“Whatever lost all its importance in architecture? A

 

 “Whatever is beautiful rests on the foundation
of the necessary.

 Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his
flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the
branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all
the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is
the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The granite
rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes
into shape, and dies, in a twinkling.

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It is the pervading law of all things organic
and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and
all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of
the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form
ever follows function. This is the law.”

­ Louis Sullivan

 

As Louis
Sullivan proclaims in all his arguments that form follows function1 and never the
other way around, has aesthetics lost all its importance in architecture? A
larger question to be posed would be, are all forms of aesthetic beauty that
are not seen as practical in architectural design to be abandoned? A building’s
facade and its structure is a way of depicting what goes on within or in other
words the function, but does this mean that beautification acts as a skin that
hides this depiction or reduces its precedence in any manner?  I am researching on the importance of
aesthetic beauty in architecture and why it shouldn’t in fact be abandoned.

 

Architecture is something
that has a lasting imprint on the landscape it resides in and the people around
it. To the viewer, unlike the designer, a space that has an impression on the
viewer is most definitely evaluated on the basis of its aesthetic beauty. Design
and aesthetics revolve around contrast, repetition, pattern, unity, balance and
proportion. Can these elements be achieved only using structural elements that
follow the function? An integral part of my research paper will be based on
architectural examples of aesthetics in architecture that has meaning and also
has had an impact on the theories of architecture.

 

The comparison between
the aesthetics and function is very challenging as they are the most important
part of design process. But when the aesthetics has an upper hand in a
structure it fails to have good functionality qualities like comfort and
ergonomics. Some say the difference between aesthetics and function has become
so vague in the design process that the functionality is totally inapt and
inapplicable towards the structure. This is because of the marketing and
showing how the products should look rather than focusing on the utilization of
it. As stated above aesthetics may be taking over functionality in many
structures, however aesthetics is a crucial part of the design process. It comprises
of appearance, materiality, composition of structure which provides necessary
information about the functionality and form of the structure. Hence,
aesthetics is not only incorporated to look appealing but also to explain the
functionality: how it works, what is it, etc.?

 

“So here I stand before
you preaching organic architecture: declaring organic architecture to be the
modern ideal and the teaching so much needed if we are to see the whole of
life, and to now serve the whole of life, holding no traditions essential to
the great TRADITION. Nor cherishing any preconceived form fixing upon us either
past, present or future, but instead exalting the simple laws of common sense
or of super-sense if you prefer determining form by way of the nature of
materials …”

– Frank Lloyd Wright

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright
introduced the word organic to extend the teachings of his mentor Louis Sullivan
who claimed that “form follows function”. Later Frank L. Wright altered the
phrase to form and function are one.

As function is defined as
the modern architecture and the design philosophy ‘form follows function’
simply proposes that design process is there only to be defined as structure
and not aesthetics. This modern trend resulted in simple inorganic forms with
no ornamentation. This principle has been practiced on many forms, whether it
is comfort, ergonomics, durability or shape.

 

“When I’m working on a problem, I
never think about beauty. But when I’ve finished, if the solution is not
beautiful I know it’s wrong.”

-Buckminster Fuller

 

Form follows style: this
defines the classic and postmodern architecture styles which explores more on
the aesthetic fitting and effect. This simply explains that the forms are associated
with ornamentation and beautification and forgo the functionality. Architecture
is creativity in the form of construction it portrays itself like a painting or
an artifact. As Sullivan righteously proclaimed that architecture does not exist
without its function, most theorists believe that aesthetics also play a very
important role. Just like an artifact or a painting architecture is viewed by
the lay man in terms of beauty and viewed by an architect as a structure of
deeper meaning. But architecture along with its aesthetics required to be
constructed keeping in mind safety standards, usability and programmatic activities.

In the beliefs of theorists, the façade as well as the interior design is as important
and necessary as the function. The façade uniquely creates its own language that
helps in inviting people towards the function of the structure. Without this aesthetic
beauty, the function wouldn’t serve as it wanted to. The aesthetics of a structure
comprises of certain sensory elements that define the design. These sensory
elements can be categorized into lines, shapes, textures, colors, symmetry and
geometry.

