A Fascinating Journey of Cultural Influences on Architecture

cultural influence


The materials chosen, the building techniques, and the design’s symbolic significance all reflect these cultural influences. Throughout history, different structures have reflected the standards of living of the people,  from ancient civilizations to modern cities. The incorporation of symbols in architecture is one way that cultural heritage impacts the design. Every culture uses a distinctive repertoire of symbols to convey views and ethical convictions. 

For instance, the ancient Egyptian pyramids represent strength, and endless life in addition to serving as the graves for Pharaohs. Cultural influences shape architectural identity, resulting in buildings that possess a distinctive look that represents human ingenuity and creativity. As ascribed to the effects of the preeminent religious along cultural practices, we have seen an astounding change in the styles of architecture, from Qutub Minar to the Lotus Temple in the province of Delhi. 

Photo by Laura Barragán From Pexel 

Cultural Identity and Regionalism

Communities worldwide prioritize designs that capture the essence of their cultural identity, showcasing distinctive features that set them apart. Regionalism in architecture becomes a concrete manifestation of cultural authenticity. Santorini in Greece has a hot climate and hence white building materials are used to reflect heat. In regions with lower temperatures, bricks may be an extremely practical construction material. They provide good insulation and can even resist harsh weather.

Santorini, Greece
Photo by Pixabay of Santorini, Greece

Critical rationalism is a more sophisticated architectural philosophy, whereas regionalism tends to spontaneously evolve across the world just by having a logical approach to design. Architect Alvar Aalto’s varied body of work demonstrates his ability to use his critical regionalism approach to projects of different levels of quality and purposes. Despite being smaller in scope, Alvar Alto’s building, Villa Mairea, demonstrates his ideas for managing both traditional and modern architecture through a method heavily supported by elements like location, culture, and environment.

Image of Villa Mairea by Ninara

It’s an approach to the design process that attempts to address placelessness and strike a balance between original and global armature while responding to its beginning terrain. It makes the structure meaningless if we remove that structure from that terrain. As an illustration of critical regionalism, consider the Sydney Opera House by Jorn Utzon, which exposes its facade towards the sea to recognize it as an important geographical setting rather than the surrounding Modern architecture.

Sydney Opera House
Photo by Ben Mack of Sydney Opera House

Materials and Construction Techniques

Local Materials Availability

The integration of local materials in architecture extends beyond mere construction—it becomes a narrative of sustainability and harmony with nature. As globalization introduces new materials and construction techniques, the emphasis on local materials remains a crucial aspect of preserving cultural authenticity and promoting sustainable practices. The intentional decision to employ locally sourced materials strengthens the robustness of traditional architecture and promotes a feeling of place. By using local materials, traditional architecture is strengthened and cultural treasures are protected while structures are built. 

Cultural Adaptation to Modern Materials

Within architectural practices, the dynamic junction of tradition and current innovation is represented by cultural adaptation to new materials. Communities frequently engage in a delicate balancing, combining new materials while keeping the specific aesthetics and building processes that characterize their cultural identity, in response to changing requirements and shifting terrain. This adaptable method demonstrates the tenacity of cultural influences in influencing the built environment in addition to being a practical reaction to technology improvements.

 But this move to more contemporary materials is a subtle progression that respects both heritage and advancement, not a break from cultural roots. Communities all around may use materials like steel, glass, concrete, and composite materials in their architectural repertory. The adaptation of modern materials often manifests in innovative designs that reinterpret traditional architectural motifs or incorporate ancient building principles in novel ways.  For example, traditional patterns may be etched onto modern glass facades or indigenous construction techniques may be integrated with steel structures. 

Craftsmanship and Artistry

The significance of creativity and skill in the building process is emphasized by cultural influences on architecture. This emphasis on creativity goes beyond simple building to become a demonstration of identity, a celebration of cultural legacy, and a proof of the proficiency of ancient methods. The expertise of skilled artisans is sometimes required for customary construction methods, which contribute to the visual intricacy and uniqueness of architectural designs.

Architects and communities are increasingly incorporating these artisanal techniques into modern designs, creating a fusion. In modern architecture, the value of maintaining traditional workmanship is becoming increasingly apparent. This longevity further reinforces the sustainability of traditional crafts and their enduring value in the face of modernization. Furthermore, traditional building techniques’ intrinsic workmanship adds to a structure’s lifespan and durability. Apprenticeships and familial teachings ensure the continuity of these skills, preserving not only the techniques but also the cultural significance embedded in each craft.

Technological Advancements

Incorporation of Modern Materials

Cultural influences on architectural styles dynamically respond to technological advancements, and one notable manifestation of this evolution is the incorporation of modern materials. Glass, steel, and composite materials are examples of advances that cultures that embrace the potential presented by modern technologies frequently use in their architectural designs. Because of their engineered qualities, composite materials give architects hitherto unheard-of options in terms of both form and function. Steel is utilized to construct soaring buildings that transform skylines due to its strength and versatility.  

