Architectural education today: Cross-cultural perspectives

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6 August 2015

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Architecture is the process by which buildings and other physical structures are planned, constructed and designed through consideration of environmental, cultural and social factors. Architecture also encompasses the issues of cost assessment, construction management and scheduling which an architect have to consider in order for it to be successful. The process of architecture involves a series of steps whereby the architect present a documentation of plans and technical specifications, typical drawings, which represents or defines the structure of the building to be constructed (Cowlishaw, 1999). This professional discipline represents all creative fields regarding the design of our physical environment whether cultural, industrial and residential. However the relationship between dependable mishandlings of the surroundings and building structures has resulted to the considerations of responses to all factors in the environment including culture, climate, and location. This is referred as the built environment and currently, many researchers have been looking at what environmental burdens has an effects on human physical characters and application to the physical and cultural environment (Dovey and Kim, 2010).

Consequently, every environmental factor has contributed significantly in the evolution of man’s architecture and until recently cultural factors in the man’s physical evolution (architecture) has acknowledged basically no consideration (Alamo et al, 2002). Environmentally, sensible design of any structure should be essential in the creative process from the commencement, considering at the current structure that there is probability of energy consumption which is one of the environmental factors leading to a maintainable construction and structure, which can be applied in the redesigning stage of the development. Consideration of the environmental factors in the architecture process ensures that there is easily adaptation of the structures designed to any environmental condition. Cultural factors are also main essentials o consider when designing and planning any structure since they are connected to the human behavior (David, 1993). Culture can be defined as the development that not only regulate the pressures of natural assortment of any design or plan but also assist in the changes of pressures. Evident on this aspect is when we witness the growth and improvement of human tools, social selection and migration. Through consideration of cultural factors, human nature is transformed in one way or the other and this have contributed development of intellects which increase the response of biological mechanisms.

Precisely, in this essay I have tried to discuss in details on how environmental and cultural factors influence the process of architecture as well as the built environment. Built environment can be referred as those surroundings created by humans, for humans and can be applied in human activity. Such built environment includes cities, buildings, and roads and also supports infrastructure, such as supply of water or networks of energy. However, built environment relates so much with architecture since it involves spaces and places modified or generated by people in the society comprising transportation systems, constructions and parks. But recently research from the public health have described built environment as inclusion of healthy food admittance in the process of ensuring maintainable environment with an aim of smart growth. The built environment offers the situation and background by which we live our lives and effects on our emotions, senses, contribution in physical action and the life and sense of community and universal welfare (David, 1993).

Cultural factors

        Cultural factors that influence architecture as well as the built environment, explains more on the style of the architecture which will really fit the surrounding, they determine whether the architecture is traditional or modern and also determines whether the architecture have integrated local design components. The consequence of culture on the architectural design appears to be the crucial factor in shaping any structure. The widespread variety of shapes, techniques of constructing walls and roofs of houses has resulted to the current aspirations of advancement towards modernity. In many parts this inspiration of architectural heritage of texture and color of the building components have been attained while suggesting new architectural design that can boost cultural endurance. In addition, the considerations on culture are mostly stressed in any architecture process because that architectural section that do not consider the cultural elements of its surroundings stand the risk of being forbidden by the existing people (Dovey and Kim, 2010). The features of culture that mostly affect architecture as well as built environment include religious, economic and social activities.

One of the main cultural factors influencing architecture and the built environment as well is sensory assessment of decorations. Decorations makes a building or any structure to have attractive and clear visual appearance to the observers plus the occupants. Therefore before even designing and planning an architectural design, decoration of that structure must be highly considered. This decoration must highly relates with the flexibility of the culture so that it cannot interfere with the existing culture thus the visual simplicity can go hand on hand with the noticeable differences. The influence of building components comes out as an effective and important factor in determining the complication of architectural design. Mostly, the repetition, orientation, similarity, common inclusion and balance of the building components play a measure in conveying building structures such as houses. Furthermore, the characteristics magnitudes of the windows, their relationship with the compact areas and their locations in the wall inclines a sense of consistency in architecture. Therefore, the effective architectural shape, material, style and decoration explains the most important components for constructing structures without much consideration on the texture and color (Noschis, 2002).

