Art and architecture have always had an ineffable relationship to each other since the beginning of human civilization. Humankind appears to have always had the urge to seek shelter and express creativity. By commingling art with architecture, we step out of consensus reality and experience the world anew. In both, the human mind reinterprets time, space, and the meaning of life in a refreshing new way.
Escaping the Mundane
Both art and architecture have the power to turn a commonplace idea into an emotional experience. When the phenomenological dovetails into the practical, it twirls psychology around its little finger. A sensible mind struggles to make sense of the strange juxtapositions of form.
The white street loft is an example of escaping the mundane. This project transformed a 6,000 sq ft loft into living quarters that dazzle the mind. This delicious bewilderment occurs because of an unusual choice of diverse materials and an imaginative use of space.
Although classified as architecture, a visitor experiences the unexpected elation of a new perspective that a beautiful work of abstract art evokes.
Art and Architecture through History
The ancient Greeks are credited with creating architecture that evoked a connection between early mathematics, construction and art. Their architecture was impressive for several reasons. The Parthenon used feats of engineering to connect enormous spaces with awe-invoking ornamental qualities.
Then, centuries later, Renaissance giants like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo dusted off time and history to revive humankind’s fascination with color, shape, form, and function.
Today, artists like James Turrell are on the same artistic quest to turn space upside down so that we see everything anew. Here is a brief description by AJ Artemel that gives visitors a feel for Turrell’s visual experiment at The Guggenheim called The Architecture Of Light:
“Of course, Turrell does not just use light to play with space; he uses light to annihilate space and create it again on his own terms. His work rapidly vibrates between two- and three-dimensionality, while flat objects become solids and then, later, voids. Complex shapes invert themselves under observation, warning the visitor not to trust the conventional solidity of walls and windows. Turrell’s architecture is not for the body, but rather for the mind as accessed through the eye.”
3 Different Perspectives
It’s almost impossible to define the boundary conditions when architecture begins to merge into art. When we enter this discussion, we are leaving behind the world of logic with its axioms, premises, and definitions and penetrating the realm of perspective and imagination. So the best we can do in trying to understand the correlation between art and architecture is to look at the issue from different perspectives.
Here are 3 perspectives to consider:
1. Form vs. Function
The Kantian definition of a work of art is that art has no useful purpose while architecture has to be efficient and useful. So, a utilitarian might say that the difference between art and architecture is that art is about appreciating the intricacies of color and form while architecture serves a specific function. However, this logical distinction fades in many artistic expressions of architecture. For example, when we look at the Bauhaus in Germany, we see houses that have works of art in the walls. Is this a work of art or architecture?
2. Mathematical Set Theory
A mathematician might see art and architecture as an example of set theory. Art would be the superset of the set of architecture. According to this perspective, art is a superset of other forms of human creativity. A Venn diagram would show the architecture circle completely enclosed by the art circle. Other valid subsets enclosed in the art circle might be dance, music, or literature. So architecture is a part of art, but art is much broader than only architecture.
3. Architecture as an Expression of Beauty
Architecture is the result of the correlation of many disciplines like engineering, economics, and art. Engineering makes architecture possible; economics pays for the men, machinery, and materials; and art lifts the building out of the mundane into the sublime. In other words, while architecture could survive without art, it would be boring. All buildings would be basic geometric shapes, primarily squares and rectangles. Art lifts architecture out of this grim fate and makes cities both interesting and inspiring.
Designing a World to Delight In
Whatever interpretation we favor, we as humans have an irresistible need to reshape the world into a more interesting place. It’s not enough for us to have a building that provides us with comfort and shelter. We also want it to touch us in some way; to lift our spirits, open up our hearts, and expand our minds. Humans have a curious love for the unusual and the beautiful and art and architecture working in aesthetic harmony satisfy this yearning for form with function.