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Architecture is more than just a building or structure that provides shelter. Buildings are also symbolic forms and can express a set of values or shared cultural beliefs. For example, the physical characteristics of a Mosque, like its minarets and mihrab, communicate and embody aspects of Islamic belief.


  1. Identify a building in your immediate environment, one that you frequent: a restaurant, store, place of worship, house, museum, stadium etc.
  2. In a paragraph (5-6 sentences), analyze the building in terms of its symbolic meaning:
    • First, consider the building’s form. What materials is it made of? What is the shape of the building. Is it made up of particular colors? Does it have a specific location or orientation? etc.
    • Then, describe how the physical characteristics of the building reflect a set of values, beliefs, or a shared cultural attitude.
      • For example, if you were to describe the local Starbucks, you might identify the drive thru as an important physical characteristic of the building. Perhaps the building itself was located and oriented in such a way to efficiently accommodate a drive thru. What might this important feature say about the people that inhabit or use this building? One possible answer might be: the drive thru feature emphasizes the value that modern society puts on speed. People want to quickly get their coffee, perhaps before going to work or during a break, without having to ever leave their car. It also reflects the importance of the automobile in modern society especially in  Southern California, a place itself built around the automobile.
  3. Include an image of the building that you are analyzing. This can be an image found online or from  Google Maps (Links to an external site.) street view.
  4. Finally, draw a connection between one aspect of the building with an architectural feature or method that was described in Chapter 13 – Architecture.
    • For example, The Starbucks building below seems to be structured into three segments similar to a Greek column. The dark-brown roof, the light-brown walls and the medium-brown base. The dark-brown roof resembles the capital of a Greek column. It has a basic geometric design similar to the Doric order.