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We explain what architecture is and how it arises in the history of mankind. Types of architecture. Urbanism.

What is architecture?

Architecture is the art and tchnique of conceiving, designing and constructing buildings that function as a habitat for human beings, whether they are dwellings, workplaces, places of recreation or memorials. The term comes from ancient Greek, formed by the words arch- («chief, authority») and techné («creation, construction»), from which it follows that it is the art of construction.

In a strict sense, architecture is inherent to human civilization and cannot escape it as long as one lives in society. When man erects a wooden hut to shelter him from the elements, when he paves the earth to erect a square above it with the statues of his martyrs, when he designs a temple to worship his gods, or when he erects a huge office tower, man is putting his architectural knowledge into practice.

The various styles and modes of architecture in human history, in fact, reflect many of the conditions and moments of his thinking, whether in artistic or pragmatic terms. In fact, its knowledge is based on three fundamental principles: beauty, firmness and utility.

At the same time, architecture has been included among the Fine Arts of humanity, along with painting, literature, music, sculpture, dance, cinema, photography and comics.

History of architecture

The first treatise on architectural knowledge comes from the first century B.C. and it is Architectura by the Roman Vitruvius. However, the commitment to create beautiful, useful and durable structures and environments far precedes that era of mankind. The great works of ancient cultures, such as the pyramids of Egypt, the stone cities of Mesoamerica, the temples of Greco-Roman antiquity or the Christian dwellings of Cappadocia, are just a few examples of this

Ancient, medieval and modern architecture exhibits the methods and aesthetic tendencies of the different cultures that gave rise to it. For example, European medieval architecture reveals the dominance of the Christian religion and obscurantism, while Renaissance architecture reveals the renovation and rupture that predominated at the time.

Later, with the arrival of industrialization and the discovery of new materials, architecture would take an enormous leap forward and would be nourished by new knowledge and technologies, which during the 20th century would give rise to a true urban and architectural explosion throughout the world, and to the appearance of totally original styles of architecture, disconnected from tradition and the built heritage.

Types of architecture

Architecture can be studied and classified from many points of view, such as historical, cultural or functional. Broadly speaking, let us define the following three classifications:

According to its functionality.

That is, according to the purpose for which it is built.

  • Religious architecture. That whose works have functions of worship, such as churches, temples, mystical monuments, etc.
  • Military architecture. That which proposes buildings for strategic, tactical or defensive use, such as castles, walls, barracks, etc.
  • Civil architecture. That which conceives structures and spaces for the use of ordinary citizens: from houses and buildings, to squares and civic monuments or cultural spaces (theaters, libraries, schools, etc.).

According to their construction technique.

That is, according to the criteria governing the construction.

  • Stylistic or historical architecture. That which is connected to the tradition from which it comes and which has produced traditional, lasting pieces, using inherited methods and imagery.
  • Popular architecture. Constructions made by the people themselves, such as artisans or people of little education, using natural materials and generally without great aspirations of grandeur.
  • Common or vulgar architecture. That made by professionals of the area obeying a merely pragmatic criterion, that is to say, of use and functionality, without taking into account an architectural tradition.

According to its historical period.

There are as many architectural styles as there are moments and historical contexts, that is, hundreds of them. In the West, the three most recognizable are:

  • Roman architecture. That of the Roman Empire and its Greek heritage, characterized by a great functionality and logic, which did not neglect the motifs of its important religious world.
  • Baroque architecture. Characterized by the great abundance of details and ornaments, it is typical of the XVI and XVII centuries in Europe and Latin America.
  • Neoclassical architecture. Typical of the European eighteenth century, it represented a return to the classical values of Greco-Latin antiquity, with the newly discovered faith in reason and human enlightenment.

Architecture and urbanism

Urban planning is a discipline very close to architecture and is responsible for the understanding, conceptualization and improvement of cities.

To this end, it uses geography as a fundamental tool to ensure the most suitable design not only of buildings and public spaces, but also of roads and travel systems, in order to take better advantage of the relief and climate and thus meet the social and cultural needs of the population. As will be seen, it has many points of contact with architecture, and they are usually studied together.