Where Architecture Begins: How to Read Language of Architecture
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Where Architecture Begins: How to Read Language of Architecture

Sculpture form, perfectly сut, outstanding in a landscape, and filled with life inner space of a building, elegant, strict geometry of planning, and a variety of randomly scattered houses... What is architecture, in fact, if we name with this word all these things? What language does it speak to us, what does it tell?

Of course, a colorful picture and an expressive melody can attract anyone’s attention. In the same way, grand buildings of Moscow Kremlin or Saint Mark's Square in Venice can make admire anyone, even those who are not familiar with architecture. But how our perception changes when we are prepared, experienced, cultured. How rich, colorful, full it becomes. When attending expositions, museums, we learn, often invisibly, to perceive painting. When we are at concerts, when we listen to the music on the radio, or a disc, we cultivate ourselves musically, thus opening doors to the wonderful and infinitely deep world of Bach and Mozart. Just like without preparation we cannot understand well enough Bach's music, we cannot truly enjoy masterpieces of architecture if we are not prepared to meet them.

Architecture is often referred to as history in stone. The unique information it contains in itself tells us about Antiquity and the Middle Age. They also say that architecture is still music. Really, it bears harmony of forms in it which reflects not only spiritual culture of the gone generations but also eternal mysteries of a human soul. Harmony appeals to us esthetically and thrills us. At present we are able to perceive and enjoy spacious images and states tuning with spiritual culture of people of the 21st century. We can feel this under the vault of Riga Cathedral and on the paths of Pavlovsky Park near Saint-Petersburg.

In a paradoxical way, architecture combines the result of builders' labor and the summit of artistic creativity. On the one hand, there is technology, space arrangement, on the other hand, there is art speaking the language of spacious forms. Engineer's calculation, scientific knowledge come together with intuition, creative enlightenment of an artist.

Function, construction and form are the three components of the architectural unity. Two thousand years ago Roman philosopher Vitruvius wrote about this trinity calling it "durability - utility - beauty." Vitruvius is hardly a discoverer of this truth. He only noted what had been for centuries familiar to the builders. But it was thanks to Vitruvius that the famous trinity entered the history of architecture and became the culture base for any professional architect.

Have you ever noticed on the facade of an old house or inside a richly decorated interior muscled figures "carrying" the weight of ceiling joists? These are atlantes. Named after mythical titans who were punished for the rebellion against gods, they had to sustain the vault of the sky. Sometimes, the figures are feminine. Unlike atlantes who bear the sky on their shoulders, they carry the weight on their heads. They are called caryatides or “girls” in Greek. The most famous caryatides are those of ancient Greek temple Erechtheion, in Acropolis of Athens.

Atlantes and caryatides, weight-bearers, represent the very essence of architecture as the art of building - overcoming of gravitation.

Primitive artists of prehistoric times when drawing a man always started with a vertical line to which they attached short lines of arms and legs as well as the ball of the head. Consider this: in his own awareness, the man begins with a vertical line. The intention to overcome gravity made us straight-walking and made us look up to the sky. It made us take off the land and direct towards the stars. It is from the vertical line symbolizing the innate human intention to overcome gravitation that architecture begins its real history. 

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Comments (6)

superb article, glad I read it today

I learned from this. Well done!

deepa venkitesh, thank you for the feedback! It makes me happy to know you liked it. P. Guims, so cool I could teach you something:)

Archtecture in all country different, because of particular qualities terrain. In cheap cv you could read more information about this. 

Revisiting your very interesting post. Thank you.

Thank you for your interest, Francois.