The Impact of Culture on Design

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Furman University

At COR3 Design, we are constantly inspired by our travels–whether they are site visits to another part of the country or vacations around the world. It is no accident that our time spent off the clock is typically in pursuit of cultural stimulation. If we travel anywhere near Rome, we have to see the Coliseum. The pyramids in Egypt. The megalithic structure of Stonehenge. Our bucket list is long!

Architectural design has always been a recognizable staple of culture. It is a reflection of a society’s cultural values, traditions, and way of life. A fascinating example of cultural influence on architecture can be seen in the construction of Buddhist temples in Asia. Many of these sacred structures were built entirely of stone or wood components expertly interlocked together without the use of nails, rivets, or mortar. 

This sophisticated joining method emerged from religious philosophies emphasizing the unity and interdependence of all things–the building itself is a seamless whole formed by the perfect integration of its parts. The lack of metal fasteners also relates to beliefs about maintaining ritual purity within the sacred spaces. By eliminating any materials that were considered unnecessary, the temples offer powerful cultural symbolism. 

Locally in our headquarters in Greenville, SC, we have an example of this style of architecture. Furman University’s Place of Peace is a Japanese temple that was built in 1984, and in 2007 dismantled into more than 2,400 pieces, transported through the Panama Canal, and reconstructed on the university’s campus by Japanese craftsmen. All of the spiritual relics were removed to make it a non-religious place of wonder and meditation.   

In addition to the spiritual significance, a structure like the Place of Peace holds sustainability values as well. The original wood joinings were designed to be taken apart so that craftsmen might repair pieces of the building as they wore out, rather than tear down and replace the whole thing. The wood pillars made from keyaki (an extremely hard and rare wood native to Japan) are oriented top to bottom the same way they stood as trees in the forest–a gesture of respect to the tree that gave its life for wood.     

The Place of Peace is evidence that architecture continues to serve as a means of cultural expression, place-keeping, and creating spaces of identity, belonging, and significance for people across the globe.

Despite this timeless trend, globalization has had its impact–for example, a more contemporary look as a goal in designs around the world has caused uniformity to develop in worldwide architecture (SOURCE). Buildings are no longer as uniquely specific to their place of origin–after all, a skyscraper is a skyscraper. 

We hold these things in tension as architects wanting to pay homage to culture while also celebrating the trends in modernity. It is part of our privilege as creators and duty to our clients to create a result that meets their specific needs. 

And, as a company that values diversity in our home office, we relish the chance to celebrate other cultures not just through our work, but through our relationships as well. In the end, celebrating diversity through design is essential for creating spaces that are meaningful and inclusive for all people.

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The Impact of Culture on Design

At COR3 Design, we are constantly inspired by our travels–whether they are site visits to another part of the country or vacations around the world. It is no accident that our time spent off the clock is typically in pursuit of cultural stimulation.

Read More »