How to choose an architectural style?

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Boka B
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How to choose an architectural style?

Post by Boka B »

Hello there. I have created quite a bit of worlds so far and many of them are quite advancedly developed, but I am a bit stuck at one thing: architectural styles. How should I choose appropriate ones?What factors shape a culture's architecture?
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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Climate
Different climatic zones tend to require different building materials; adobe in the deserts of the American Southwest, timber-based houses in areas with heavy forest cover and so on.
Also in areas with a rainy season, houses can be built on stilts.

Economics
In modern architecture, certain materials may be preferred because they are cheap in bulk. For example, Brutalist architecture used most (in)famously by the Soviets, but also by government and corporate clients worldwide, is based off of raw concrete because it is cheaper to purchase and use. Also, businesses can prefer skyscrapers because they are clearly visible (usually with the company's name or logo written on top), and are closer to clients and customers saving transport costs.

Ideology
Architecture can be built in particular styles for ideological reasons, or to showcase the strength of an ideology. Fascist and Nazi architects preferred designing buildings of imposing scale both to show the strength of their regimes and to help create "mass experiences".
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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Habitus of Body, Mind & Spirit

Are any of your peoples tall and thin? Are they short or squat? Do they have wings? Are they semiaquatic or aerial? Are they half humanoid half zebroid half paravian? A race's basic shape and form will impact architecture as well. Winged people will not get along in a standard proportioned modern occidental house. Code minimums of seven foot ceilings and 3 foot hallways just won't do! A short, squat race might find a seven foot ceiling to be palatial, but might rather a seven foot wide hallway! A race who requires a lot of living space might find even a stadium is a touch on the small side.

Culture

The culture of a people will also dictate some matters of architecture. Not just the aesthesis of a building, but how the structure functions within the context of a particular cultural expression. Consider squat vs throne toilets, female vs male urinals. How about a toilet facility for a centaur or a wereoliphant? What if the race in question is naturally incontinent of bowel or bladder? Or what if they have one orifice for everything? What if they use some kind of excretory concoction to mark pathways or express ownership or relationship? They might have specially set aside spaces for marking the ownership of a guest or visitor. They might need to develop wall and floor elements & treatments that can be cleaned but not remove culturally significant marks.
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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I lurk.
Soon I may contribute.
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elemtilas
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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eldin raigmore wrote: 23 Sep 2021 16:48 I lurk.
Soon I may contribute.
I hope so! You might be able to speak to mercentaur architecture, and millions of other architectures across your invented oecumene.
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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eldin raigmore wrote: 23 Sep 2021 16:48 I lurk.
Soon I may contribute.
So, what are your thoughts?
Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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Boka B wrote: 22 Sep 2021 23:23 Hello there. I have created quite a bit of worlds so far and many of them are quite advancedly developed, but I am a bit stuck at one thing: architectural styles. How should I choose appropriate ones?What factors shape a culture's architecture?
I'd break this down into:
- environmental needs
- environmental resources
- technology
- tradition and skeuomorphy
- ineluctible tastes


Your first issue is going to be asking what the environment pressures your people to build. Is it a cold climate? Then your buildings will have to be warm - heavy, solidly-built, huddled around itself. And centred around fireplaces and chimneys. Or is it hot? Then your buildings will be lighter, airier, more willing to sprawl and less keen likely to climb - more windows, more courtyards, more colonades and verandas to provide shade. And potentially lighter building materials. If it's hot enough, perhaps the incorporation of water rather than fire - pools, cisterns, fountains - and there's the possibility of cooling systems (both kinds of windcatcher*). Are you expecting high winds? Then align your house correctly, tie your roof on and avoid overhangs (or break them up). Do you have a lot of rain, or, worse, snow? Then you should probably avoid flat rooves - the more snow, the pointier the rooves are likely to get. Whereas if you're in a dry area, you may as well just give it a flat roof and be done with it. And does your rain turn into flooding? Then consider stilts!

