Architecture: A Science Or An Art?

Posted on Jun 6 2016 - 8:32am by Business Day TV

ArchitectureIf you try to ask about architecture being either an art or science, you’d likely get mixed answers. Most practitioners, including those who work for firms like, may say that it’s a science. They claim that architecture being an art form is detracting from what it’s really supposed to do: real-world functionality.

Architecture For Art’s Sake?

Larry Shiner, author of 2003’s The Invention of Art, defines art as any craft, from joinery to harberdashery, that is performed with skill. Detractors may say that architecture is a field practiced with skill, but the point doesn’t stop there. Huffington Post Arts & Culture editor Priscilla Frank writes, “Art is usually about self-expression. The essence of it is expressing oneself.”

But, a closer look at the topic doesn’t seem to fit. If architecture is all about the designer’s purely personal expression, there would be no “beautiful” buildings that would be functional at all. This is where the scientific part comes into play.

The Science of Architecture

David Gloster of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) offers an interesting take. According to him, most debates about architecture being an art or science start in the school setting. Much of the discourse at school level talks about ideas and how they influence design. To these people, architecture involves visual, aesthetic, and spatial qualities.

Moving from school to actual practice spells the difference. When architects start practicing professionally, their emphasis moves away from design and into real-world practicality. There would be times when a visually pleasing concept simply couldn’t work in real life. The architect’s job now is to make the plan work according to different circumstances. This is where the scientific approach comes in.

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Why Not Both?

Both art and science are used in architecture, and it’s pretty evident. Architects can’t afford to draw up a design that can’t be realized. This is why they’re trained in balancing four major concepts in their design: art, science, lateral thinking, and linear thinking. The first two are self-explanatory. The next two go like this: lateral thinking uses analogies and links ideas to create something imaginative. Linear thought involves sticking to a step-by-step process that leads to a specific result.

Architecture is both a science and an art, with science being used to express its artsy side. It’s why you see exquisite-looking buildings that not only look good, but work like a charm.