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Essay Topic Ideas for an Architecture Course

People study architecture for all kinds of reasons: Perhaps you desire to gain satisfaction in knowing that you'll be creating something that is real - that people can see and touch and live within. Architecture is an art form, it's challenging, and it affects the lives of so many people. On the other hand, it's very competitive, and architects often must put in long hours before they are able to attain financial sustainability.
Still, if you're an aspiring architect, you're going to have to put some serious dedication into your studies, and you will no doubt be required to write some essays along the way. Here are eight essay topic ideas for architecture courses:

Compare or contrast different types of vernacular architecture

Vernacular architecture is usually thought of as dwellings and buildings that people (typically amateurs, not architects) construct for practical purposes, using materials and technologies that are available to the particular area and time. You may discuss different influences of particular structures, such as the function for the building, the climate, the culture, environment, time period, etc. For example, you may compare vernacular architecture from two different farming communities, or you might discuss the differences of residential buildings of a particular area from several different time periods. An alternative thesis statement would be to argue that vernacular architecture should or should not be dismissed as purely functional.

Classify several different examples of architecture

You may, for example, classify or categorize different types of ancient architecture, discussing the particular characteristics of buildings, the materials, the intended functions, etc. You might also look at traditional Japanese architecture (or some other region) and tell how certain qualities fit the standards for that type of architecture. Another option would be to categorize a particular structure; that is, to select a structure and separate its features into different types of architecture. You might choose a building that incorporates different architectural styles and categorize them according to design.

Describe the style of a particular architect, such as Frank Lloyd Wright

You may need to narrow the thesis of an essay like this to include just one or a few particular examples of that architects work. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated various elements of style throughout his career, and you might focus on his organic style as it was seen in Graycliff, Fallingwater, and Taliesin West. Or you may discuss the characteristics of his Usonian houses, such as their practicality, ambient heating, sandwiched walls, etc. You might also choose to discuss the characteristics of Christopher Alexander's Eishin Campus near Tokyo. Be sure to use specific examples and the appropriate architectural terminology, being as descriptive and concrete as possible so as to create vivid images of the architect's style.

Discuss the importance of sustainability in modern architecture

Whereas the old concept that "form follows function" has been the traditional philosophy of architecture, contemporary theory is that we should also approach architecture with an eye on the sustainability of the materials of construction, the impact the structure will have on its environment, its energy needs, waste production, etc. In this respect, architecture is no longer just a matter of constructing a building for a particular purpose and with aesthetic concerns being important considerations. How is sustainability a cultural phenomenon?

Illustrate what is meant by the theory of deconstruction as it pertains to postmodern architecture

You should pick a particular building that incorporates this architectural style as a way to exemplify your points. For example, you might select the Seattle Central Library and discuss how the architects manipulated the structure of the outside of the building, and how the shapes distort and seem to control the chaos of the building. Or you might discuss how the function of the building is related to its visual form. Deconstructive architecture also challenges people's thinking about how a building can and should look. It is also criticized for being overly complex and of little social significance. You might choose to write an argumentative type essay in which you try to persuade the reader that deconstructivism is or is not a relevant architectural style.

Discuss some of the characteristics, ideals, or examples of expressionist architecture

You may choose to talk about how the distortion of form, symbolism, and romantic phenomenon are utilized in particular expressionist architectural buildings. Or you could discuss art deco and its relation to expressionist architecture. Concrete, brick, stone, colored glass, and other materials serve a specific function, and you should discuss the reasoning for selecting such materials in constructing these kinds of buildings. Also, utopian and socialist philosophies influenced these types of structures.

Provide examples of a particular architectural style

Discuss the features that are indicative of a particular architectural style. You should be prepared to go into materials, construction methods, regional aspects, etc. Styles may emerge from one particular location and spread to other places. You might provide and discuss examples of ancient Greek or Roman architecture that used proportion and geometrics as design themes. The dominance of the church in Medieval Europe affected the architecture of Romanesque and gothic styles. The Renaissance saw classical domes and arches and the Baroque style emerge throughout Europe. The Victorian Era brought technological and societal changes that were reflected in the architecture of the British Empire. The Industrial Revolution saw new styles, such as art nouveau, the American craftsman, and the romantic style.

How did ancient Roman architecture influence modern architecture?

Banks, houses, commercial and governmental buildings, etc., often show Roman architectural influences. The use of domes and arches still remains popular today. Why is that? What is the significance of using a structure like the dome? For example, it may show grandeur or serve as a form of homage. Arches provide strong structure for bridges and can also be symbolic of power. Roman apartments also exhibited many of the same characteristics of today's apartment complexes. Religion and entertainment also gave rise to certain types of building that we still utilize, such as the amphitheater and coliseum.
 
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