Architecture, Part Two: “A” vs. “a”

22 February 2012


A. Trees

A Wintering Sycamore, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Shadows from Cedars, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Silhouette, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

B. Nests

House Wrens' Nest from one of my Birdhouses, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Robins' Nest from a Friend's Carport, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Birds Nest from a Friend's Tree, February 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

The photographs in my Lens section show nature’s architecture, which has been an ongoing inspiration for human ingenuity. Let me know which is your favorite.


The history of Architecture follows a trail that uses Mother Nature as a guide. The parallels are known, but sometimes something is lost in the quest to acknowledge or appreciate human creativity and innovation. Nature and human nature complement each other, and thrive to live in a symbiotic relationship that melds into a back story of yin/yang. My post from 16 February 2012, which you can find on the Homepage, covers my opinion about Architecture with the capital “A.” Today’s post will discuss architecture with a lower case “a.” They can be indistinguishable, but they also can be distinct and eye-catching in their individuality.

The word architecture has endured, being coined in the late sixteenth century. It also has become part of the trend in language to redefine meaning, because the popular culture borrows original uses and applies them to current syntax. In the 1960s and 70s the use of architecture in the computer industry was foreshadowed. Near the end of the 1980s and early 1990s software architecture was appearing in print, and has remained as a steady descriptor of the components and connectors in software design. That’s just an example of how architecture has morphed into the vernacular.

When I began to contemplate this use of architecture as a regular everyday descriptor, I thought about the innards of an umbrella, the structure of a leaf, the bones of a novel, a spider’s web, the lines of the letter “z,” the shapes of shadows, the interior construction of food, a silkworm’s cocoon, a stack of books, the fanned pages of books, … Maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but the world seems to be filled with objects that ring lower-case architecture. I can even make a case for a candle’s flame.

Then I move into the art world where it’s obvious that sculptures are engineered by artists. I’m fascinated, for example, with the architectural texture of site-specific installations created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. An example is “The Umbrellas,” Japan-USA, 19984-91, and shown below, which reminds me of rocks lining a coastline.

"Umbrellas" by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 1984-91; photo by Wolfgang Volz

Nature was a source of inspiration for human invention long before the first stone was piled upon another to build a shelter. Nature experimented. We observed. Then  copied or tried. Some of Mother Nature’s quintessential architects are ants, beavers, birds, and termites. Who can top their constructions? Certainly, humans try. See nature vs. humankind below. (I did a small mental inversion with the Baya Weavers’ nest.)

Baya Weavers Nest, Indonesia

Phoenix International Media Center, Beijing, China; under construction and to be completed this year

We are fortunate to have ever-evolving visual landscapes–ones that are boundless with nature’s and human nature’s influences. Sometimes the connections or meanings are irrelevant, because the joy of the sighting is what matters. But there are times that each deserves accolades for their contributions to the history of architecture (capital or lower case). Regardless of its place in our culture architecture is (mostly) seamed together by aesthetics, design, integrity, structure, and technology. Thankfully, the human brain allows us to savor these horizons.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

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10 Responses to Architecture, Part Two: “A” vs. “a”

  1. mye1212 says:

    Great post…AGAIN! I like the first tree shot and all the birds nests. Interesting how different each nest is.

    • That’s very kind. The wonderful thing about bird’s nest are that they come in a variety of shapes and forms, but they also can be found in normal places (nature’s habitats and human spaces), but also in the oddest spots (crevices of buildings and pipes and any sight that lures them). Thanks for visiting, Sally

  2. Pingback: Architecture / Nature « ETASKWAAK

  3. Cedar shows and nest #3 are my favorites.

  4. Anne says:

    Reblogged this on ETASKWAAK and commented:
    Architecture / Nature

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