Considerably, we have stated above that social activities are one of the cultural factors and they influence highly on any architectural design and its development. As we all know, the traditional styles of generating and creating architectural designs started to shrink due to emergency of western civilization thus resulting to modification from numerous unit system of extended families houses to current single unit system of apartments and flats. The current architects must consider a complete deviance from enclosure system even if the inhabitants of that house are more than one family. This is because there have been a stead evolution of architecture from traditional background. Approving the above point (Denyer, 1978) affirms that though the colonial controllers did not directly mediate in issues concerning indigenous culture, however, there were two major conditions in which obligation did happen. They were the isolation of land to accommodate emigrant settlers, and the hint of trying to persuade people to live in settlements suitable for local development policies. There was serious intervention in the habitation schedules and many administration have not changed the existing development. When designing any architectural design currently, one must have idea that involvement of grouped people who in early times lived into large villages has left their family farmstead of scattered and small villages. Modern community services have also attracted most of people to the site where good architectural designed with modern facilities. The main reason why this evolution have occurred is because any traditional buildings were designed with the bases of width and not its height like what is done recently.

Population is another social element which is under the cultural factors influencing the architectural designs and plans. Before setting up any architectural design, the architect must have the details of the number of people around that structure and determine whether this will affect the built environment in that location (Ferrigni, 2005). All social groups beginning from the aboriginal tribes to countries or nations have certain kind of art form. It is a certain character that man at all times attempts to show his feelings of his environment utmost the things which brings a great impact to his lifetime. Considering the number of people around that architectural design is very important because human being is a social being and at sometimes those people who are using it, or ordering it to be built or people designing and building it can influence all inner spaces.

Environmental factors

        Environment and architecture relates so much such that without an architect considering the environmental factors, architectural designs and plans end up failing. It is not possible to design any good structures (buildings) without considering their relationship to the national coordination. Moreover, it is not possible to interpret the normal environment without having knowledge on how human involvement in the environment affects it; either negatively or positively. The study of environment takes the entire meaning when nature and man start to identify their interdependence. However, the relationship of architecture and environment inspires students to sightsee from variety of perceptions (Dillion and Salvage,1998). In my opinion, environmentally friendly architecture should be a habitual practice to any firm in consideration of a good architectural design. The main environmental factors that influence the designing of architecture is climate with inclusion of its variables and elements. In addition we must consider another factor on consideration of energy emissions that will that will be required and created during the process of architecture. This will ensure that the budget of the client whose the well-designed building concern to, that the amount of energy to control it daily does not require the usual amounts of energy plus the cost-effective resources. When the architectural design is friendly to the environment, then it means it can be effectively implemented right on time (Fantin, 2003).

Climate in particular as an environmental factor influences architectural designs. For example, the hot humid regions or zones requires structures with wide openings for ventilation and lighting. Climate together with other physical components prescribe kind of geographical features and therefore influence the kind of construction and designs that can be established in a specific geographical region (Dillion and Salvage,2003). Consideration of these elements further assist the designer in developing the dimension linkages and form which is arranged in a discrete manner to satisfy the desired needs. The conditions of a place has to do with topography, microclimate, water basin, undergrowth and wind breaks in the form of bush and trees. Other situations are convenience, how near is that architectural design to the public infrastructure, entrance and the level of disturbances. Since traditional house building system did not think through most of the factors noted above, the only considerations a house constructor or any planning house proprietor were vegetation with respect to economic crops, the appearance of the terrain, description of plot with respect to religious happenings, immediacy to head of instantaneous family and farm occupants (Ferrigni, 2005).

