I was raised in a small town that wasn’t known for its remarkable architecture. When I first moved to a slightly larger town, I’d spend hours just driving around various neighborhoods and looking at houses. I wasn’t interested in the tall bank and office buildings downtown; I was interested in the homes people lived in. That led me to pursuing bridges, arches and old movie theaters. I’ve never been interested in architecture beyond the aesthetic, but then I realized that I was very interested in the look and feel of man-made structures. These buildings, bridges and arches are the footprint that our peers and ancestors have left upon the planet. What’s not inspiring about that?
Still, the questions remains: if you live inside of a building, why would you want to decorate with pictures of other buildings? I’m undeniably drawn toward a room that’s decorated in architectural prints, I love using architectural photography as my desktop background and I still love driving around certain neighborhoods to soak up the different houses. It would be easy to say “we appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a good building!” and leave it at that, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Buildings are a man-made version of the world, our version of the Earth that we’ve stacked upon the natural crust of the planet—that’s why we’re drawn to them.
Brooklyn Bridge by Marti Bofarull
One of the reasons we love architecture enough to hang it on our walls is because it transports us to another time. It’s easy to get lost in an artist’s rendering of Danish cottages or in a photo of the Bowery in 80s Manhattan. We’re enticed by the hard lines of the buildings and how they interact with the space around them—how they conform to nature, humanity and other buildings—but we’re also eager to think about what it was like to be in or around one of those buildings at that time. Was it cold? Was it drafty? What did it smell like? We think of far off, exotic buildings in terms of our own living experiences and try to categorize them as such, which is a great mental exercise. We feel the plight of the cottage worker and the squatter, and through a single rendering of the space they once dwelled in, we imagine ourselves in their plight. A building is a window into someone else’s life, which is especially interesting to us if it’s a life removed from our own.
Arc De Triumphe by Judy Mandolf
Another not-so-abstract reason we’re drawn to architectural prints is that they can easily transport us to another place. We surround ourselves with pictures of our favorite bridges, buildings and homes because we either want to visit them for the first time or go back again. Again, it’s easy to imagine ourselves in that location because iconic architecture is inherently, almost spiritually, connected to the area in which it resides. One look at the Arc de Triomphe and we’re instantly transported to the Champs-Élysées. We immediately become absorbed in what exactly the Parisian life means to us—so a photo of the famous arch goes far beyond appreciating its architectural beauty.
Back Porch Gathering by John Rossini
The People Behind the Walls
Another reason we’re drawn to architecture, apart from its inherent beauty, has to do with the people that designed it and those who gave their blood and sweat for its creation. When we see a particularly stunning piece of architecture, our first question is generally “How did the architect think of that?” which instantly humanizes the architect and tangles our mind up inside of the design process. Viewing a piece of architecture with design elements that never would have crossed your mind is something akin to looking at an alien planet, and I imagine that it’s nearly as satisfying. Similarly, we like to imagine what actually went in to building it. How did those ceiling beams get up there? How did they attach those suspension cables? Since we love to create, we love to imagine someone else’s creative process, and the bond between humans and architecture sends our brains spiraling down that particular avenue of innovation.
White with Blue Dome by Yiorgos Depollas
The second skin we’ve built upon the Earth will always fascinate us for several reasons. Buildings, bridges, monuments and arches all have inherent beauty, but there’s more to it than that. As humans, we’re drawn to certain elements of our man-made layer of the planet—how they were created, how they affected people’s lives and how they might affect our lives—and we love to surround ourselves in their grandeur. We decorate the inside of our homes with images of other buildings because we, as people, have an unbreakable connection to the very concept of buildings. They are an art form that is at once primal and practical—a necessity and a pleasure.
Written by Edward Stuart: Edward Stuart is an artist, writer, blogger, and interior design enthusiast. He writes for the canvas art supplier CanvasGalleryArt.com. Edward enjoys blogging about art, art history, design and home decor.