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The Evolution of Architecture and its Reflection on Culture and Community

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In New York City, located in the Morningside Heights Campus of the university now known as Columbia University, Butler Library is an imposing building amongst the city’s skyscrapers and limited green spaces.

On the top column, the library’s façade pays homage to a set of famous philosophers and writers: Aristotle, Cicero, Demosthenes, Herodotus, Homer, Plato, Sophocles, Vergil—all male names. Despite sporadic attempts to honor women, the oversight remains, symbolic of a broader challenge within institutions. Columbia University is also ill-famed for only admitting women beginning in the fall of 1983.

On the other side of the ocean, the Melville Monument in St. Andrew Square in Edinburgh serves as a daily reminder of slave trades, as it harbors the statue of Henry Dundas, one of the most influential politicians in Scotland in the late 18th century, who was infamously against the abolition of slavery.

All over the world, there are several statues and buildings that clash with evolution and history.  Though often considered historical artifacts, these monuments carry the weight of several atrocities, raising the question of the nature of our cultural landscapes. They may be a way to learn and move forward but it shouldn’t be forgotten that they were once created to praise and honor atrocities. 

We all connect architecture to the act of building. Culture relates directly to our core emotions, our place to find solace. These conceptions have existed for thousands of years but to what extent are they connected when it comes to our daily lives?

Architecture is inherently tied to culture as a physical manifestation of our core emotions and collective identity. However, as globalization reshapes culture and its meanings, the connection between these concepts is undergoing a never-ending transformation.

There has been ongoing discourse on the topic of culture and history. Some scientists even believe that a few of these world changes happened due to a process that resembles natural selection.

Well-known biologist Richard Dawkins, for example, strongly believes that some cultural traits—which can benefit a certain group of people—survive and last for a few generations, being classified as smaller unities just like our own genes.

Additionally, other studies imply that if culture never existed, we wouldn't even exist. It has become a force of natural selection that can accelerate and improve as people adapt to the pressures they create.

Meanwhile, in our contemporary world,  there is a race for architectural supremacy. It is often based on echoes of power, which overshadows the significance behind community and connection. The proliferation of pointed skyscrapers in picturesque corners illustrates a disheartening trend, greed that keeps us distant from the true purpose of architecture—to mirror the identity and values of a community.

People tend to admire all the works from the past and try to build better, taller, more daring buildings in hopes of creating something akin to history itself. Greediness for power seems to be even bigger than greed for money, even though both can be easily related.

As people strive to surpass the architectural marvels of the past, we find the neglect of the essence of culture. Egyptians built monuments we revere nowadays; all the mighty pyramids express the greatness of a ruler and also of a nation. No one would dispute the fact that they are a remarkable cultural monument, yet they also show a sense of unity in a community.

There are so many constructions and few places on this earth. There is a certain urge to build pointed skyscrapers to be more profitable, however, every time we find ourselves distant from what the architecture should really be: a reflection of the personality of a community.

It is safe to say that concrete jungles won’t disappear for a long time but in some areas, improvements give us signs of emerging change. Architecture should be closer to humanity and in that sense, humans should be reflected through architecture.

Simple adjustments, like incorporating more windows, can transform the aesthetic of a city and contribute to a more humane architectural landscape. Giving the city the look of its citizens can contribute greatly to this architectural humanization.

As we witness these shifts, citizens must actively engage in shaping the cities in which they live. Calling out structures that were once built to honor people who were proven wrong by history, and who did little to change their places, in order to bring more inclusivity. It is not just a call for aesthetic improvements but a demand for the integration of modern personal and cultural identities into the architectural fabric.


Overall, citizens should actively participate in the changes in the cities they live in, and they all should fight for their rights to have a piece of themselves reflected in their architecture. The reflection of humanity in architecture should be a collective endeavor, ensuring that the evolving urban landscape becomes a testament to the diversity and richness of the communities it accommodates.

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