The word architecture ( from the Latin architectura for " architecture " ) described in the broadest sense, the relation of humans with constructed space. The well-planned design and layout of buildings is the central content of the architecture. There are a variety of definitions of the term, which attribute different tasks, contents and meanings of architecture. Some are shown below.

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Word origin

At the word "architecture" is the Germanized version of the Latin architectura, which derives from the ancient Greek αρχιτέκτων [ ARCHITEKTON ]. The latter is composed of αρχι [ hierarchical ], " main" and τέκτων [ tekton ], " builder " or " carpenter " and may be translated thus about as " Supreme Craftsman " or "chief architect ". The definition of what "architecture" today is therefore also depends on the field of activity of the architect. The term has evolved over again throughout history and in all its depth only historically tangible.

The ambiguity of the word is mainly characterized by the second part of word techne and the architecture - theoretical interpretations about it: It can be understood as art, technology, science or tectonics. These are all aspects that comprise the architecture and equally in all respects and describe as a term with and they clearly delineate the structural engineering. The transferred meanings of the word architecture can be derived from the " tectonic " interpretation. With the architecture structurally organized relationship of material and non-material parts or modules can be described. Examples are the concepts of software architecture and political architecture. This occurs, however the formative formative aspect in the background (see disambiguation: architecture).

Meaning of the term

In the narrower sense of the classical architecture the term architecture refers to the art and / or science of well-planned design of the built human environment, that is, the confrontation with the man-made space, and in particular the interdependence between man, ( man-made ) space and time. Here, the classical architecture concept includes various facets of meaning with a. He stands

  • For the architecture, creation and aesthetic design of structures / buildings and structures of all kinds, however, the term architecture today is not very sharp. In an extension of the notion of concept architecture stands today in academic discourse often generally generally to the art of creating and Visual Design of spaces.
  • As the title of a building typology (also with plural formation ).
  • As a designation for the profession of architect.
  • As a generic term for the works of the architect.
  • As a term for the science of building ( less common architecture ).

For centuries architecture has been understood in the broadest sense as building any kind. Architecture was the design of structures to build the art, hence the term architecture. Architecture deals with individual buildings, mainly in the field of building construction. The list of structures on the function provides an overview of the diversity of functions. On a larger scale, the urban planning deals with the design of cities and large building complexes and the interaction between buildings and their environment. The landscape architecture on the other hand deals with the designed landscape architectural point. The interior design, the interior design to the target, a portion, for example, trade show exhibits.

This definition, however, is controversial, especially since the beginning of the 20th century. Accordingly, most attempts at a definition can be understood only in the context of certain debates about content, task and importance of architecture, whereby the respective contemporary building with its aesthetic, technical, economic and political implications must be considered. Similar to the concept of a work of art it does not seem the definition of architecture possible, to confine itself to the mere description of a word or thing.

Each differentiated definition proves on closer inspection to be a struggle for sovereignty of definition and application of power (see the writings of Michel Foucault). Because of such implied normative aspect of any substantive provision of architectural remains controversial and is dominated ideologically in the core. Any attempt to define - as far as it contains a reflection - is already architectural theory. The definition of architecture is essentially based on the respective attitude and value system of the defining person, whether owner, architect or architectural theorist.

The fact that the ratings of the respective works of the architects usually fail controversy is inevitable, because it is not only a competition of talent and expertise, but also the validity of the individual value systems. Due to the variance of the architectural philosophies, today is a great variety of forms in architecture is given.

Here are some common definitions will be explained. The quotations show, respectively, the stress field of the discussion.

Demarcation to " mere building"

About the question of what "architecture" is different ( as art) of the naked " construction" has long been a (strongly ideologically colored ) discourse out. In general it can be said that architecture due to their special design quality of simple functional buildings that are committed to maximum benefit, go out and therefore the term architecture (see also aesthetics).

The idea of ​​what is the real architectural achievement in the design and manufacture of a building and elevates the building above the pure purpose of gorgeous, has changed significantly over the past century: By the end of the 19th century, it was mainly the use of traditional designs - the so-called style - with mostly rich ornamental embellishments, where the artistic rank manifested itself into a sphere of pure pragmatics as an added value and beauty of a building in conscious opposition.

