What is Architectural Style?
When you drive through different parts of town or travel to new places, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of different types of homes and buildings. One street may be filled with historic Victorian-style homes and the next block could be modern highrises.
As the times change, so do the elements that people choose to incorporate into architecture. Traveling through a city or town can often be like looking in a time capsule, because it can show us how buildings and structures have evolved over time.
Understanding the various elements of architectural influences and style is a great way to better understand both the structures in your own hometown, and the most grandiose structures around the world.
What is architectural style?
Let’s start with the basics. What, exactly, is architectural style? Architectural style is defined as a set of characteristics and features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable.
Though specific elements may carry over into various styles, each specific architectural style includes a unique combination of elements such as form, aesthetics, method of construction, building materials, and regional character. The combination of elements is what makes it possible to differentiate between the various categories of architectural styles.
What are the elements of architectural style?
There are a lot of different elements that contribute to the architectural style of a structure.
Historically, the materials used to build structures were whatever materials were abundant in the area. Wood, brick, and stone were the most common building materials for thousands of years.
As technology advanced, other types of building materials became popular, like steel, glass, and concrete. Better technology also created studier materials that could be used to build taller buildings. Understanding what materials were used to build a structure can give you a lot of clues about its architectural style.
The time in which a structure was built is another key component of architectural style. This is especially important because many elements of architecture tend to go in and out of style.
So, two buildings may appear to have a similar style, but if they were built in different eras, they likely have subtle but important differences. For example, a building that was built in Rome between 850 BC and 500 AD would likely be an example of Classical architecture, like the Roman Colosseum.
However, a similar style building that was built later may be an example of Neoclassical or Renaissance styles of architecture. Knowing the age and context of when a building was designed and built is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding architectural style.
The design aesthetics of a structure are essential to its style. The design of a structure includes understanding elements such as line, color, shape, mass, space, texture, and more.
A Classical building will be designed with absolute symmetry and strict mathematical principles, as opposed to a Gothic structure that features elaborate details like pointed arches and ornate decorations.
Every style of architecture has key features and components that define that particular style. Understanding how the individual design elements contribute to the structure is crucial to connecting with the architectural style of the building.
Where a building is located has a significant effect on architectural style. To be effective, a building design must take into account location-based factors such as climate, geography, topography, site features, and more.
In order to create a safe and long-lasting structure, it’s imperative for architects to have an intimate understanding of the location where a building will be built. A building that is in a swampy area will require a much different design than one being built in a rocky area.
Structure designs must account for local weather conditions, potential natural disasters, and more. Buildings should also be created to take advantage of naturally-occurring features like natural light, spectacular views, and other elements.
In addition to physical attributes, the social and cultural norms of the location must also be considered in order for the final structure to be useful in its purpose. In some cultures the direction a building faces or the number of floors it has can be culturally significant, so it’s vital that designers understand not only the land, but also the people for whom they’re designing.
Why is architectural style important?
Buildings can stand for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. Old structures are physical representations of the past and can teach us about how people lived and what they valued at the time the buildings were constructed.
We can use architectural style in new buildings to indicate what’s important to us now, such as by using sustainable materials that are better for the planet, or by incorporating a lot of windows to bring in the most amount of natural light.
In addition to providing context about the world at large, architectural style can also provide beauty and aesthetics to functional spaces. As humans, we spend a lot of time indoors and having beautifully designed spaces in our homes and workplaces can add a lot of value to those places. A building where people want to spend their time offers much more value than just walls and ceilings.
What are your favorite architectural elements? Do you prefer historical designs or contemporary structures?
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At Portella, we work with people to realize their visions of the perfect space, and we meticulously craft custom steel windows and doors to ensure the perfect aesthetic for every project.