The Effects of Architecture on Society

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Architecture and the built environment
Buildings reflect the values and ideas of society within periods. The role of architecture in shaping society and vice versa largely depends on the period in question and who or what affects first. The Enlightenment, and the subsequent period the Post-Enlightenment, reflect the biggest change for current ideas regarding architecture and society and current theories. At the same time, individual identities and understanding of society, progress and truth all follow a similar evolving path. It is during this dramatic shift in thinking that the role of architecture to society and the idea of progress and truth becomes a more complex relationship. How this relationship works and its implications is based on the theory that there is a direct link between the two. One cannot develop without the other. Who leads whom and to what extent they influence each other is evident in architectural trends and pioneering works by architects such as Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry amongst others.
To understand if and how architecture has had an influence on the way people think and act in the past is an important aspect of questioning architecture’s influence today. Bentham’s Panopticon, and his ideas of surveillance, power, and discipline, have been examined and discussed by a wide variety of people including Foucault. Foucault’s main focus was on the exercise of power in its different forms and the control exercised through its architecture. An interesting view raised by Foucault in his study of the Panopticon is that liberation or oppression is not manifested in architecture by itself. This does not mean that they cannot be made part of it. ‘Positive effects’ could occur when the ‘liberating intentio...

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