Your second issue is resources - building materials. The easiest thing to build with is wood, so wood is likely to be the main building material, if you have plenty of it. It's also a good material if you need warmth. However, wood is less permanent - so may be dispreferred for major projects (temples, palaces, etc) - and also prone to catastrophic fires (so it'll be dispreferred once your population is clustered into sufficiently large cities. It's also harder to make large structures with wood - not impossible, but harder. And of course the fire and permanence problems also cause it to be dispreferred for defensive structures. Oh, and wood is weaker than stone in compression, so you can't put too much weight on it.

Your next option is likely to be stone. If you have good building stone in the area, you can build strong, permanent (almost literally!) structures. But stone also has problems. It's not immediately obvious how to build even large rooms with it, let alone large buildings - at first, you're limited to rooms the width of the largest stone you can find. It's very hard to work, which makes it inherently expensive. And it's surprisingly uncommon - if you don't have good stone around, you may have to transport it large distances, and stone is expensive to ship. This is particularly true if you're relying on stone you find lying around, rather than being able to conduct extensive quarrying of your own. Stone is also a cold material - great in hot climates, bad in cold ones.

And then there's brick. Mud brick has the advantage that you can just make your own relatively easily - but it's also weak, and won't really work if you have a wet climate. Clay bricks are harder to make because you need good clay, but are stronger and more durable. All bricks are basically like weaker - but cheaper - stone. [they're warmer than stone, but colder than wood]

And then there's technology. You can't build what you don't understand how to build.

Here we should introduce one of the key concepts in architecture: trabeation vs arcuation. These are two different ways to approach the problem of how to span a gap - which you need if you want a roof, but also if you ever want a window.

Trabeate solutions work on an essentially post-and-lintel model: to cover a space, you put a strong vertical post on either side of the space, and then put a lintel across the top of them. Trabeation is technologically the simplest and hence the most universal solution. In addition to being easy to understand and to build, it has the advantage that all the weight is directed down the vertical posts, so they don't need anything on either side of them. This enables frame-like structures of posts and lintels, with some of the spaces between posts left open, and others closed up with materials that DON'T have to be weight-bearing (this can be insulating material, like layers of wattle and straw, or non-insulating material, like palm leaves or paper, depending on climate needs).

But trabeation has a big problem: the span of your gap is limited to the length of your building material. If your building material is brick, you are therefore buggered. If it's stone, you're still in difficulty - you CAN find stones big enough to cover a small room, but it's not cheap. Your best bet is wood - you can find some really tall trees, plus wood can easily be nailed together into longer bits of wood. But there's a second part to this problem: the weight you can put on the gap is limited by how strong your material is when it's being bent. And the first question is whether it can even bear its own weight. Stone isn't actually that great at this - although it's great in compression, it does tend to shear under tension, so even if you could find a long enough stone to cover a big gap, it might just snap. Wood is better, but it still tends to bend and then snap when you put weight on it - particularly if you are having to join bits of wood together, where the joint may be weaker than the wood itself.

As a result, trabeation tends to limit the size of your spans. In other words, you need a lot of columns. Either your rooms will be small, or they will be filled with columns - it's hard to create big open spaces. With brick, this problem is fatal. With stone, it limits you to very small chambers. With wood, you can build big enough rooms for comfortable vernacular purposes, but you're going to struggle if you want to build cathedrals, or public baths or imperial debating chambers or whatever.

Hence: arcuation! Arcuate solutions instead span gaps by creating arches. The advantage of an arch is that it can be made of small parts, and strength in tension is less important (all parts of the arch are being compressed). This allows you to use bricks to span gaps, or small stones. It's also stronger than a trabeate lintel - you can put a lot of weight on it, which means you can build bigger and higher.