The incorporation of modern materials often results in architectural designs that transcend traditional boundaries, reflecting a synthesis of cultural identity and contemporary aspirations. Modern materials, when creatively applied to cultural facilities and reflected on the surfaces of metropolitan skyscrapers, clearly have the power to influence a culture’s engagement with the potential of the present. Architects may reinterpret traditional motifs or draw inspiration from cultural symbolism, creating designs that seamlessly blend heritage with modernity. 

Digital Fabrication and 3D Printing

Cultures embracing the forefront of these technologies are poised to revolutionize architectural expression. As innovation develops, computerized manufacturing and three-dimensional printing have transformed forms in architecture.  From ornate façades and filigree-like patterns to customized structural elements, the possibilities become virtually limitless.  These technologies’ accuracy and complexity enable the creation of extremely intricate and customized architectural elements, allowing buildings to become unique manifestations of cultural identity.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR are strong instruments in the building landscape that are molded by creative design methods and cultural preferences. AR and VR are used by cultures that accept technology as a fundamental component of their identity to realize architectural ideals.  AR enhances real-world environments by overlaying digital information onto physical spaces. In architectural presentations, this can mean superimposing digital models onto existing landscapes, allowing stakeholders to witness proposed structures in the context of their surroundings. Users can virtually step into architectural designs, exploring spaces as if physically present.

The cultural nuances of a community often influence the creative use of AR and VR in architectural presentations. For instance, cultural symbolism and aesthetics can be seamlessly integrated into virtual environments, allowing stakeholders to experience designs in a cultural context. By adding cultural components, architectural visualization’s narrative potential is increased and a stronger bond is made between the design and the cultural identity it symbolizes.

Tech-Inspired Aesthetics

The visual language of technology becomes an inspiration in the field of aesthetics, where cultural impacts on architectural forms are evident. Technology aesthetics are having an increasingly big impact on architectural designs, leading to structures with futuristic shapes, sleek surfaces, and distinct lines. This shift in aesthetics reflects a society that values technological precision and innovation, creating a visual narrative in the built environment.

Structures with glass facades, geometric accuracy, and minimalist design components speak to the values of efficiency, utility, and advancement through their visual language. The integration of tech-inspired aesthetics into architectural forms reflects a cultural fascination with the promise offered by cutting-edge technologies. The appreciation of technology manifests itself in the very buildings that shape the urban and cultural environment, and this aesthetic progression becomes a dynamic statement of cultural identity. A visual conversation that crosses conventional limits is produced by the use of materials like steel and glass as well as the focus on streamlined shapes.

  • Cultural Influences Seen in Indian Architectural Styles

Religious diversity has profoundly impacted Indian architecture. The simplicity of Sikh gurdwaras and the spiritual symbolism embedded in Buddhist stupas further contribute to the mosaic of religious architectural expressions. Traditional Vastu Shastra, an ancient architectural science, underscores the cultural belief in creating spaces that harmonize with natural forces. The colonial period introduced Western influences, resulting in a blend of Indo-Saracenic styles that can be seen in structures like the Victoria Memorial. 

Cave and rock-cut architecture 

The ancient era’s first communities were built in caverns. Popular Buddhist caves are those in Ajanta, Ellora, and Aurangabad. Popular examples of cave and rock-cut temples that were constructed are Ellora caves, Elephanta caverns, Amarnath temple, and Badami caves. The use of caves as dwellings predates recorded history, providing natural shelters for prehistoric communities.  However, the transition from mere shelters to elaborately carved rock-cut structures marked a significant development in architectural expression.

 India’s cave and rock-cut architectural traditions have developed over time to represent a cultural and religious continuity that has preserved the core of spiritual expression while adjusting to shifting social circumstances.  Hewn into the rocky terrain, these caves were essential places of refuge for monks and ascetics pursuing spiritual enlightenment.   Hinduism also adopted rock-cut architecture for temple construction. The Kailasa Temple at Ellora, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a remarkable example of a monolithic rock-cut structure.

Jainism, another ancient Indian religion, has its share of cave temples. The Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Odisha exemplify Jain rock-cut architecture, featuring inscriptions, sculptures, and cave dwellings. In India, Buddhist monks and artisans carved elaborate cave temples as places of worship and meditation. The Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra are renowned examples, featuring intricate sculptures and paintings depicting Buddhist teachings.

