Art in Architecture: A Strong Influence

Art in Architecture

Art in Architecture is a juxtaposition of Art and Science that evolves around space, event, movement, and time. Architecture serves as one of the mainstreams in our daily lives and art creates an emotional exposure to it, offering a sense of community beyond functions and techniques. N.I.A (2009), defines architecture as “the art and science in theory and practice of design, maintenance and management and coordination of all allied professional inputs thereto buildings, or part thereof and the layout and master plan of such building or group of buildings forming a comprehensive institution, establishment or neighborhood as well as any other organized space, enclosed or opened, required for human and other activities”


Architecture is described as ‘art’ in the above definition because, like art, it is also a process of creative expertise and visual forms. Thoughtful creativity and proficiency of an architect create a visually pleasing form and establish the required function of any building. Therefore, designing, in architecture, requires a set of skills and creative talent to envisage the outcome and how would it be interpreted by the spectator who would see it or the people who would use it. 

For ages, buildings, and spaces have been transformed by how art was used within them, resulting in a fusion that has created such wonderful, inspiring, or spiritually uplifting designs of spaces, depending on the intentions and requisition of the client and the architect.

If we go back to the origin, we would find Art and Architecture, both as informal curricula for studies until the need for specialization appeared. However, with time, art has directed its way towards the modernism of architecture. 

In early Roman times, structures were embellished with floral patterns and scrolled columns through Art Nouveau architectural style with highly ornamented and organic features. In the period of Art Nouveau(late 19th century into the 20th century), a group of painters started bringing more bright colors to the life of the canvas which was replicated in Architecture through dazzling irons or glassworks to get a romantic and adventurous flare to a world previously filled with dull, brick facades.

Picasso and Braque’s artistic revolution (early 20th century) has had the largest impact on modern architecture. Through the abstract and multiple perspectives of the cubism method of art, the traditional four walls and single roof architecture broke through into modernism where instead of thinking of the structure as a single form, buildings became multiple pieces in the eyes of the architects.

Linear and geometrical art from the Bauhaus movement (throughout the 1920s and 1930s) influenced Architecture in a way to abstain ornamentation and focus on simple, rational, functional design. By the 1960s, when Tony Smith created a piece of art aptly named ‘Die’ (a six-foot cube of quarter-inch hot-rolled steel with diagonal internal bracing), minimalism quickly became one of the most popular architectural styles of all time across the globe.

Art in Architecture: Other art movements that influenced modern Architecture

  • JUGENDSTIL: It was an art-nouveau style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, launched by swiss artist Hermann Obrist in Munich. It was inspired by the intricate observations of organic forms and movements of nature. Some historians explain that this was a group of visual artists who had initiated Jugend in 1986 as a means of rebelling against the neo-classicism of art and architecture institutions, where floral motifs, organically shaped lines, flora and fauna, landscapes, and most importantly, the harmonious relationship between human and nature were found as major characteristics.

These elements, later on, were translated into architecture in the Art nouveau movement that highlighted organic lines, nature-inspired motifs, movement, and the use of engineered and natural materials. Some of the initial Art nouveau houses were built in Brussels by Paul Hankar and Victor Horta and featured elaborate motifs and complicated craftsmanship, fading the lines between architecture and nature.

art in architecture
  • DADAISM: An experimental style of art, a ‘rebellious and revolutionary’ art movement established by Hugo Ball in the early 20th century, named Dada art is said to have been first created at an artistic nightclub ‘Cabaret Voltaire’  in Zurich, Switzerland after many war-opposing creatives sought refuge in the country. The movement gained momentum from 1916-1924 mainly in Switzerland, Paris, and New York, and featured works by notable artists like Hugo Ball, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Arp, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp. They wanted to ridicule war and capitalist culture, so they resorted to irrational concepts of art that showcased humor, and the questioning of authority and reality through an ‘anti-art’ approach.

Dadaism opened the way for the architects to rethink traditional architecture, ornamentation, form, and materials, and to start creating buildings that were completely different from the style of that era. It also was one of the first that inspired architects to look beyond architecture and see buildings as sculptures, launching movements like deconstructivism (one of the most controversial architecture styles of the 21st century) that features projects by Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, and Peter Cook, amongst many other famous names in the field.

  • DE STIJL: De Stijl, Dutch for “The Style”, also known as Neoplasticism, was a Dutch art movement founded in 1917 in Leiden led by the painters Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, who wanted to highlight the ideal fusion of form and function. This movement, just like Dadaism, was also a response to the mayhem of World War I. They created a visual language consisting of refined geometric forms like rectangles, squares, straight lines, and primary colors which eventually influenced architecture by inspiring the launch of the International Style of the 1920s and 1930s, mentioned as Modernism. 

This style introduced flexibility and transformation of space in design, where there were no hierarchical arrangements of rooms in floor plans, only independent surfaces that create a space based on the user’s functions and requirements. 

de stijl
  • POP ART: In the 1950s, the pop art movement appeared in the United Kingdom post World War II, when the economic and social structures led artists to commemorate mundane, daily activities and transform them into art. This movement introduced an entirely new approach to design by replacing historic art with vibrant mass production and media-centered visual realms. The movement inspired the architects to set themselves free from the linearity of modernism by pushing forward the use of technology, and mass consumption. Facades, interior spaces, and public domains became building canvases to experiment with light, color, irregular forms, and unconventional scale.
pop art

The co-existence of art and architecture is evident in the works of some of the greatest modern architects such as Le Corbusier, Antoni Gaudi, and Oscar Niemeyer, to name a few. It is pretty understandable that Art and architecture are deeply connected and evolve through the trend that oscillates in the world of art. In today’s context, technology-influenced themes are emerging in Art, which may translate into architecture.

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