But there's two problems with arches. First, they don't direct all the weight downward - instead, some of it is directed sideways. If an arch is just supporting itself, that's often not a problem, if the columns are sturdy. But once you start putting walls and rooves and suchlike onto an arch, you're in trouble. The columns supporting the arch aren't just pushed down, they're pushed sideways. To counteract that push, you need either a solid mass of weight on either side, or more arches pushing the other way. The first solution there leads to solid walls - rather than the frame-and-filler structure you can build with trabeation. Using more arches lets you get back to a frame-like structure, but it stops working when you get to the ends of your wall. Essentially, arcuate buildings are constantly trying to fall outward, and have to be actively pushed together to keep them upright. This also causes problems when you want to make one arch rest on another - as when you want an arched roof to rest on walls containing arched windows, as the window arch cannot resist the sideways force from the roof arch.

And here's the second problem: that's complicated. Even building an arch is counterintuitive. Most societies never discovered the arch - there aren't any true arches in the pre-Columbian New World, for example. Or in most of prehistory. Early attempts at arches (and those in the New World) were actually 'corbelled' - that is, composed of horizontal members progressively stepped inward, to create a serrated triangular space. Thes allow bigger spaces than using a single lintel, but are much less effective than true arches (and they have to be very tall!). Once arches were discovered, there remained the problem of them making everything fall outward - as a result, the earliest arches are generally underground (tombs, cisterns, etc), where the earth itself can act as the abutment (the weight that resists the arch). These were followed by structures with single arches and massive abutments - mostly city gates and single-arch bridges, and only then by structures like multi-arch bridges (which is the stage where China mostly stopped, and where India stopped until the Islamic invasions). It was only in the Roman Empire that arches were developed into a full architectural solution. Arch technology then continued for thousands of years, up to the 20th century.

Some key inventions:
- corbel arches
- beehive (corbel) domes
- true (semicircular) arches
- vaults - arches arranged in a continuous line
- domes - arches rotated into a circle
- squinches - corbelled or diagonal triangular elements to mount a circular dome on a square room
- cloister vaults - polygonal domes (Roman invention)
- groin vaults - incorporating window arches into the vault, requiring complex geometry (involving cloister vaults) (Roman)
- segmental arches - realising the arch doesn't have to be a semicircle, allowing lower/wider arches (Roman)
- skewed and lopsided arches (Roman, I think?)
- ocular domes - realising you don't actually need the top of the dome, which can be left empty or can support something else (Roman)
- arches in spandrels - realising the cuved bits above an arch and below a roof or bridge or lintel can themselves be filled with arches (Roman)
- pendentives - replacing squinches with arc sections, enabling higher compound domes (late Roman)
- using semidomes to provide abutment to domes (late Roman, rediscovered by Ottomans)
- catenary arches and domes - taller arches that are able to stand by themselves without abutment (repeatedly approximated in small structures by trial and error, developed on a large scale by the Sassanids, later reinvented in the early modern era)
- pointed arches - taller arches producing less lateral load (mediaeval invention)
- rib vaults, fan vaults, tiercerons and liernes - improving groin vaults by reducing the vaulting to complex patterns of intersecting arches with differing geometries, enabling lighter rooves and walls (largely mediaeval)
- flying buttresses - moving the abutments outside the building (mediaeval)
- ribbed domes (mostly mediaeval and byzantine)
- hammerbeams - arches sitting on cantilevered lintel-beams (mediaeval)
- tiebeams - full lintel beams used not for support, but to counteract spreading forces from an overhead arch
- drums - cylinders intervening between domes and pendentives (renaissance)
- oval domes (renaissance)
- four-pointed arches - flatter arches to create more space for doorways (renaissance)
- domes on domes (renaissance)
- false domes - domes inside domes (renaissance)
- chains and rings - physically holding domes together with metal (renaissance)
- parabolic arches - creating more spreading force, but able to carry more weight (modern era).

The need to invent all of this stuff - and all the mathematics and the practical techniques required to design and then build it - limits the spread and use of arcuate architecture, and helps distinguish different cultures, which are likely to differ in which arcuate techniques they are comfortable with.