Lines or/and curves are
the basic starting point of any design and thus play an important role in
formulating any structure. These lines can be modified to adhere into any form
such as curved jagged thin or thick lines. These lines are often placed in the
design of the façade of the structure to evoke different types of feelings and spatial
expressions amongst the viewers. The use of these lines varies from baroque
architecture to modern architecture. These lines can also help define the program
within the building in terms of providing voids, windows, verticality, horizontality
and even bracing systems.

Shapes just like lines
formulate spatial qualities these can be closed or open spaces. The shape of
the structure is defined by how the architect decides to manipulate the
movement and the structure of the building. Shape can be used to create spaces
of aesthetic pleasure and function as well. If there were no aesthetic
qualities to the shape then there would be only simple rectangular forms with
no desire to it.

Feelings and emotion when
added to architecture exuberate the design and one such element that helps in achieving
this is the texture or the materiality. Textures provide the touch and desire
of touch. Architects use textures for the same reason and to give a sense of
the location of the structure, the function of the structure and to allow the
structure to blend in with the space. Textures can give the architecture an
appearance of heaviness or lightness and of strength or weakness. Visual illusions
can also be formed using a variety of textures. In multiple architectural
structures texture has also been used as decorative elements, for example, renaissance
architecture or even overgrowing landscapes in modern architecture.

One of the main aspects
of architecture and aesthetics is color. How the yes perceives the different
patterns, shapes and design on the structure depends on this perception. Varied
combinations of colors produce varies effects on people and how they would identify
the structure and its architecture. Color choices and their locations can play
an important deciding factor of the mood of the architecture. The color and
tinges of windows, panels, bricks, concrete, roofing, doors, interior walls and
flooring can all be used as a defining element for the programmatic difference
within the structure. Colors can also be varied depending on the architectural
style of weather conditions as well.

Symmetry and asymmetry play
no functional role unless they have been used for the ease of construction. In a
symmetric design, there is a balance that is being created that is visually
pleasing, whereas, in an asymmetrical design, certain sections of the structure
dominate over other sections. This can be used to exemplify hierarchy from
within and from the exterior of the structure.

These sensory examples
thus prove the importance and necessity of aesthetics in architecture and how
without it architecture would simply bland.

 

THE TAJ MAHAL, AGRA, INDIA

One of the seven wonders
of the world, the Taj Mahal, is a
structure that has been designed and built as a symbol of beauty. Created by Shah Jahan as a token
of his love to his wife, the beautiful structure was designed with perfection. It
is a true example of aesthetics in architecture. Adorned with symmetry, color, decoration and proportions, it is
architecture that has been defined by beauty2.

The use of different forms of materiality like the marble with its floral
patterns, the illusionary effects that have been embedded into its architecture
and the use of voids, lines and patterns to define its proportion and
composition.

The main purpose of the taj
mahal was to look appealing as it was a skilled image of affection. The gardens
of the colossal white structure have been arranged in a particular manner in
front of the tomb. It plays an important role in being part of its aesthetics
as it reflects different kinds of color traces and tints on the white marbled tomb
by procuring various shades from the sky. According to the Hindu tradition It
also suggest as a picturesque paradise.

The marble used is an exquisite
white makrana that changes its color and tone according to the changes in the
light. Exterior of the structure is inlayed with carvings of floral designs,
beautiful patterns and calligraphy of Persian poetry and the Quran. The interior
also features the inlays of floral and abstract patterns.

The arrangement of the angles
and lines of the Taj Mahal is impeccably symmetrical. The lines assemble rhythmically
with each other and are established in perfect unity. The semi-octagonal room where
the cenotaphs of mumtaz mahal and shah jahan were placed niches together in
specific angles which are appreciable from every perspective giving it a 3D
view from a distance.

The depth was given to
the taj mahal by its double arches which were arranged on each side of the
central entryway. The negative and the positive spatiality has been uniquely
and uniformly casted into the design. Light and shadow has been critically analyzed
and put into play using the different elements of the architecture such as the
balconies and the chhatris(umbrellas).

The Taj Mahal is one of
the oldest structure which incorporated illusionary effects within the structure
as when one moves away from the structure through the central entryway that
frames the mausoleum, it appears to be moving closer and becoming larger and
when one gets closer to the taj mahal, it gets smaller.

