Architecture is…

Definitions of Architecture

Usually it is nice to see definitions of architecture by non-architects. Definitions made by architects (the real ones, not wannabees), are quite stupid and even idiotic (as Steve Jobs would say). Here some:

  1. “Architecture is definitely a political act.” – Peter Eisenman in Haaretz
  2. “Architecture is unnecessarily difficult. It’s very tough.” – Zaha Hadid in The Guardian
  3. “Architecture is by definition a very collaborative process.” – Joshua Prince-Ramus in Fast Company
  4. “Architecture is an act of optimism.” – Nicolai Ouroussoff in The LA Times
  5. “Architecture is geometry.” – Álvaro Siza in Imaginar a Evidência (Imagining Evidence)
  6. “Architecture is a muddle of irreconcilable things.” – Juhani Pallasmaa in The Architectural Review (close to perfect idiotism)
  7. “Architecture is interesting, but by itself it means nothing.” – Massimiliano Fuksas in New York Times.

Some prerequisites

First, we have to separate building and construction as subjects and verbs from architecture and architecting. Then we can easily see differences in quality so, that all built is not architecture, and within a set of better buildings only few can be named as architecture, arkhi [ἀρχι- (archi-)] and tektōn [τέκτων (tekton)].

Arkhi and tektōn are extremely connected to quality, ethics, seniority in skills and diligence, experience in creating own morphologies of architecture (not just morphing, scaling, begging, stealing and borrowing). The quality comes also from experience of using all (ALL) technologies, materials, structures, spatial setups, forms, sizes, scales, propositions, and functional relation to enable a happy and safe life for the human being (in a society).

Then, the term function in architectural context, is much deeper and wider than an operative notion. Function in architecture is the relation of a thing, artifact, notion, service, product etc. to the human. Function has components of notions like meaning, action, mission, intention, usefulness and raison d’être. The outer world of architecture usually thinks, that function equals only with feature or operation.

In Software Engineering, Computer Science and Information Systems, architecture is used like a generic term for, anything, but mostly to give a mystical interpretation for the term ‘structure’. SW Architect is organizing something, but never in the “arkhi-and-tektōn-way”, on the highest and most fundamental and supreme level. The SW Architect is a sort of SW project manager in charge, a mediocre non-coder and wannabe leader.

The problem on defying architecture has a history of mediocrity among the architects. When the most of architects are just normal lazy cowards and therefore traitors (which is in conflict with the wet dreams they had), architects want to see anything they do as architecture. So has done and does e.g. Skidmore-Owings- Merrill (only big B-class buildings, and Frank Gehry has sank over the years). We even think, that the Nazis were doing architecture. Shame on us.

The inflation of the word ‘architecture‘ is a story of the mediocrity and wannabe-architects and outsiders using terms they don’t understand.

Definitions of Architecture by Juhani Risku, architect

Definition: Architecture is an action and result of ideation, concepting, prototyping and constructing primordial abodes for the human being, on the highest level of skills, experience and ethics.” J. Risku, 6th May 2019

It is easy to see architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier been creating architecture, and luckily there is one today’s architect, Santiago Calatrava, with the same ability.

By Risku’s definition, architecture is one of the three main dimensions of art with music and theater. Therefore all the three dimensions of art fulfill the following terms:

  1. Art is the highest freedom of inseparable human erotical, ethical, spiritual and functional action
  2. Art has always things to sanctify
  3. Art advances and supports life and love
  4. Art is the highest level of  the man-made artificialness
  5. Art is unique
  6. Art is born complete
  7. Art is made for  bestowment
  8. Art is unconditional
  9. The artefact is always more than the creator understands
  10. Art can’t be made for oneself
  11. Art can’t be made for alone
  12. In Art, there is neither aggression, bluster, self-expression, illustration, delusion nor deception
  13. Art is not therapy
  14. The artist, the Birth-giver for art, lives only with and from art
  15. The artist transmits and forwards art to the next generations.

When the main dimensions of Art are theater, music and architecture, the individual  sub-dimensions and birth-givers of Art are poetry, literature, composing, skill of music-playing, theory of architecture and skill of construction.  Play and playfulness unites the three dimensions of Art in a tetrahedron Four dimensions of Art.

Figure. Three main dimensions of art: Music, theater and architecture, by Juhani Risku (1999). The dimensions of the triangle fulfill the 15 criteria (above), and it is a relative to the model “A classification of the arts” by Steven Brown and Ellen Dissanayake. The triangle is under translation.

Architectonic Circle

Figure. Artistic design circle: The creation process in art and architecture, by Juhani Risku (1999).

Beauty is a central notion of the Arts (theater, music and architecture). In architecture, beauty is a common denominator of the architectonic composition including components like form, material, structure, size, scale, function, proportion, feature, operation, content, meaning, harmony, process and appearance.

Figure. In the formula of beauty, the factors imaginary-factor-i-design-mathematics-Risku-architect and distortion-factor-#-design-mathematics-Risku-architect are extremely important to take into account contextual, uncertain and arguable factors. Notice that imaginary-factor-i-design-mathematics-Risku-architect describes approximately 5 % and distortion-factor-#-design-mathematics-Risku-architect 4 % of the generic essence of beauty. ~ 91% of beauty can be understood and even created by the artists, designers and architects. Sometimes the factors  imaginary-factor-i-design-mathematics-Risku-architect and distortion-factor-#-design-mathematics-Risku-architect are in a perfect order.

“Function is a constant law of variation.”

In other words, function is:

  • Unchangeable law of alteration
  • Invariable law of transformation
  • Static law of transition
  • Unvarying law of modulation
  • Fixed standard of the immutable
  • Funktio muutoksen muuttumaton laki (Finnish).

Beauty by Vitruvius and Plato


4th of June, 2019, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Juhani Risku, architect, acoustician, industrial designer
– doctoral student, Information System, University of Jyväskylä (JYU) Finland


P.S. There has never been place for the notion ‘architecture’ in SE, CS and IS. Butt the term ‘structure‘ fits well SE-CS-IS and describes everything what the wannabees wanted to pretend by using ‘architecture’ as a “synonym”.


In the article “Architecture, a definition” Johan den Haas defines the notion of enterprise architecture from the system’s perspective. In the definitions quoted in the article, the term ‘architecture‘ is not needed. The term ‘structure’ is used in most of the examples of definitions.

Definition: Architecture of a system is the highest, most viable, qualitative and perfectly operational, human made scheme and/or phenomenon to enable a happy and safe life for the human being (in a society).” J. Risku, 6th May 2019

A human made structure in SE-CS-IS is typically an operating system like Windows, a service like Facebook and Google’s products, the Challenger’s flight year 1986. They have nothing to do with the notion of ‘architecture’. But, to understand the architectural level of qualities, the nature, the human being or an ecosystem, are close to architectured creatures.

In Enterprise Architecture the “well-defined practice” could be named as the “Umbrella of Enterprise Structure-like Entities” UESLE. From Nokia and Enron we know, that architecture can’t describe their ways-of-working and codes-of-conduct.

Architecture is defined in a structured and rationalized way by Johan den Haan.