What Is Architecture?

Architecture is the combination of the discipline of art and the practical application of designing, planning, and building constructions. Architectural projects, in the conventional material form of houses, frequently are perceived as works of architecture and as visual symbols. The basic elements of architecture include space, form, space planning, light, materials, and architecture. A building may be designed for functional reasons, but also for its aesthetic appearance. Architectural history has also shown that many buildings have been constructed because of the technical and economic necessities rather than for purely aesthetic purposes.

A variety of different types of structures have been used in architecture: Residential houses, public buildings, institutional buildings, government buildings, and industrial structures such as factories and barns. Some of these structures were created with the assistance of an architect, while others were created by skilled masons or carpenters. A few buildings that were created by architects include the U.S. federal buildings located throughout the country, such as the Department of Defense and Department of State; landmark education schools, such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and monumental military structures, including the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

In general, architectural plans are drawn up before construction takes place. After construction, the structure is inspected to ensure that it meets all current codes and is safe to occupy. The architectural style and design used in buildings depend on the purpose and the location it is built. The most common architectural styles are the Classical, Georgian, and Gothic. Although certain forms of architecture, such as the Romanesque and Gothic, have been popular throughout history, their influence has diminished over time.