Architecture and design - a global comparison

3 Sep 2015
Some might say that as long as humans have existed, so too has architecture, or at the very least the dual desires that inspired architecture – the need to create shelter and the urge to build something, be it beautiful, functional or monumental.

Of course over time the design of our buildings have taken many forms. Architectural styles develop along with the changing needs and characteristics of various societies. Architectural eras are determined by several factors: the environment, weather conditions, construction abilities, construction limitations, religion and traditions, access to materials, access to knowledge and finally, influence. The Egyptians influenced the Greeks; the Greeks influenced the Romans; and so on and so on. Each era forms the foundation on which the next era is built.

We take a look at a few fascinating architecture and design styles from around the world and consider how those styles have progressed over time.


Japanese architecture

Traditional Japanese buildings are wooden structures that are elevated off the ground and feature roofs of tile or thatch. Their use of sliding doors instead of walls masterfully allowed spaces to be altered for various settings and occasions. Western architecture began to influence typical styles from the 19th century and these days in bigger cities like Tokyo, cutting-edge contemporary designs are ubiquitous. And considering the high volumes of people in a relatively small area, designers and architects have had to become smarter with the efficient use of space.

Architecture and design - a global comparison

Icelandic architecture

Although strongly influenced by Scandinavia, the absence of native trees on the island of Iceland meant that traditionally grass and turf-covered houses were constructed over the more common Scandinavian wooden structure. Because of Iceland’s harsh climate a superior form of insulation was needed. Step in ‘the Icelandic turf house’. At a time of limited materials, these grass-covered constructions provided extra warmth and protection than a mere wood or stone shelter would.

As time and fashions progressed, the Swiss chalet style became popular and with the introduction of functionalism stone and concrete were more widely used. The island consists mainly of low-rise buildings but in more recent times some skyscrapers were erected in Reykjavik as well as architectural feats like the Harpa, the country’s concert hall.

  Architecture and design - a global comparison

Spanish architecture

Containing the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, Spain has no shortage of architecture and design gems to marvel at. A look at the nation’s architecture offers a glimpse into a country steeped in history. From the civil engineering brought to the country when it was conquered by Rome to the Gothic influence from Germany and Italy before a Renaissance style swept through the great cities resulting in neo-classic constructions like the world-renown Museo del Prado. In a country of such great influences – Roman, Moorish and Christian to name a few – it’s no surprise that the 19th century welcomed in the movement of Eclecticism, in which architects embraced a variety of styles from the past while simultaneously introducing new materials such as ironwork and glass that had been brought about through the Industrial Revolution.
When it comes to Spanish architecture and design there is perhaps no more famous name than Gaudi. In the 20th century he brought his signature style of Catalan Modernism to Barcelona and adorned the city with these architectural artworks. Today Spain is the proud custodian of a number of modern and contemporary masterpieces. The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is one fine example. Architecture today has changed to accommodate greener initiatives and housing which requires less maintenance and takes into account a more modern lifestyle. Contemporary villas in Calpe dot the Spanish coastline, effortlessly fitting in with the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Architecture and design - a global comparison

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