Contrast, was the so-called functionalism of the 20th century conception of architecture prevalent, who wanted to know at first glance only purposive related buildings (including engineering constructions ) perceived as architecture. The constructive, proportional giving and space-defining aspects of construction were explained to the actual design theme of architecture. Sometimes one has raised the slightest creative interventions in the context of functionalist planning in the rank of a ( construction ) artistic performance. At the same time, a symbolic exaggeration or glorification of functionalist architecture has received numerous proclamations of " modernity ", " progressiveness " and the " expression of our time " sought. After several attempts to revise this view in the so-called postmodernism and deconstruction, the functionalist understanding of architecture revived.


  • " It has generally been assumed that a building only begin to be a work of art if it do more to meet than the mere need. " ( Hermann Muthesius: 1908 over the definition of architecture of the 19th century: The unity of the architecture)
  • " The slogan " the Expedient is beautiful " is only half true. When we call a human face beautiful? The parts of each face serve a purpose, but only if they are perfect in shape, color and well-balanced harmony, the face deserves the title of " beautiful". The same applies to the architecture. Only perfect harmony in the technical purpose function as well as in the proportions of the forms beauty can bring. And that makes our job so versatile and complicated. " (Walter Gropius: 1955 in: Architecture )
  • "Architecture is, no matter how mundane or challenging the purpose that it serves, ultimately the totality of changes induced by man-made environment, and thus a cultural achievement of mankind. " ( Meinhard von Gerkan: 1982: The responsibility of the architect )

Space education

Architecture, via its space -creating character be defined. From this perspective, there is architecture in the duality of space and shell. Architecture creates a boundary between the outside and inside. Through this boundary or envelope creates a space to reside and action of people as well as for keeping his things, protected from the adverse influences of the outside world.


  • " The central problem of the architecture is the room that gets people healthy in body and soul. " ( Justus Dahinden: In Architecture - Architecture ( monograph 1998). )

More definitions

  • According to Vitruvius ( De Architectura ) architecture based on three principles: stability ( Firmitas ), usefulness ( Utilitas ) and grace ( venustas ).
  • Architecture is " harmony and harmony of all parts is achieved by means that could be removed, added or changed anything without destroying the whole. " (Leon Battista Alberti: 1452: De re aedificatoria )
  • Architecture is based on Louis Sullivan (1896 ), "the law of all organic and inorganic, of all physical and metaphysical, of all human and superhuman things, all true manifestations of the head, the heart and soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, the the form ever follows function "(see also: form follows function ).
  • "Architecture is produced today according to economic, structural and functional principles. We face tough battle with reality. And then even if something similar to what you referred to comes with the attribute of art, then you can speak in his life from an unlikely happiness " ( Egon Eiermann: Big architect houses -Verlag. ).
  • " Architecture combines art and science ( or technology ) to arrange the environment to the needs of the people " (Louis Hellman )
  • "Architecture is knowledge of the technique, susceptibility to the artistic side of the matter. " ( Arne Jacobsen )
  • " The elementary expression of architectural forms is a gestural. He is due in part to show qualities of the built things, on the other hand, feelings of sentient, moving body "( Wolfgang Meisenheimer: Thinking of the body and the architectural space ).

History of Architecture

The history of architecture is as old as human history, and closely interwoven with this as the cultural element. According to this high importance two terms are encyclopedic Divorced: A chronological overview of the individual development steps can be found under the headings of history of architecture or architectural style, the notes on methodology and area of the subject in the article History of Architecture. The subject of architectural history is the part of cultural studies, with an engineering and sociological methodology focuses mainly on art history and secondarily with the historical dimension of architecture.


Great architecture museums can be found in Berlin, Frankfurt ( DAM) and Munich → Architecture Center.


