Architecture can have myriad meanings. For some, the word architecture relates to process and function, to others it is a science, and to many architecture is an art, an idea, as well as the reality of form. In the most part in modern times we hear the terms of design and architecture as interchangeable within dialogue of modern urban and country planning.
It is hard to define architecture in a strict sense as every single person has an opinion on architecture whether they believe they do or not. We are affected and our lives impacted by the architecture and design around us at all times, from the residential properties we reside within, to the buildings where we work and everything in between.
The definition of what architecture is really depends on the context and the setting. A man-made building or structure that is deemed important, such as a monument, bridge, or tower is often referred to as architecture. In other contexts architecture can be used to describe the detailed design of an artistic project, or for highly stylised designs for the home such as a chair or even cutlery. The plan and design for large outdoor spaces and the use of smaller spaces within urban spaces can also be termed architecture at the same time as planning and design.
The modern perception of any structure that is not easily definable, as being instantly art, confuses the subject of architecture in the minds of the observer. Art is no longer constrained to statues and paintings within a gallery or museum; it can mean installations and objects, often placed within public spaces with no clear definition or meaning. If a piece of art has been carefully designed and cost significant amounts of money to build, shouldn’t that be considered architecture as well as art? If you believe this, then architecture can come to mean a whole host of things, from the traditional classical architecture we see in buildings, to everyday items and pieces of art, or even a theory or a process.
What we could be experiencing is the use of the term architectural rather than architecture, with the term being used as a descriptive method for anything that is related to building design and architecture. There are plenty of ways in which this can be displayed, including architectural drawings, design, styles, engineering or models used to display architectural ideas. The study of architecture and its history also falls under architectural thought. Conversely, the term architectural can also be used as a descriptive term for objects that are deemed to have strong, defined shapes and designs.
After discussing all of this are we any clearer to being able to define when a building becomes architecture? The occupation and licensing of architecture may have led to a defined understanding of what architecture is within certain circles, but as we have seen above there are schools of thought that define architecture as anything and everything that has a structure or design in-built, from natural structures within the environment to art, buildings and town planning processes. You could say that all buildings are architecture; from the moment they are conceived as an idea and drawn on the page.