I look up, I look back, and I look around

Architecture in the Real World.

That is the topic of the month for Architalks, led by Bob Borson. It’s truly a loaded topic. As I completed a schematic design package through the week, thoughts and ideas for the blog cluttered my mind – falling slabs and leaking roofs – phallic skyscrapers and the yonic stadiums – philanthropic small firm practitioner designing affordable housing for nonprofits – everyday buildings that I design for everyday functions of the community – What was it going to be? From Manitou Cliff Dwellings to Transamerica Pyramid to Artic Train Station in Anaheim, there is an architecture of a different style, different purpose wherever I look up- and I look around.Then I remembered my chat with AIA National on Twitter, and my response to them:  @MeghanaIRA @AIANational The ability to capture a culture and time period with a building drew me to architecture #AIAchat. Yes, architecture in real world is nothing but a time capsule that captured the present and vision of the perceived future.

And then there were walls, to protect and limit.

The Theopetra caves in Greece are the oldest known human-made structures, building 23,000 years ago. It was nothing but a stone wall covering 2/3rd on the entrance to a cave, mostly built as a barrier to the cold winds according to the research. Since then, the vision has been the same- devise a solution to the address the problems of the end user, of the community, and capture the significant cultural transitions. Later this year, 432 Park Avenue built in New York will be the tallest residential buildings in the world. From the Paleolithic to the Neolithic to the civilizations to the rise and fall of empires, architecture has captured every single journey of mankind.

The world’s oldest profession.

They say prostitution is the oldest profession- I disagree. Architecture must have been the world’s oldest profession. When that first brick was laid for that first building ever, it also laid foundation for the first communal life, and the first feature of a civilization. As communities developed, so did cities, and when the basic needs of shelter were satisfied, and defenses were built to fight against forces of nature, the desire to rule was born. Leaders were born, societies were formed, and empires were conceived. Then were born public spaces – the buildings to depict the glory of the ruler, the definition of the kingdom, and intricately weave the culture into the walls and ceilings that were otherwise simple enclosures.

Buildings for myth building.

Imhoteph is the first architect we know in the history of monumental architecture- elevating otherwise ordinary human beings to godly status because of their political status. It was all about the making that first column to support the building, and engineering the masonry to its finest detailing for Imhoteph, but the truth is, he was commissioned by the ruler to leave a lasting monument of his grandeur, his ideals and his principles, and his story in life and death- the tomb that glorified his existence. Was there for a moment, or a even fleeting moment a conflict in Imhoteph’s mind about greater moral responsibility he had for providing the people with better facilities  before he completely submitted his creativity and genius to the aspirations of Starchitecture- we will never know.

”For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust”

After Hitler rose to power, Nuremberg Rally became one of the largest Nazi propaganda events. 130 anti-aircraft search lights, neatly placed at an interval of 12 meters created virtual columns reaching the sky. Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s architect was commissioned to design the Nazi Party Rally grounds- mainly Zeppenfield. Though Albert Speer later in his life said that he knew nothing about the holocaust, he did willingly participate in the expansion of Nazi empire by creating grandiose monuments and structures with “ruin value”- an idea to create a proclamation in stone that lasted a thousand years. From the balcony that Hitler addressed the assembled crowds to the Cathedral of Light, he designed them all- the signs of someone’s beliefs and ideas, even in ruins. He said he was sorry later in his biographies, but they still stand stall, the ruins he planned so well- and still being recreated in every movie about that era.

“It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it”

Zaha Hadid said about the human rights violation investigation by the Qatari construction. Is it really not? The slaves these days aren’t in shackles, neither are their hands cut off after they finished the ruler’s dream project, but modern slavery comes in virtual shackles- passports taken away, and the migrant workers are housed in concrete cells and treated inhumanely. Global collaboration has become a fancy word used by the rich to hire Starchitects from developed nations and construction crew from developing countries. “There are discrepancies all over the world” said Hadid on the same issue, and I agree- There are indeed discrepancies all over the world, especially so in the field of architecture. As an architect, we can turn a blind eye to things that we don’t want to see, but we do have a moral obligation in the real world to look up, and look around- and look beyond our aspirations and the client’s inspirations – look out for the greater service for humanity.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Thousands years later, architecture in real world still revolves around that basic conflict- whether to be that moral enforcer with the power to provide better civic architecture living with the land, commissioned by the people to serve the interests of the people, or be that Starchitect submitting to powers of the novelty of modern metropolis mistreating the powerless- the nature and the labor. In the same world full of discrepancies, for every architect dropping islands on a coral reef without a worry about the ecological changes it will bring to the world, we have another visionary architect designing human systems that are functional and aesthetic, and fully integrated with the ecosystems.

“In order to transform our cities, we need to move from ego-culture to eco-culture”

Architecture in real world is not limited to the arts and sciences- it’s deeply embedded in the moral and cultural fabric of a community it’s built in, of the civilization it represents. It’s not limited to designing functional spaces, and meticulously planning the execution details. It’s about knowing the people it’s built for, it’s about knowing the people building it – and it’s about knowing the purpose and principle it will be based on. Four walls and a ceiling that we design are a mirror to the society – capturing today, and tomorrow. And if that mirror is showing us discrepancies, our actions should lean towards fixing those discrepancies. If we are powerful enough to provide a platform to the most powerful in the world, we have the power within us to be to the voices of change-voices of action.

The things we build will build us, so lets build them right.

– Meghana Joshi

Here is a take on the same topic from other “Architalks” architects:

“Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
Architecture in the Real Wolrd … sorta

“Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
Welcome to the Architecture of the Real

“Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Architecture in the Real World

“Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
What is the Real World: Architecture in the Real World

“Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
Architecture in the Real World

“Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
The HGTV Affect

“Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Architecture: It’s a human thing

“Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture
Keep on Architect’n in the Real World

“Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Here in the Real World

“Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture
architecture in the real world: #architalks

“Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
Architecture in the Real World

“Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Architecture in the Real World

“Michael Riscica – Young Architect
Architecture in the Real World

Architecture in the Real World

“Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Architecture in the Real World

“Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC
Architecture in the Real World

“Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
Architecture in the Real World



  1. A nice post to point to more of the theoretical aspects of our work. The thoughtful notions about creating architecture are often overlooked in the “real world” of practicality. Well written with some really good quotes. And I might say the claim for oldest profession can be shared as both sell services to please our clients!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Meghana, Yes wow! I love the quotes you chose and I love your comments (history and critique) for all. and this is the best: “The things we build will build us, so lets build them right.” with so much more meaning as the summation. Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The world’s oldest profession – “When that first brick was laid …” is low hanging fruit. I have often thought about when “architecture” became a profession and not a specialized evolution of building – but that a different conversation to read on a different day.

    Loved the journey you prepared for us – very entertaining to read. Thanks for participating in #ArchiTalks

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d like to think that as you’ve obviously shared the power of architecture, that clients, building owners, developers and anyone building anything will understand the impact making a mark on this Earth has, not just for the immediate end users, but the future generations. This was a great journey to take the reader. I most enjoyed the glimpse into the everyday and less about the grandiose. Welcome to the club.

    Liked by 1 person

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