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Can Architecture be Art?

Architecture has gone under a major transformation in recent times. With the focus shifting to hedonistic and environmental sustainability. Architecture is about solving problems and tackling obstacles. It deals with creating and recreating realities and building our dreams into concrete structures. Art has always inspired architecture and architectural marvels have always inspired artistic creations. This connection between art and architecture equates to the focus on creativity, innovation and making a statement using visual elements.

Museum for Architectural Drawing by SPEECH Tchoban/Kuznetsov, Berlin, Germany

Architecture is considered as a necessity rather than a form of artistic expression. There have been substantial debates on the topics opposing architecture as an art form. In 2014, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, Patrik Schumacher has taken to Facebook to launch an attack on political correctness in architecture and a perceived trend for prioritising art over form-making. In a Facebook post, Schumacher said, "Architects are in charge of the FORM of the built environment, not it's content…Architecture is not a l'art pour l'art discipline. Architecture is NOT ART, although FORM is our specific contribution to the evolution of world society."

In today's art world, when the definition of art itself is being questioned, it's hard to argue that architecture is not art. Art has evolved with society and so has architecture. Architecture has shifted its focus from just the form to how these structures could stand for something more than a necessary shelter. Today's architecture is closely related to sustainable development and intricate design that morph functionality, creativity and aesthetics.

Art is self-expressionism. Artists express their thoughts and concept in their work to convey it to the world. It is this depiction of idea and its perception that forms the core of the artwork. When we look at an architectural process, we see there are these connections between artistic expression and architectural expression. An architectural structure is in a way the portrayal of ideas and thoughts of the architect. What sets architecture apart is its functionality.

"For much of the past century, architecture was under the spell of a famous doctrine. "Form follows function" had become modernity's ambitious manifesto and detrimental straitjacket, as it liberated architecture from the decorative, but condemned it to utilitarian rigor and restrained purpose. Of course, architecture is about function, but I want to remember a rewriting of this phrase by Bernard Tschumi, and I want to propose a completely different quality. If form follows fiction, we could think of architecture and buildings as a space of stories -- stories of the people that live there, of the people that work in these buildings." Ole Scheeren explains in his Ted talk how great architecture tells stories. He talks about how architecture is also about designing the narrative and lifestyles of people that interact with these structures.

Bjarke Ingels, founder of the BIG architectural firm in the documentary series, Abstract: The Art of Design explains how architecture is about the process he goes through in designing and executing his plan. He talks about his innovations to break the modern "boring box" legacy by fusing functionality and aesthetics. One of his projects, The Mountain which combines a parking space and a living space to form a sort of man-made mountain is one of the examples of this combination. The CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke or Amager Slope morphs the utilitarian aspect of waste-to-energy plant and morphs it with the aesthetic and playfulness of a ski-slope.

Architecture and art are very related, The process of design and execution is similar and like art, architecture also tends to make statements. Through these designs and structures, the architect conveys his ideas and stories. The people who interact with these structures also become a part of the narrative. Ole Scheeren's statement that "Form Follows Fiction" refers to this narrative potential of architecture. Architecture is about creation, it's taking an idea, a dream and making it real. The debate will carry on for many years as it did before, but architecture and art have the same basic principles, creativity, innovation, design, narration and execution. With art becoming more inclusive and artists experimenting with a lot of unconventional and new media, the line between art, architecture and design seems a little blur.


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