*one kind literally catches the wind - a tower with an opening facing the wind, which diverts wind down to ground level. The more useful kind does the opposite: the opening in the tower faces away from the wind, and the wind creates a vortex that sucks air up the tower, either from ground level or from a cistern.


But then there's tradition. Architecture is inherently conservative - both because important buildings (and building are almost always important to somebody) tend to draw on continuity and established systems of meaning, and also simply because they're very expensive and potentially dangerous, which discourages experimentation. So buildings generally follow - while developing - existing traditions. Even a strikingly new building is likely to be based on an older building - this both makes the architecture 'understandable' and meaningful for people, and also makes it easier for the builders. So there's a degree of path-dependency. You can see this, for instance, in how most large (and many small) Christian churches, up to the 20th century, were essentially just slightly evolved Roman secular basilicas - and many still take much of their exteral appearance, if not their internal plan, from Greek temples. Rather than start from scratch, architects simply repurposed what they already knew.

The most extreme form of this is skeuomorphy, in which shapes determined by the logic of one practice are continued even when that logic has been completely obliterated - often, one material is made to imitate another. The classic example of this is the way that some styles of Greek temple still preserve the exposed lintel-ends, cut to obscure the rough ends in shadow (the 'triglyph'), as well as the ends of the individual rafters (the 'dentils'), and the pegs that hold all the beams together (the 'guttae') - despite the fact that they are now made of stone and have no actual carpentry function anymore. Another example is the Chinese tradition of concave rooves - an attempt to imitate in wood the natural effect created by the palm rooves of southeast asia. (also demonstrating that sometimes exoticism is as important as tradition).

Which takes us to taste: people just like stuff. Some stuff happens for no serious reason, but just because people like the look of it. And once something becomes a feature, it is often exaggerated and amplified and iterated out of any proportion to its original origin, becoming a distinctive part of a local architectural style. There's no logical reason why the Chinese adopted concave rooves - or why some southeast asian cultures have focused on them and amplified them to extreme levels, while others have not. It's possible that the russian onion dome had some genuine use originally, but nothing made them go crazy with them, covering every surface in the damn things, often reducing them to nothing more than balls on sticks.

Sometimes a feature has symbolic importance - although this is genuinely something attached to an existing feature, not the cause of it. The addition of transepts to a basilica was not originally symbolic, just a way to create more space (they originally formed a T)... but no doubt the fact that they could turn a chuch into a cross-shape was a big reason why they become ubiquitous in cathedral design. The Minangkabau prize their horned roofs in part because of the symbolic association with the water buffalo that forms part of their ethnonym... but they were probably originally just the result of natural bowing of old wooden beams, later imitated and amplified by fashion.

More generally, different cultures have different priorities - aesthetic and cultural. English cathedrals were famous for their soaring spires - whereas the French preferred high naves. Both demonstrate a preoccupation with height, compared to the religious buildings of many other cultures (the Chinese seem to have preferred broad, imposing facades for their important buildings, as the Romans generally did). Catholic cathedrals emphasised length - the lay congregation seated in a long nave (the most powerful nearer the front), kept separate from the holy sanctuary on the far side of the transept; as a result, mediaeval Europe pioneered exciting forms of vaulting. By contrast, Islamic and Evangelical Christian architectue tends to emphasise wider, more inclusive areas to maximise how many people can hear the speaker clearly - so the Ottomans concentrated on ways to combine domes and semidomes to create huge indoor spaces without columns. And so on.



So, a lot of architecture is just random taste. But it generally evolves logically from what has gone before, and in a dialogue between the environmental needs and resources and the cultural priorities of those who use it...

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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

Post by eldin raigmore »

Boka B wrote: 24 Sep 2021 13:39 So, what are your thoughts?
So far my thoughts are “look at Salmoneus’s post and figure out how to apply it to each of the seven species I have thought of so far”.
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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Salmoneus wrote: 24 Sep 2021 23:02
Enjoy your life and all the best!
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Boka B
Please stop that. If you really want to attach this to every post, you can add it as a 'signature' in your profile...
So, is there now a rule against manual signatures? If there's no House Rule specifically forbidding this practice, and it's just one of you many pet peeves, perhaps just let Boka B do this is peace? I find it a very friendly, if retro, practice.

