Portal:Architecture

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Architecture from the Greek ἀρχι- (archi), meaning first, prime, or chief, and τέκτων (tekton) meaning builder. It is a multi-disciplinary field, including within its fold mathematics and geometry, science, art, technology, social sciences, politics, history, philosophy, and so on. The first architect known by name was Imhotep from ancient Egypt. According to the Roman architectural writer Vitruvius "Architecture is an art, arising out of many other arts, and adorned with much and varied learning: by the help of which a judgement is formed of those works which are the result of other arts". He added that an architect should be well versed in fields such as music, astronomy and philosophy. That holds true to this day. "Architectural philosophy" is frequently used to describe the approach of an architect; for example, modernism, rationalism, empiricism, minimalism, postmodernism are some of the philosophical directions influencing architecture.

Architecture is seldom a "pure art", like painting and sculpture, as the human interaction with a building is usually practical as well as aesthetic. Thus the architect must make sure that the design conforms with the purpose of the building, the legal requirements in the area, as well as the practical and cultural concerns of the people who will use it. For example, a private home might have one bathroom, used by both sexes, but cultural norms and local building codes may dictate that a public building have separate restrooms for men and women. So that his design will best serve the people who will use the building, the architect must take great care with such mundane matters as the efficient placement of heating and cooling ducts, plumbing for restrooms and kitchens, conduits for electrical and communication lines, etc. Her designs must also take into account the environment into which the building will be placed. Where good building sites are scarce or expensive, it is often more practical to build structures that take up comparatively little ground but have many stories; in areas that do not have these constraints, a building that consist of a single, large story or several separate buildings may be more suitable. Disasters, both natural and man-made, must be taken into account. Today many architects of large buildings run computer simulations to see how their designs will react to a many different stresses -- from hundred year storms to aircraft collisions. Thus architecture is, with very few exceptions, a marriage of the aesthetic and the practical.

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Pyramid of Userkaf

The Pyramid complex of Userkaf was built c. 2490 BC for the pharaoh Userkaf (reign 2494–2487 BC), founder of the 5th dynasty of Egypt (c. 2494–2345 BC). It is located in the pyramid field at Saqqara, on the north-east of the Step pyramid of Djoser (reigned ca. 2670 BC). Constructed in dressed stone with a core of rubble, the pyramid is now ruined and resembles a conical hill in the sands of Saqqara. For this reason, it is known locally as El-Haram el-Maharbish, the "Heap of Stone" and was recognized as a royal pyramid by western archaeologists in the 19th century.

Userkaf's pyramid is part of a larger mortuary complex comprising a mortuary temple, an offering chapel and a cult pyramid as well as separate pyramid and mortuary temple for Userkaf's wife, queen Neferhetepes. Userkaf's mortuary temple and cult pyramid are today completely ruined and difficult to recognize. The pyramid of the queen is no more than a mound of rubble, with its funerary chamber exposed by stone robbers.

The complex is markedly different from those built during the 4th Dynasty (c. 2613–2494 BC) in its size, architecture and location, being at Saqqara rather than Gizah. As such, Userkaf's pyramid complex could be a manifestation of the profound changes in the ideology of kingship that took place between the 4th and 5th dynasties, changes that may have started during the reign of Userkaf's likely immediate predecessor, Shepseskaf. Some 1500 years after its construction, the pyramid complex was restored under Ramses II. During the much later Saite period (664–525 BC), it was used as a cemetery.

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Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Taj Mahal, Agra, India (ca. 1632-53)

Photo credit: Yann

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