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Architecture sans building(s)--WHAT, WHY, HOW?

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

Blur Building- This pavilion is an atmospheric encounter more than a material one. The nature of this space is temporary and ever-changing.

In the purest of forms, architecture was nothing more than the need for a shelter; for protection against the weather, wildlife and uncertainties. But with evolution and invention, architecture smeared the boundaries between residential and commercial spheres. Today, any built or unbuilt space is considered architecture if there is a function behind it. From prehistoric rock caves to million-dollar Hollywood homes to the modern verticality, architecture is all about building with purpose. The discipline is disseminated in such a way that designers are seldom motivated to think about architecture other than building(s) (verb & noun). In the times where the pandemic is bringing the world to our screens and experiences in virtual reality, how do we think architecture? In my opinion, it is time we learn to think, describe and live architecture beyond the physicalities. Thus the title 'Architecture sans building(s)', focuses on architecture as an intangible and experiential discipline.


The central idea of this blog series revolves around the identification and understanding of aspects that are rarely thought about, in the design industry. It will be less focused on the built evolution and more on the ideological upgradations, philosophical and experiential understandings, and historical values of architecture. Let’s say, for example, in earlier times the window openings were small and limited but today, an entire wall can be a window. This evolution of a simple architectural element is evident but the evolution of ideologies or needs or technology needs to be analysed. We all see the changing windows but do we think about WHY the change happened? The conception of this blog is an attempt to make architecture interdisciplinary by addressing the critical reasoning, we sometimes fail to apprehend. It is a process of redefining architecture and makes it equally important to theorise it and not just document it.


“An Architect’s language is graphical representations, not text. Nobody has the patience to read, but your drawings will speak for themselves”, these words are etched in my mind since my undergraduate years. My problem here is why are architects only guided to be practical or design professionals? Or why are we told to consider the history of architecture as only a source of inspiration for our designs?

Why can’t architecture yield Theoreticians or Historians? With the emerging pragmatism in the discipline, the theory of architecture is of utmost importance. The dynamic nature of Architecture makes it a versatile discourse and as Frank Lloyd Wright said “The circumference of architecture is shifting but the center remains unchanged”, implying that the theory of architecture is the center of all architectural activity and the scope of practice and specialised ideals are its circumference

(I read it in an article during my MA). Architectural Theory is the base that will help us in comprehending the origin and evolution of architectural styles, forms, ideologies of movements, and architects of different eras.

And to answer the ‘why’, I am building this blog to empower our community by thinking, discussing, and writing about architecture.


Identifying the elements of architecture that are no doors and windows, is an open-ended discussion. Isolating the physicalities and focusing on the philosophies of the space is in essence, interpretative. The architectural theory encompasses a wide spectrum of aspects such as criticism of architectural works, research or analysis, formulating guidelines, designing manifestos for conservation and preservation, developing philosophical insights, reinventing methodologies for new-age designing, and understanding the built environment from the lens of temporality. In my opinion, we can start by thinking about the following aspects to theorise architecture:

  • Historical and Cultural Values

  • Senses

  • Materiality

  • Temporality

  • Performance

  • Anthropology/Archaeology

  • Psychology

  • Context

  • Geography/Landscape

These are some of the attributes that strike my theoretical mind when I look at the built environment. The list is not confined to, nor limited to these aspects. Professionals like us do have the freedom to develop our perspectives about architecture.

The bigger question now would be, how to think about architecture in lines of intangibility? I will address it in the following articles.

Architecture sans building(s) is my effort in building a community of theoreticians and historians. Every architect is somewhere critical and analytical when it comes to reviewing a built space. My urge is to once try and think about a built or open space by blurring the 3-dimensional shape and immersing in your senses. Instead of focusing on the disproportions of the space or functionality issues, just focus on your feelings that are generated in that particular space or think about the history and culture that shaped the space.

Let's build our community with the 3 Ts initiative -- Think, Theorise, Talk!

DIY project: Identify a space or a building nearby and observe it physically and mentally. Once you make your inferences, isolate the tangible observations and focus on the intangible aspects (you can choose the ones from the HOW? section for starters). Think about how does the space make you feel, or which of your senses are enhanced. Question those feelings and senses, and theorise the reason behind them. Generate your narrative and Talk about it. You will be surprised to see how interesting the theory of architecture can be!

Be creative and critical at the same time. Share your 3 Ts experience and let me know if it works for you.

PS: You can be completely honest and tell me if it does not make any sense to you. I am a good sport, try me ;)

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1 Comment

Very insightful 👍🏻

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