of a building that illustrates the operational, practical, societal, environmental and artistic considerations. As such, architecture requires the creative exploitation and organization of substance, technology, illumination and gloom[1]. From this assertion, it is clear that architecture possesses the ability to provide crucial information regarding a civilization’s history based on the different methods and features innate in the design and erection of buildings. Furthermore, specific facets in different historical periods influenced architecture in different manners. As asserted as Vitruvius, three principles are intrinsic in ensuring the creation of fair architecture. These principles constitute Stability, Efficacy and Beauty[2].

Stability or Durability involves the fair condition and firmness of architecture based on its capability to exercise equilibrium and withstand the worst of conditions. The second aspect, Efficacy or Utility inculcates the usefulness and functionality of the respective architecture. In this respect, the architectural work should be efficient and operational for its purpose. The third facet, Beauty, involves the attractive and appealing appearance of the building. In this context, the architecture should exercise encouragement and pleasure among people[3]. Thus, most existing architecture inculcated these facets and as such, proved to be the epitome of most societies based on the role they assumed in terms of these tenets. Accordingly, Ruskin acknowledged that architecture organized and decorated the structures raised by individuals and thus contributed to their mental wellbeing, authority and bliss[4].

Architectural Reference to History

Nevertheless, with respect to the triad of principles provided by Vitruvius for perfect architecture, it is vital to understand that architecture should refer to history. Various components used in the facilitation of architecture illustrate the chronological events surrounding the respective architectural works. They detail the reason for the architectural design, the desired architectural specification at the time as well as the reasons for using the different construction elements within the architectural work. From this, it is evident that architecture places considerable emphasis on the past. As such, with reference to the Vitruvian principles of architecture, architecture should refer to history since it aids in protecting the past events encompassing a particular civilization.

Architecture is important in safeguarding a civilization’s past. In terms of Stability, every building should possess firmness in order to endure its weight, its use and other external and uncontrollable forces that are likely to affect its structure. In historical sense, firmness imposed permanence. Usually, most architects expected the architectural works to last for centuries. However, in modern times, provisional or impermanent buildings comprise proper forms of architecture and as such, undermine and erase the history accompanying these architectural compositions. Stability is dependent on materials and construction forms. A basic differentiation is possible in construction either through the assembling of blocks to make solid walls or the erection of an outline that can later gain coverage by null load-bearing constituents[5]. For instance, European architecture occupies the block assembly category while considerable Japanese, Chinese and nomadic architecture comprises the second category.

Alternately, architecture has made use of different materials throughout history. The basic materials found in most architectural works comprise stone, concrete, brick and iron. In addition, various occasions in history took advantage of other materials such as bones, plastic, metal, animal hides[6]. Thus, the use of materials indeed plays a significant role in outlining history. For instance, stone is among the most ancient materials for building. In most cultures, stone was preferred among all other materials for vital public and religious architectural works. This is because stone offers considerable power and resistance to forces such as fire and thus facilitates permanence in buildings. As such, the use of stone in historical civilizations can aid modern architects in understanding the advantage of using the material in contemporary architectures[7].

In addition, by safeguarding history in terms of architecture, contemporary architecture can take advantage of the limitations surrounding the use of particular materials in construction. While focusing on stone as an architectural material, it is important to acknowledge that stone was unavailable in historical context. This is due to the realization that stone is heavy and therefore, difficult to transport over significant distances. For instance, while constructing the Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptians had to transport blocks of stone on the Nile for several miles by a large amount of people[8]. As such, by realizing the limitations surrounding the use of particular materials in architecture, contemporary architects can devise novel and sound methods in ensuring that the transport of such materials is possible in order to create durable and permanent architectural structures.

Alternately, in safeguarding history, the aspect of Efficacy (Utility) exudes importance in verifying the reasons as to why architecture should refer to history. Indeed, the efficacy of a building comprises the function the building should serve. As such, a building’s function may verify the organization of building essentials such as dimensions, rooms and spaces. The defensive function of an architectural work may establish the orientation and structure. However, such a function is most evident in the building envelope, the surface that segregates the architectural work from the outer surface and within the different technical systems that control the internal surroundings of the building[9]. As such, through the aspect of Functionalism, architectural reference to history provides further assistance in understanding the construction of architecture based on the different functions it purposes to serve.

Irrespective of Functionalism gaining recognition as an outdated facet of architecture, one cannot ignore the purpose of the feature in the origination of factory plants and mass accommodation. In factory plants, the issue revolved around systematizing the space in the region of the production process in order to lessen the locomotion of individuals and objects and thus accomplish utmost efficiency. Regarding accommodation, the issue involved the creation of affordable and standardized mass accommodation especially in the periods of World War II[10]. As such, by taking advantage of the issue of Functionalism, architects can use this to create structures that mitigate the issues encompassing housing which comprise some of the greatest problems in countries around the world.

The final aspect of Beauty in referencing history focuses on the attractive and appealing nature of buildings. In this context, the aspect of beauty exemplifies considerable emphasis on the aesthetic value and quality of building materials. Most modern structures employ considerable emphasis on appearance without considering the quality of the buildings exudes greater risk on the safety of individuals. As such, in paying attention to the aesthetic value of architectural works, it is important to consider the quality of the building materials. For instance, considerable Gothic architecture still occupies an essential part of religious history dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. Irrespective of the beauty displayed by Gothic architecture in structures such as the 1348 Karlstejn Castle in and the Church of Saint-Denis in Paris, it is evident that the building materials used in the construction enabled the buildings to withstand many centuries and forces[11]. From this assertion, contemporary architects can integrate the use of standard building materials and concurrently, design aesthetic works that will withstand generations.


Indeed, it is evident that architecture plays a considerable role in documenting the history of various civilizations. The inculcation of principles such as Stability, Efficacy and Beauty comprise the components of quality architectural works. Nevertheless, the rise of contemporary architecture negates the tenets of architecture and as such, erases the history behind the occurrence of certain architectural works. Regardless, it is important to recognize that architecture possesses the ability to define and expunge the past surrounding a civilization.

































Works Cited

Addis, Bill. Building: 3000 Years of Design Engineering and Construction. London: Phaidon. 2007. Print.

Ching, Francis D.K. A Global History of Architecture. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007. Print.

Deplazes, Andrea. Constructing Architecture: Materials, Processes, Structures, A Handbook. Basel: Birkhauser. 2006. Print.

Forty, Adrian. Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson. 2000. Print.

Frankl, Paul, and Paul Crossley. Gothic Architecture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.

Kostof, Spiro. Traditions in Architecture: Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. New York: Oxford University Press. 2001. Print.

Kruft, Hanno-Walter. A History of Architectural Theory: From Vitruvius to the Present. London: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. Print.

Ruskin, John. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. New York: Grove Press, 2008. Print.

Summers, David. Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism. London: Phaidon, 2003. Print.

Vitruvius & Thomas N. Howe. Vitruvius: Ten Books on Architecture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.





[1] Addis, 75.

[2] Vitruvius and Howe, 44.

[3] Ibid, 46-51.

[4] Ruskin, 88.

[5] Summers, 101.

[6] Kruft, 78.

[7] Deplazes, 99.

[8] Kostof, 52.

[9] Forty, 119.

[10] Ching, 66.

[11] Frankl & Crossley, 96.

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