The
indigenous builders of the Taj Mahal fully understood the deceptive nature of
the human eye. They knew that the reality and its perception and interpretation
thereof differed. The plinth of the main tomb is 2’10” high on an average. But
the height varies at different places, particularly the central point between
two piers being in each case 0.5″ to 0.7″ higher than the sides. This
convexity has deliberately been given to the plinth in the center of each arch,
or else the building would have appeared as if it were falling down! The
facades are not exactly at a right angle with the plinth, but are slightly
inclined. The finial is a stupendous crowning feature which measures nearly 10
meters!! The architect fully anticipated the apparent size which a finial would
present from such a great height. It has therefore been very ingeniously been
planned. These features of construction demonstrate the ability of the Indian
architects to reconcile the illusionary effects created by distance and light.

 

 FOUNTAIN DI TREVI, ROME, ITALY

Fountains are an
architectural element that have always served the purpose of aesthetics. They are
solely designed to serve as a decorative part of the surrounding. The Trevi Fountain located in Rome, Lazio, Italy made by Nicola salvi is one
such example, as it had been placed as a manifestation of the power during its
time. It was used by the powerful as what you may refer to as superior
beautification of their land. Rome is full of fabulous art and architecture
where the baroque styled fountain originated. Trevi originated from a Latin
word “trivium” which meant three ways as the fountain was situated in the plaza
that connected three streets in Lazio.

The fountain at night is portrays
the way every sculpture on the structure lights up and tends to become real,
having human like features. The baroque style architecture gives the fountain a
display of power.

Corinthian columns,
pilasters and triumphal arches are used on the façade of the palazzo behind the
fountain to portray aesthetic qualities and correlate with it.

 

LOTUS TEMPLE, NEW DELHI, INDIA

The lotus temple is
located in New Delhi, India designed by fariborz sahba, it is one of the seven
houses of worship for the people who keep faith in Baha’i. the symmetric half-open
lotus structure is situated in the village of Bahapur. This temple consists of
nine sides and each side of the structure is covered with 40-meter-tall Grecian
marble flower petals which gives it a pristine white exterior facade. Each side
is surrounded by nine ponds. The affect given to the temple was that of a
floating flower that is being surrounded by the leaves of the flower itself as
the ponds are leaf shaped.

Its interior is truly
made by using expressionist architecture which gives it a ribbed roof feeling. Like
the taj mahal this temple is also adorned with symmetry, proportions,
uniqueness with the use of a variety of materials.

The architect wanted to
show the concept of purity simplicity and brightness which depicted the Baha’i
faith. Its appearance attracts a large number of people of different beliefs as
its made so exquisitely. The lotus flower is admired in Hindu culture and
tradition. This temple unifies people from all religion and remind them that
god is one.

 

The Taj
Mahal, the Trevi fountain and the Lotus Temple raise important issues as to
what happens if the function is aesthetics? If aesthetics has been abandoned
how are areas of aesthetic functionality to be designed? Answering this very
question, the proofs and detailed analyses of each element of aesthetics in architecture
as well as the three examples, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Fountain di Trevi in
Rome, and the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, helped me elaborate and further
justify why elements of aesthetic functionality cannot be abandoned in
architecture. These are the elements that bring foreword what the architect
desires to showcase through his work. Although function is definitely a very
important part of the building and also the deciding factor of the structure and
planning, the aesthetics helps in exuberating this function and also in portraying
it in different ways. If architecture was to only design based on function and
not on aesthetics, then we would have a bunch of cubes and cuboids of different
dimensions without any varying textures, colors, shapes, asymmetry or lines.

The structure would only have construction and functionality with a heavy façade
that seals it all together. Architecture through the 1940’s to early 2000’s has
been defined by functionality over aesthetics, but modern architecture and mediaeval
have proved otherwise. In the belief of most architects, aesthetics has and
plays its role as long as it doesn’t overpower the function of the structure,
while some architects believe that art doesn’t always suffice to function and
thus can be added to decorate a structure or to beautify it. While Sullivan nurtured
the fact that functionality and form go hand in hand, what he should have added
to the quote would be that functionality and form go hand in hand when
sprinkled with aesthetics. To conclude the research paper, Form does not exist
without function, and function cannot be designed without aesthetics. In other words,
function and aesthetics complement each other and architecture would not be
able to stand out without either of them.