Character and Style in Buildings





Every building that is constructed for a specific purpose has a specific form which itself depicts its original function. The inter-connection between the interiors and the exterior of a building is essential.

The true style of a building reflects the particular period in which it has been built.

But not many architects agree with the above statement. Some feel that there is no virtue in designing a building that shouts its date of built. The design of a building should always remain new and vibrant to avoid boredom.

Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi

The trend of Designing a building has changed drastically. In my previous article, I had discussed “New Trends in Architecture in the 21st century”.

Various architectural styles developed with the development in the technology. Technology brought new materials and new techniques of construction. Traditional architectural styles such as that of  Greeks, Roman, and Medieval periods and the modern architecture of the industrial era, twentieth century, and the Art Nouveau movements always brought in different pictures of architecture and kept redefining the meaning and principles of architecture.

Architects have made remarkable contributions to these styles from earlier periods to the present day.

In India, we have varied styles of architecture varying from Hindu Temple Architecture to Islamic Architecture to Buddhist Architecture etc. For ease, character and Style have been classified under traditional and modern architecture.

Character of a Building

The character of a building depends upon its capacity to express a particular function and status. In the historical styles of architecture, the function and status of a building were successfully expressed in a variety of styles. No building can have a neutral character.

Just like an individual’s personality is made up of unique qualities resulting from a combination of genetic factors, environment, and upbringing, which distinguishes a person from others.

Similarly, a building comprises of various aspects that makes it unique and stand out. Some architects agree with the statement, “A building that is made for a certain purpose should convey the message to the people through its visual beauty”.

“Every building should have a character – as stated by Le Corbusier” has been universally accepted.

Symbolism has become a major principle of Architecture. For instance, The structure of the Bank should be such that it should look massive and represent the country’s financial stability.

Usually civic buildings are designed such that they convey the purpose for which they are built.

In an appropriate setting, a building, through its character and style, is capable of evoking abstract values such as truth, beauty, grace, life, sacrifice, power and obedience –  the seven lamps of architecture as enumerated by the famous English poet John Ruskin.

All aesthetic components, such as unity, composition, contrast and scale together make up the character of a building. Character also brings out the utility and purpose of a building. Whether it is a bank or a church or a library, it should possess an appropriate character and not something weird…

Zaha Hadid designed a Hotel. The Hotel did not have the character of its purpose, instead it ended up looking like a museum….

This should not be done. It disturbs the harmony of the functioning of the building. The connectivity between the interior functions and the exterior look should be inter-connected.

Architectural Character of a Building has three basic characters:

  • Functional Character
  • Associated Character
  • Personal Character

In our next article, we will discuss three basic characters of building. That will help us understand the importance of the character of a structure. This principle has lost its meaning in today’s Architectural world.



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  1. #1 by Mark Richards on October 11, 2011 - 8:14 pm

    Buildings should have their own character, but many buildings built today mirror the character of either the designer who designed it, or the person who is rich enough to own the building. They can be used to reflect the personality of the architect, from whacky designs to eco-friendly looks, or to boast the power and prestige of the building’s owner. No matter what, buildings should not be conformed to the period they are in.

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