Structure is everywhere. Structure is everything. The natural order, society, our physical being – all are given form, meaning, cohesion through their inherent structures. By definition, structure orchestrates a harmonious relation between elements of a complex, greater whole. All that is given merit or integrity in this world achieves it through structure.
Structure generates that which gives humans utmost joy in life – personal relationships and natural beauty. Social structure governs humans’ function in society to maintain order and productivity. Social structure guides our relationships with others through social institutions, organizations, and all the way down to the family unit. Each person in society serves as an element of a greater whole – the functioning of society perpetuated by the varied individual functions of a populace brought together cohesively.
Natural structure pervades every scale of our world. It minimizes material, streamlines function, and maximizes beauty. Honeycombs are perfect hexagons because they require the least perimeter to enclose, optimally minimizing wax and bees’ labor. Raindrops fall in spherical shapes due to surface tension, generating the least amount of surface area compared to any other shape encompassing the same volume. These same droplets form with the morning dew, cascading down waxy leaves. An orb spider web is unfailingly constructed within a single plane.
Structure of Structure
A chain always hangs in a catenary curve, perfectly distributing tension forces throughout the material. This natural world is given structure through the laws of physics. Eternal existence. Perpetual. Only recently have humans begun to understand, postulate equations, and associate names with certain physical phenomena we perceive in the world – quantified connections and defined relationships. There is an internal fulfillment that occurs when that which is beautiful in nature can be described, and replicated, using mathematics and algorithms. As humans, we subconsciously seek connections with the rest of life, exhibiting a psychological disposition of attraction to that which is also alive in this world. It is beautiful and enriches the soul, while also offering a higher function of economy and optimization.
Who are we to say we can create structure that is superior to that of nature? Our own existence relies on it, it would be folly to turn elsewhere. Structure pervades every part of our being and cannot be escaped. It becomes internalized in the structure of our DNA, our cells, our bones, and then works its way out again through the mind, the hand, the eye of the architect.
Structure and architecture are synonymous.
Structure gives organization, stability, beauty, and an exalted purpose to architecture. Structure must be exposed, celebrated, and elevated as part of architectural design. Architecture must be the physical manifestation that allows society to inherently feel and understand the wonder of the connection between physical forces, mathematical equations, graphical form, and human perception. Form must not only follow function, but also embrace the fact that form is function. Load bearing structure must be liminal. It must be articulated and function simultaneously as interior and exterior, structure and architecture.
The structure of our disjointed building industry must be restructured. We must move towards interdisciplinary building. We must return to architecture as a gesamtkunstwerk in a way, where each component of a building – which in truth should not be viewed as separate components at all – must be considered and designed in light of all the others. There can be no separation of architect and engineer. They are one in the same.
Architecture must be constructed with adept craft, but in a way that celebrates the structure rather than the craftsman. The materials must express the purpose and function of the structure. They must be crafted in a way that beckons the inhabitants to linger upon each edge, each texture, allowing them to understand the structural systems at work in the building. Materiality should be rich and sensual, but ornament should be nonexistent, so as to highlight structural forms rather than superfluous details.
Inspiration of Structure
Structure originates in nature! Architects must look to the environment for biomimetic inspiration. Nature should not be used as mere aesthetic precedent, but should be studied through its various functions, structures, and processes. Anything other than this approach becomes mere ornament. We must learn from the structures of nature, rather than extract from it – as nature exhibits perfectly engineered solutions to many challenges we face in the building industry today, and thus provides a wealth of knowledge and design inspiration. Draw near to the structural bones of nature – for this is the foundation of true architecture.