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This page deals with the question: What is architecture?


Definition of Architecture according to Dragon1

Architecture is the art and science of planned, function oriented and integral design and realization of a structure often needed to be sustainable and future proof.

The Dragon1 method uses two definitions for two different meanings of architecture:

  1. Architecture in the sense of the field of building architecture
  2. Architecture in the sense of the architecture of an entity and most common the architecture of a (building)structure

An entity is something that stands out from its surroundings. In practice, architecture is often used in a buildingstructure (structure) where a structure type of entity.

Definition of Architecture in the sense of the Field of Architecture

Architecture Design of a total concept for a structure
Architecture Realization of a structure in an environment
Architecture Transformation of a structure, from church to apartment home

The shortened Dragon1 definition for architecture in the sense of the field of architecture:

'Architecture is the art and science of designing, realizing and transforming structures .'

The expanded definition of Dragon1 for architecture in the sense of the field of architecture is:

'Architecture is the art and science of designing, constructing and transforming structures in the sense of consistent and dynamic evolutionary wholes in order to increase resilience, utility and beauty of structure more than would be done without providing architectural design and realization .'

This kind of architecture puts down an architects as designer for structures. A bridge, a building and a church are examples of structures.

The architecture design and architecture realization of these structures normally leads to better, stronger and more useful structures.

Architecture is a process in this sense.

Examples of design principles used in architecture design

  • An example of a common constructive design principle used in structures is (ref: Eiffel Tower, Opera Paris, ...)
  • An example of a common operative design principle used in structures is: module-based decomposition - by making a system consist of modules, the complexity of the system is reduced. (Opera Paris)
  • An example of a common decorative design principles used in structures is: 1) repetition, 2) suggestion and 3) complexity hiding

Examples of realization principles used in architecture realization

  • An example of a common constructive realization principle used in structures is: off-site component composition-principle: By assembling smaller components off site into large components that is later shipped, the actual construction site is discharged. (Opera Paris, Pyramid)
  • An example of a common operative realization principle used in structures is: big to small & in to out assembly: By putting the big parts of a structure in the middle first or on the construction site and work your way away from the centre or the big parts with smaller parts one will have less trouble accessing the construction site for assembly. 2) By always wearing helmets on the construction it is ensured construction workers won't suffer from fatal head injury by falling objects.
  • An example of a common decorative realization principle used in structures is: By always keeping the construction site neat and clean stakeholders will have more confidence and trust in the ongoing project.

Definition of Architecture in the sense of the Architecture of a Structure

the Colosseum structure, the realization of an amphitheatre concept in Rome
Colosseum Map, Unknown, Rome
Paris Opera, Paris

The shortened Dragon1 definition of the architecture of structure:

In it most purest form : 'Architecture is the coherent set of constructive, operative and decorative concepts of a structure.'

In a more practical form it is : 'Architecture is the coherent (intensively consistent) set of constructive, operative and decorative concepts that is or will be applied onto structure.'

The expanded definition of Dragon1 for architecture in the sense of the architecture of a structure as:

'Architecture is the coherent set of operative, constructive and decorative architectural concepts and their associated principles applied or on an entity such as a buildingstructure and thus provide for certain qualities and performance of construction, operation and decoration and the structure .'

A concept is a method, approach, or an abstract idea.

The maintained and how a concept works the same everywhere and always produce results within a given context, the principle of the concept. The architect uses his knowledge of principles for a draft to select and propose to the part of the architecture of a building it.

Architecture is in this sense a product.

Example visualization of architecture


This figure shows how part of the architecture of a church (a type of building) is to visualize. These are three random concepts (an operative concept, structural design and decorative concept) that are part of the architecture of this church.

This figure serves as a model for enterprise architects to visualize the architecture is. This example is not meant for architectural architects.

Misconceptions about architecture

Here are some misconceptions about architecture from the definition of Dragon1 argued for architecture:

1. Architecture provides insight and overview - This is not primarily a function of architecture. But it is rather a by-product when the architecture (conceptual design) of a buildingstructure is documented sufficiently useful. The primary function of architecture is to increase the quality and performance of the building that needs to be designed and implemented. This persistent misconception leads to an organization when someone gives an overview of the complex component structure of a system, a list of applications or a list of processes, that statement is called an architectural visualization.

2. Working under architecture is inherently cheaper - this is not true. Working under architecture means more attention for decoration and construction is absolutely necessary to the operational function to pull off. This attention takes time and money. Therefore, almost by definition, architecture (on development costs) more expensive than non-under-architecture version.