Architecture manifests itself in a single building, a building complex, a residential structure or in an entire city system. Both single form of smaller and larger units as well as the entire city morphology are particularly influenced by climatic, technical, topographical and economic boundary parameters. In addition, also have legal, religious, political and other social realities massive influence on architecture, urban design and urban planning. In particular, the representative architecture is often the visible expression of the respective company and form of government. For example, the Palace of Versailles as an expression of absolutism. The architecture is therefore an essential part of the cultural identity of a society.


Modern man is continuously surrounded by buildings and architecture. It can negatively affect mood and psyche as positive. Also on physical health, it can have an impact. So architecture has a very specific meaning for every person and determined the daily life much more than music, literature or painting. The quality of the living environment of the company should therefore be a major concern.

Only a subset of all Buildings is planned by architects. In economically less developed areas of the vast majority will be built in DIY manner or by craftsmen without much planning. In the industrialized nations, the standardized production of buildings prevails. Architects are involved above all in complex planning or representative structures. This also resulted in the widespread opinion that architecture might relate only to particular buildings and is to differentiate from the " profane " building. The negative consequences of this distinction between architecture and building are visible in all modern cities.

The subject of architecture is not just often discussed in Germany in the general public and often the debate on contemporary architecture is left to the " professionals ". However, the responsibility for the built environment is not just for architects. The respective client selects the architects and makes crucial requirements. The public construction law specifies the basic conditions. A general social awareness of the importance of architecture is therefore indispensable for a good built environment.

In Germany, the Federal Foundation for Building Culture attempts to raise awareness of the importance of architecture. In Austria there is in the Art Department of the Federal a separate department for architecture and design, as well as a foundation for architecture and platform for architectural policy and construction. In some countries, good architecture is even recognized as a national objective, in France since 1977 and Finland since 1998.

In some cases architecture achieves a high level of acceptance among the population that sees a symbol of their values ​​and way of life in a building. Examples include the Eiffel Tower in Paris ( as a symbol of the city) or the Twin Towers in New York City that were destroyed as a symbol of capitalism and Western culture.


  • " Architecture and urban planning are neither cultural nor dispensable luxury decoration. Rather arises from these basic building blocks of a city livable environment and urban identity. " ( From the purpose of the Wiesbaden Center for Architecture )
  • " Our daily life is determined to a large extent by the architecture that surrounds us every day. [ ... ] The architecture provides the necessary structural framework in which we move. Without architecture, human society would be inconceivable. " ( Jürgen Tietz: 1998 In: History of architecture of the 20th century. )

Important topics

Certain issues that concern architects repeatedly, regardless of style and age. These topics are also the basic criteria of architectural criticism. They are at every design is unique, in general, to reconsider.

