Saturday, April 25, 2009

Art or Craft?

One of the great questions in architecture is whether architecture is an art or a craft. It is often posed to prospective architects in school as a way to make them question what they are looking for in the profession and how they perceive the role of their work in society. The common assumption being that by calling it "craft" it identifies a technical aspect to the creation of it requiring education and training in the engineering aspects that are needed to construct a building; whereas calling it "art" gives it an intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual significance that mere engineering does not possess.

To answer this question however is simple once a distinguishment is made between the two.

Art is defined as: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects

Craft is defined as: an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill

When taking these definitions into account, architecture does use skill and creativity, but the objects that are created are not purely aesthetic. However, architecture does involve both artistic skill and manual dexterity (in the form of construction knowledge, drawing, and specifying) to create. This is not to say that by being a craft, that great architecture is not also capable of transcending to also be 'art', appreciated for aesthetics regardless of function. With that said though, great architecture is still a craft as well.

Much in the same way that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares; architecture is a craft, but on occasion is capable of being art as well.

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