Another importance of climate as an environmental factor is that it assist the architectural designers and planners to a large magnitude, what kind of natural resources can be afforded to local builders and architects. To those areas that do not have many trees or a lot of rainfall, but with a extensive area of grass where grazing of livestock can take place, cow strokes are often permitted to dry and then composed together, so that they can be applied as building elements for the walls of buildings and other residences (Konya,1980). These strokes serve a construction component and heat-proofing. However, heavily forested areas allow the builders to apply timber as a durable and strong building component. In areas where there is large leaves, such as palm leaves, they can be applied to make roofs that are effective in avoiding rainfall and other elements of climate from affecting the built structure. This will contribute a lot to the one who is implementing the work of the designer because even the application of environment elements is easy to repair and it is a poor conductor of heat thus it facilitates to bearable interior temperature (Dillion and Salvage,1998).

The alignment of locating the building on the location is done with special consideration being focused on the climatic components such as sun radiation, wind, topography, vegetation and precipitation. The level of disturbance and its view are also usually taken care of an effective architecture process. During times of excessive heat, solar radiation is mainly considered because there is need to know the difference in temperature of a construction between the best and worst alignment (Ferrigni, 2005). Good alignment assists to eliminate much of solar radiation from the internal region of the construction. However, alignment of houses is determined by bearing in mind access to the buildings and the point that the apartment of head of the family must be located almost at the end. If all these considerations are done, then the nature and kind of the houses assist in reducing the consequence of sun radiation to the occupants in that building. Moreover consideration of mud houses can apply very well in these zones with extensive heats since, they are poor conductor of heat therefore, making the interior of that building quite cool (Konya,1980). Another architectural consideration in these parts is constructing buildings that do not have ceiling in order to enable circulation of air thus improving the ventilation.

Finally, the appearance of local landscape and the way it is influenced by climate can have an important control on the choices made by the architectural designers. For example considering the land which is close to water bodies then the domestic residences can be built facing in the course that enables cooling breezes created by the water to create natural circulation of air (Fantin, 2003). Consequently, those places with an abundance of trees, residences can be constructed under the shade of their leaves to accomplish a similar function and deliver protection from either wind and or rain. In addition, the modern conservation of energy can be a main challenge in buildings which are being built. This often leads to connecting energy from native weather patterns in ways which are sophisticated and will allow the concentrated amount of air to stream through and cool the buildings (Alamo et al, 2002).


        Any architecture can give in a very detailed and speedy manner, the cultural background and historic economic of any group of people or settlements. In simple terms, the architectural constructions in any setup, informs visitors the kind of structures in existence whether cultural or environmental. There must be a resolute struggle to revive the failing architectural trend and advance fresh but tolerable architectural plans and design that identify the culture of the people with respect to present development in their environment. Every culture can stimulate a kind of architecture that can encourage a kind of architecture that can vary from developments to everyday house. Environment and family appear to be the most common influences generally. Each culture is not the same to the other and the more we become enlightened on them, the more we raise the value of our environment and comprehend why certain issues appeal to us. There is no doubt that if any architectural design can consider the cultural and environmental factors, then there will be a built environment which is acceptable and friendly and at the same time matching with the existing infrastructures in the environment.


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Dovey, Kim.2010. Becoming Places: Urbanism/Architecture/Identity/Power. London, New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group,

David M.2013. A Place to Call Home: Identification with Dwelling, Community, and Region. The Sociological Quarterly, Nr. 1, 111–131

Ferrigni, F., & European University Centre for the Cultural Heritage. (2005). Ancient buildings and earthquakes: Reducing the vulnerability of historical built- up environment by recovering the local seismic culture; principles, methods, potentialities. Bari: Edipuglia.

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Konya Allan 1980. Design Primer for Hot Climates. London: Architectural Press Limited, P. 33, 37, 38.

Dillion,J. & Salvage, M. 1998. “Tangentyere council” in Architectural Review, Octomber, pp.96-97.Dillion,J. & Salvage, M. 2003, “House Design in Alice Springs Town Camps” in Take Housing Design and indigenous Australia, eds P. Memmott & C. Chambers, The Royal Australian Institute Of Architects, Red.

Cowlishaw, G.(1999). Rednecks, Eggheads and Blackfellas A Study of Racial Power and Intimacy in Australia. Allen and Unwin.

Fantin, S. (2003a). Aboriginal identities in architecture. Architecture Australia, 92(5):84–87.

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