What Is Architecture? What Is Architectural?

The Relationship Among Architects, Architecture, and Architectural

The Orange Gates flutter in Central Park with tall, masonry city buildings in the background outside the park
Art or Architecture? The Gates in Central Park, 2005, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Architecture is from the Latin word architectura, a word used to describe the job of an architect. The ancient Greek arkhitekton was the chief builder or master technician of all craftsmen and artisans. So, what comes first, the architect or the architecture? The word architecture can have many meanings. Depending on the context, architecture can refer to:

  1. any man-made building or structure, like a tower or monument
  1. a man-made building or structure that is important, large, or highly creative
  2. a carefully designed object, such as a chair, a spoon, or a tea kettle
  3. a design for a large area such as a city, town, park, or landscape
  4. the art or science of designing and building buildings, structures, objects, and outdoor spaces
  5. a building style, method, or process
  6. a plan for organizing space
  7. elegant engineering
  8. the planned design of any kind of system
  9. a systematic arrangement of information or ideas; the flow of information on a Web page

People often use the words "architecture" and "design" interchangeably, which naturally broadens the definition of architecture. If you can "design" your own career goals, aren't you the architect of your own life? 

Is This Architecture?

Depending on your perspective, you might use the word architecture to describe any number of things. Which of the items listed below would you call architecture?

Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture:

Here's what the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, had to say about Architecture:

"What is architecture anyway? Is it the vast collection of the various buildings which have been built to please the varying taste of the various lords of mankind?

I think not.

"No, I know that architecture is life; or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived. So architecture I know to be a Great Spirit....

"Architecture is that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances as they change. That is really architecture."

—Frank Lloyd Wright, from In the Realm of Ideas

Barack Obama Defines Architecture:

" It is about creating buildings and spaces that inspire us, that help us do our jobs, that bring us together, and that become, at their best, works of art that we can move through and live in. And in the end, that is why architecture can be considered the most democratic of art forms."—2011, President Barack Obama, Pritzker Ceremony Speech

So, What Is Architecture?

"Architecture is an art bridging the humanities and the sciences," says American architect Steven Holl. "We work bone-deep in Art—drawing lines between sculpture, poetry, music and science that coalesce in Architecture."

Since the licensing of architects, these professionals have defined themselves and what they do.

This hasn't stopped anyone and everyone else from having an opinion. Here are some ideas:

  • "An art that reflects human feelings and dreams in shapes within science, environment, and humanity."
  • "Ability to dream like an artist, think like an engineer."
  • "Architecture is a process, beginning from conceptualization of anything useful in any form or shape for use by mankind, especially buildings, etc. conforming to basic acceptable norms in a given environment, providing physical functional shelter."
  • "Architecture is art through which we can walk."
  • "Architecture consists of building stuff, like forks, chairs, tables, tree houses, and stuff even as big as houses and cities."
  • "Architecture is the thoughtful design of the structural elements of a 'body or building', both underlying armature and overlaying sheath or skin. It is 'premeditated evolved problem solving' at its most complicated, and at its simplest - pure form following function. (Now, more than ever, it is 3D creative problem solving that is evolving other dimensions - considering timelines, spacial concerns and sophisticated organic materials that react to both interior and exterior conditions as they relate to the human condition."
  • "Architecture is art and engineering. It manifests itself in design. That is the creative part. Science tries to discover something."
  • "An architect worthy of the name must not only know how to design functional structures that will be safe in all kinds of conditions, he must also have an eye for beauty. Many in the field just try to come up with something different that will draw attention, but if you will observe the most charming and lovely neighborhoods, the architecture of the homes will harmonize and complement each other. This is especially true in many of the villages in Europe or Japan. What is true of gardens and apparel is also true of houses. Just as one wouldn't usually plant flaming red flowers under a red bud tree or wear colors that clash, the same is true of houses. An architect should have a sense for such matters and be able to enhance the overall effect of a neighborhood rather than destroy the beauty that others have achieved by putting a mismatch in their midst. Too often today loveliness is sabotaged in the attempt to compete for attention. A true architect, however, will appreciate beauty."
  • "Architecture is a systematic arrangement of components."
  • "The study of form, space, and order is called architecture."

What Does Architectural Mean?

The adjective architectural can describe anything related to architecture and building design. For example:

  • architectural design
  • architectural styles
  • architectural modeling
  • architectural details
  • architectural engineering
  • architectural software
  • architectural historian or architectural history
  • architectural research
  • architectural studies
  • architectural heritage
  • architectural traditions
  • architectural antiquities and architectural salvage
  • architectural lighting
  • architectural products

Also, the word architectural can describe objects that have a strong shape or beautiful lines. For example:

  • an architectural vase
  • an architectural sculpture
  • an architectural rock formation
  • architectural drapery

Examples of Architectural Things:

Source: Five Minute Manifesto, Steven Holl, Washington, D.C., AIA Gold Medal Ceremony, May 18, 2012 [accessed December 18, 2016]