What is Architecture?

Are you guys like me and that you often find yourself sitting around..


asking yourself deep philosophical questions like...

What is Architecture?


You don't?  Come on?

Well, at least humor me for a second.

Seriously though.  What is Architecture?  Are all buildings architecture?  Is a Walmart architecture?  Can a barn be architecture?

Is there some sort of architectural test that a building must pass to be elevated to the stature of ARCHITECTURE?

My boy Vitruvius can shed some light on this subject.

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman architect alive right before the birth of Christ.  His gift to architecture was a series of writings titled De Architectura, later translated to The Ten Books of Architecture.

In my opinion, Vitruvius's most influential writing was his definition of architecture.  Vitruvius said that a structure must exhibit 3 qualities...he wrote in latin by the way:

  1. Firmitas = Translated to Firmness
  2. Utilitas = Translated to Commodity
  3. Venustas = Translated to Delight

That's it.  Firmness, commodity, delight.

Therefore a structure must be #1 stout and keep the water out, #2 it must serve a certain functional purpose, and #3 it must be aesthetically pleasing.

I would say that a Walmart would fulfill #1 and #2, but most would flunk the aesthetically pleasing part.  Sorry Walmart.  

And how about the barn?  I'll leave that one open to the Barniacs out there.

So now you can impress your buds at the water-cooler this morning. 

Firmness, commodity, and delight!

Steve Ramos, AIA, LEED AP

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