Since buildings support human functions, their forms usually demand different approaches to their design of structure. For example, in the past, cathedrals incorporated tall ceilings to maximize the amount of outside light penetrating their interior spaces to create a heavenly presence. Achieving this effect required new inventions, such as vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses. Similarly, central train stations, built with iron trusses and skylights, were designed to accommodate many tracks and trains for the thousands of passengers who use them on a daily basis. Their busy lives required convenient and frequent travel between cities. The forms of architecture typically serve the functions they accommodate, and designers seek out optimal structures that support their function.

Related to sculpture, architecture creates three-dimensional objects that occupy a given space and create a visual relationship with the space around them. The differences between sculpture and architecture are in their scale and utility. Early human structures provided shelter from the elements. As hunter-gatherer societies transitioned to farming, they made more permanent shelters and eventually formed communities, towns, and cities. For thousands of years, architecture reflected the specific environment and materials available in any given region, including rock caves or huts of wood, soil, and brick. Many were assemblages of materials like grasses, leaves, and animal hides. Nomadic people still utilize these materials.

Turkman woman standing at the entry to a grass and hide covered yurt. Collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Images File

Turkman woman standing at the entry to a grass and hide covered yurt. Collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Images File

In simple design terms, architecture adheres to the dictum that "form follows function." Architecture's function reflects different human needs. For example, warehouses take the shape of large squares or rectangles because they need only to enclose a space that protects and stores products and materials most efficiently. A home is designed with other functions in mind, including cooking, resting, cleaning, and entertaining. So the interior design of a home includes specialized areas for these different functions. A church or school design would have its own spatial requirements because they provide for large groups of people at once.

Architecture solves problems concerning the use of space, interior design, and the landscape surrounding it. The limitations imposed on architecture by the laws of physics are solved to a large extent by engineering. The greatest limitations on design are the physical loads exerted by a structure's weight. Compression loads refer to the vertical weight, and shear loads travel at an angle or horizontally. Buildings need stable foundations and framing systems that support the spanning of open space.

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Source: Christopher Gildow,
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Last modified: Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 4:09 PM