  • Space: the definition, dimensioning, planning, addition and formal shaping of spaces is the main task of architecture. See also: Space ( Architecture )
  • Positioning and orientation: The positioning of a building in the countryside or on the available area ( plot) and its orientation make a difference over the appearance of the structure, the degree of privacy against the public space, the development, the ratio of outer space and interior and possible solar heat gain.
  • Shape: The shape of the building, so its layout, its shape and cubature, its proportion, these are all aesthetic aspects that can not be derived solely from the function. A design can not " generate " the basis of all boundary parameters. These always get the component of the aesthetic and formal design.
  • Function: The proper functioning of a building is the top priority of a design. This applies to both the operational procedures, the technical functioning of the building envelope as well as aesthetic and non - technical functions to be performed by a building. Since architecture is one of the few practical arts (see also Design ), which also have a utilitarian function in addition to the aesthetic value, it is always in the tension between art and function. See also: List of buildings by function
  • Construction: In order to produce the desired rooms, choosing the right construction is critical. It must comfort standards can be met, for example, cost and schedule factors considered as well. The skeletal design allows for example a free plan for a apartment block is the modular construction may be the best solution. The limits of the capacity expanded thereby continuously, once you compare a Romanesque church with the Leipzig Fair.
  • Façade: How are façades, which is the outer shell of a building look like? What colors and materials are used? All this is at the discretion of the designer ( and thus both the architects, but also the builder ).
  • Readability: This is understood, is how to recognize the external appearance of a building, " what is in it ", so for example, what function it performs, which construction which internal organization or importance. Whether a building is to demonstrate this to the outside, can be answered very differently. The National Library of France, for example, has the form of four unfolded books, thus signaling its function to the outside. Something subtle, the architects Herzog & de Meuron went before in the library of the University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde, where the facade is covered with photo opportunities, which symbolizes the information content of a library to the outside. Other buildings conceal their innermost feelings, however, behind a shop facade.
  • References to the environment: The idealized model of the architecture is the design of a building, which is in communication with the environment in complex ways. A building can fit into its surroundings or be designed to contrast. The relationship is established externally by shape, color design and material selection. Visual connections, spatial arrangements and paths outside and inside play a crucial role in the relation between the building and the surrounding area.
  • The conceptual reference: In the context of historic preservation specific places, streets, squares and buildings have a special meaning. The ideal relation is derived not so much from formal- aesthetic point from but or of one or more historical events, circumstances or a particular historical context in which an area or a building is, or was, for example, certain sections of the former Berlin Wall. the crossing point Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, birthing centers or residential or workplaces of important people, places political upheaval, etc.; even in the absence of historical significance architecture architects and planners have to be considered in work on buildings, reconstruction, change of use, alterations or extensions of such historically and socially specific places the ideal reference.
  • Sustainability, ecology and energy consumption: was, however, always stepped up since the 1980s, since the debate about global warming wider, Sustainability, Ecological building and the reduction of the energy consumption of buildings have become important issues in architecture. Many buildings have a high heating and cooling energy demand; projected on the life of the building, there are significant energy - saving potential. In the design of buildings today the alignment, the shape of the building, the building envelope and the building materials are also chosen with regard to ecological aspects. This has in some cases far -reaching impact on the architecture of the building. Under the heading of solar architecture concepts are summarized, which have a high degree of minimization of energy consumption to the destination. Many contemporary buildings achieve a good energy standard today.
  • Cost: The budget that provides the builder for construction of a building, is a key factor that determines the quality of the result. Often design decisions are taken on the basis of the budget, so it has significant impact on the architecture. The topic of cost accompanies the planner through the entire planning and implementation process.
  • Other frequently appearing keywords in the architectural debate are: Honesty - see for example Paul Hans Peters, former chief editor of the builder (magazine).
  • Minimalism
  • Form follows function


  • Music: Music and architecture are a long time the human cultural heritage. In Greek and Roman antiquity, they were much more closely linked than is the case today. The theory of proportion in architecture (especially the Renaissance ) refers to the theory of harmony in music. Architects, musicians and philosophers have not only repeatedly connections between the two arts sought in the centuries and also created, but also be given reciprocally new impetus. The philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling said in 1859: Architecture is frozen music. Similarly, to read at Arthur Schopenhauer: Architecture is frozen music. The acoustics of a building plays an important role (eg in opera houses, concert halls, theaters, etc.).
  • Psychology: The psychology deals with the architecture apart from various perspectives. The artist group of the Situationists addressed in the 1960s with this area of ​​research (see " psycho-geography "). Studies show that architects and lay people have a completely different perception of architecture. This is based on the different level of knowledge and the resulting different perspective. The architectural concepts of laity are also strongly influenced by the media and by role models. From the findings on the interaction of humans and the built environment, the architectural psychology emerged. Also of importance is the psychological effect of color in interior design and facades. So architecture psychologists are able to make, for example, patient-centered practice rooms. Required are schemas and data collection instruments for the assessment of offices, homes, schools, universities and hospitals. The architectural psychology refers Their findings from empirical studies. It is not to be confused with the spiritual teachings of Feng Shui.
  • Sociology: The sociology of architecture is about the symbolic interaction between the socially aware people by the constitution and organization of areas, such as cities, landscapes (parks ), houses, bridges, monuments or specific components ( towers, doors, etc.) up to the interior design; therefore also to the profession of architects to building policy, construction and housing.
  • Legislation: In almost all countries, buildings are subject to extensive regulations, and regulatory monitoring. The conditions required, inter alia, the stability, safety in operation, the urban integrations, technical supply and energy efficiency take on the architecture influence.