3. The architecture definition for IEEE1471 (The fundamental organization of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution) - This definition is more about engineering than about architecture. Architecture is about concept design and realization of a buildingstructure. This IEEE 1471 definition deals too much with design of component systems. This definition does not focus on the operation or behaviour of a system, but the organization of the system. That's a lot more static than action and behavior. It gives the feeling that the architecture of a system image when the complex component structure portrays. The fact that structural, decorative and operative concepts as a harmonious blend together so you should talk about kuntn architecture is in no way affected by this definition. This definition of IEEE for many methods, approaches, standards and reference architectures within the enterprise architecture basis for developing the methods, approaches, standard or reference architecture.

4. The architecture definition for IEEE1471 has been redefined in ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011. The definition is now defined as: 'Architecture <system> the fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution'. This definition is much better. But still it leaves out the needed coherency of constructive, operative and decorative concepts in order for it to be architecture. That definition leaves room to call things architecture that are not architecture. A good thing about ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011 is that the scope is much wider than engineering. The concerns included contain a lot of behavioural quality aspects. From a Dragon1 point of view an architecture should be a response to performance requirements and quality requirements instead of concerns.

5. The architecture of a system is like a description of a system - this is not true. There are many systems which have an architecture, but no description of the system or architecture. Take for example, ancient structures in Egypt, China and Mexico. Who do have an architecture, but it's not a description. In the field of enterprise architecture is a persistent misconception that causes that when general and specialized standing technical specifications of a documented system that this documentation is called the architecture of the system.

Models, views and types of visualizations

If the architecture of a building should be made clear its seven main models to portray:

  • 1. Model Construction Environment
  • 2. Model Construction Stakeholders
  • 3. Construction Requirements Model
  • 4. Construction Quality and performance requirements model
  • 5. Construction Job Pattern
  • 6. Building design concept which expresses the (named) concept.
  • 7. Bouwwerkcapabiliteitenmodel

These models are made vivid through views of stakeholders such as:

  • 1. Construction design sketch (concept of total)
  • 2. Building structure vision
  • 3. Building architecture vision
  • 4. Construction landscape structure
  • 5. Construction blueprint
  • 6. Building structure artist impression
  • 7. Maintenance view
  • 8. Usage view and common situations of the building structure by people
  • 9. Emergency situation view

These views are visualized using techniques

  • 1. Sketches (concepts and principles)
  • 2. Drawings (elements and principles)
  • 3. Diagrams (components, objects, rules)
  • 4. Photographic images (technical products)

In a role model for building a modern city building are rooms with features such as: residential function, work function, recreational function, rest / sleep fuctie, badfunctie, eetfunctie and communications function.

In the conceptual model for building a modern city building are concepts such as: Internet, surveillance cameras, private security, chip card access control, energy efficient lighting, recycling of waste.

A metamodel for architectural descriptions

Dragon1 has crafted a meta model for architectural description. read here more about the Dragon1 VEA Core model: Visuele_Enterprise_Architectuurmodel

Overview of external architecture definitions (Frank Lloyd Wright about Architecture) (Daan Rijsenbrij over Architectuur) (Vitruvius) (the word 'Architecture' in China)


When talking about architecture five basic terms are essential to uderstand and to give architecture context and meaning: environment, (building)structure, concept, style element and principle.

An environment is the surrounding space wherein a (building)structure is erected. The environment is of high restraining impact to a structure.

A (building)structure is always the subject of architecture. Architecture is always present in a (building)structure. A (building)structure is a system with three confluent and individual mainifesting dimensions: a constructive dimension, an operative dimensions and a decorative dimensions. These dimensions take care of the structure being firm, usefull and beautiful all at once. A bridge, a house, a church, the underground, a shopping mall. All of these are structures with architecture present.

A concept is a way of working, an approach, an abstraction of an entity or a situation, an idea. A wheelchair is an example of a chair concept, a chair is an example of a sitting concept and sitting is an example of a concept. (sorts of sorts of concepts).

A style element a functional logical part of an entity (entities such as structures, systems, concepts and phenomena).

A principle is the enforced way an entity works in a context producing results

Architecture as a term fits an emotional definition and an analytical definition.

Emotional definitions

'Architecture to me feels like something that presents itself as a comprehensive whole and is larger than itself. For example the Paris opera is more than just an opera. It is the source for legends such as ‘the Phantom of the opera’, it was a milestone in steel-constructionbuilding, and looking at art and wallpaintings it is of the greatest artistic and historic value. In short: the Paris Opera is more than an Opera. The opera is a work of art, the opera in fact is architecture.' - Mark Paauwe

'Architecture is like notes becoming a melody. Everything merges. You begin to feel something and you are touched by it.' - Mark Paauwe

Analytical definitions

'Architectural Engineering is the application of a coherent set of concepts onto a structure. Engineering is manufacturing a structure using techniques and methods' - Dragon1


See also megastructures,