Ellora Caves 
Photo by Setu Chhaya of Ellora Caves 

Temple Architecture

Temple architecture represents the spiritual, creative, and architectural development of various civilizations. Indian temple architecture and style are frequently influenced by the “Shilpa Shastras,” a collection of architectural manuals. The elaborate features, vivid colors, and symbolic components infused throughout the construction enhance the devotees’ overall sensory experience. The primary deity is housed in the temple’s central sanctuary, or garbhagriha, whose architecture varies according to local customs.

 Mostly found in Northern India, the Nagara style is distinguished by a shikhara that is curved and has a tower fashioned like a beehive. Found in Southern India, the Dravida style features a pyramidal tower (vimana) with a square base and multiple levels. The Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur is an iconic Dravida-style temple. A fusion of Nagara and Dravida styles, Vesara is commonly found in central India. The Khajuraho Group of Temples exhibits Vesara characteristics.

Brihadeshwara Temple
Image by Manfred Sommer Brihadeshwara Temple

Numerous temples have a mandala (geometric pattern) layout that symbolizes the universe’s order and acts as a cosmic diagram. By the cardinal directions, temples are frequently oriented such that the main entrance faces east, signifying the advent of good energy and the rising sun. Temples often have tanks or wells with sacred waters for ritual purification. Temples not only embody spiritual symbolism but also stand as architectural masterpieces that have endured through centuries.

Indo-Islamic architecture

Large domes, thin minarets with cupolas, ornamental gardens, arcades, and delicate decoration are characteristics of Islamic architecture that make it immediately recognizable. An emblem with profound cultural origins in India, the lotus motif is frequently used in Indo-Islamic building architecture. The architecture includes raised dome-shaped pavilions, known as chhatris, which are traditional Indian structures. Many structures feature the Persian-inspired char bagh (four-part) garden layout, with geometrically arranged quadrants. Buildings often have open courtyards, reflecting the Indian emphasis on open spaces.

Tall, slender towers with intricate detailing, are used for the call to prayer. The Qutub Minar in Delhi is a notable example. Some structures incorporate shikhara-style towers, influenced by traditional Indian temple architecture.  Mughal and Persian design features are combined in the Taj Mahal. Jama Masjid in Delhi features a vast courtyard and three imposing domes.

Jama Masjid 
Photo by Chattrapal (Shitij)  Singh of Jama Masjid 


The architecture often integrates Western Gothic and Renaissance styles with traditional Indian and Islamic motifs, resulting in grand structures.  An enduring legacy that maintains a concrete link to India’s architectural and historical past is the Indo-Saracenic style. Beyond merely being a stylistic decision, Indo-Saracenic architecture captures the intricate cultural contacts and influences that molded India’s architectural environment during a critical juncture in its history.

The incorporation of European architectural styles into Indian architecture gave rise to this style. For a considerable amount of time, the British Empire ruled, and numerous structures still bear cultural and architectural remnants. A combination of Gothic and Indian architectural components resulted in features such as onion domes, Bengali roofs with curves, minarets, jalis, jharokhas, and various arches.

Photo by Kulish Rawal Of Victoria Memorial 

Indo-Saracenic architecture is a distinctive and eclectic fusion. The design frequently incorporates elements of European Gothic and Moorish architecture. Included are typical Indian elements like chhatris, raised pavilions, and jharokhas, or balconies. The Victoria Memorial is a grand marble building dedicated to Queen Victoria, featuring a blend of Indo-Saracenic and classical European styles. With its domes, and fine workmanship, the Mysore palace is a building that displays Indo-Saracenic elements. University of Mumbai Library (Rajabai Clock Tower) in Mumbai is a Gothic-inspired tower with Indian detailing, reflecting the Indo-Saracenic style.

 A Fascinating Journey of Cultural Influences on Architecture The materials chosen, the building techniques, and the design's symbolic significance all reflect these cultural influences. Throughout history, different structures have reflected the standards of living of the people,  from ancient civilizations to modern cities. The incorporation of symbols in architecture is one way that cultural heritage impacts the design. Every culture uses a distinctive repertoire of symbols to convey views and ethical convictions.  Cultural


Ignoring the rich historical elements that each component of the design brought to the local culture, public structures came to represent the dominant colonial authority.  By using domes and arches repeatedly, Indo-Saracenic architecture boldly expresses dynamism while departing from the style of Indian temple buildings.  The Indo-Saracenic design ignored climatology, vernacular notions, and the fundamentals of Vaastu philosophy.

Architecture reproduces intangible concepts into a space and speaks volumes about the 

socio-cultural elements of a place. Evolving cultural values and ideas are carefully considered and are distinct to a community and have endured over many years. One of the best examples of turning external assessment into an inside viewpoint of thought is seen in the design of temples. Religious buildings have long used architecture to express their underlying principles. A forceful statement about the culture is made by the components’ symbolism, the way spaces transition, scale, lighting, horizontal and vertical planes, and every other detail.