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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

Post by Boka B »

elemtilas wrote: 27 Sep 2021 03:32
Salmoneus wrote: 24 Sep 2021 23:02
Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

Boka B
Please stop that. If you really want to attach this to every post, you can add it as a 'signature' in your profile...
So, is there now a rule against manual signatures? If there's no House Rule specifically forbidding this practice, and it's just one of you many pet peeves, perhaps just let Boka B do this is peace? I find it a very friendly, if retro, practice.

Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

elemtilas
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Considering the fact that I hardly ever use jargon on Internet you can be sure that you are indeed my bro!
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

Post by Dormouse559 »

Boka B wrote: 27 Sep 2021 12:30
elemtilas wrote: 27 Sep 2021 03:32
Salmoneus wrote: 24 Sep 2021 23:02
Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

Boka B
Please stop that. If you really want to attach this to every post, you can add it as a 'signature' in your profile...
So, is there now a rule against manual signatures? If there's no House Rule specifically forbidding this practice, and it's just one of you many pet peeves, perhaps just let Boka B do this is peace? I find it a very friendly, if retro, practice.

Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

elemtilas
My bro!
Considering the fact that I hardly ever use jargon on Internet you can be sure that you are indeed my bro!
Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

Boka B
There isn't a particular rule against manual signatures. That said, it might be a courtesy to use the automatic feature, because a user can arrange their settings to hide automatic signatures.
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

Post by eldin raigmore »

Dormouse559 wrote: 27 Sep 2021 18:23 There isn't a particular rule against manual signatures. That said, it might be a courtesy to use the automatic feature, because a user can arrange their settings to hide automatic signatures.
There is?! I didn’t know that! How?
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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eldin raigmore wrote: 28 Sep 2021 01:38
Dormouse559 wrote: 27 Sep 2021 18:23 There isn't a particular rule against manual signatures. That said, it might be a courtesy to use the automatic feature, because a user can arrange their settings to hide automatic signatures.
There is?! I didn’t know that! How?
On the User Control Panel, go to the "Board preferences" tab, then click "Edit display options". You can then choose "yes" or "no" on the "Display signatures" option.
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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

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Boka B wrote: 27 Sep 2021 12:30 My bro!
Considering the fact that I hardly ever use jargon on Internet you can be sure that you are indeed my bro!
Enjoy your life and all the best!
Have a suuuuperior day!

Boka B
I quit .sigs a while ago; but I do like yours!

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Re: How to choose an architectural style?

Post by Torco »

An easy to overlook thing here is climatization. this is the reason buildings exist in the first place. like, sure, ziggurats are nice and all but almost all buildings are houses and/or workplaces, and they exist because being outside is inconvenient. Of course, this means people use more buildings the more inconvenient that it is to be outside, and the buildings are.... well... more built up the worse for human beings the environment is outside. Extreme cases of this might be a space colony and some sort of weatherless planet*. In the first, everything is buildings and in the second, it's not obvious that you'd get any, and at any rate they're unlikely to be very heavy ones: size, material and style will be influenced by technology and such, but ultimately buildings are functional things which people use, especially working people, which are the vast majority of any society.

*for example, countenance life evolving on a planet with an extremely high atmospheric density: the atmosphere so effectively stores, releases and moves around the uneven heating from the sun that the differences between night and day, poles and equator end up being one or two celsius: if this is a stable enough condition, then animals will just be quite good at surviving that temperature, say between 15 and 19 celsius. from the perspective of any builders in such a conworld it's not totally clear what thick stone walls and complex arrangements of arches are good for: if being outside is maximally convenient (say, also no rain or wind or nothing) maybe houses are just bunches of furniture. if you've played minecraft, you've done such a thing
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