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Role Of Architecture In Nation Building

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Nation-building refers to the process of developing a national identity using the facilities of the state. The aim is the unification of the people in a society with different origins, histories, languages, cultures and religions, within the boundaries of a self-governing state, forming a unified constitutional and legal dispensation. Such examples are the national public education system, an integrated economy, shared symbols and values. This could work towards eradicating the divisions and injustices of the past and foster unity by bringing homogeneity among people. People of a nation need to share enough values and preferences to put the nation together.

“There can’t be a firmly established political state unless there’s a teaching body with definitely recognized principles. If the kid isn’t taught from infancy that he needs to be a republican or a monarchist, a Catholic or a free-thinker, the state won’t constitute a nation; it’ll rest on uncertain and shifting foundations, and it’ll be constantly exposed to disorder and alter .” Napoleon, 1805 [Quote from Ramirez and Boli (1987)] [1]

According to the French theory, the perspective of Nation-building is different to different people. This is based on the ideas and their objectives towards the political inclinations. But the core concept revolves around the belief of the social resemblance within a defined territory. If nation-building isn’t restricted to a specific government or system, it will never be a distinguished state. Through this theory, it can be concluded that such a process of social homogenization could only happen under the enforcement of the law.

Evolution of the Theories of nation-building

It is believed that nation-building is an evolutionary concept rather than revolutionary as its practice takes a long time and it is a social process. For example, the evolution of the Italian states into a nation took a period of time, which was the result of the changes in technology and economic progress, not just political leadership. Another example could be the German city-states into the Zollverein customs union, then into a nation. In Seymour Martin Lipset’s book, The First New Nation, the United States’ first 13 colonies with different origins came together to form a new nation. This state in its contemporary times faced the prospect of severance and disintegration in 1865.[2] It took around 100 years for the integration of different individualities, blacks and whites, North and South because its people were not of the same ethnicity, language and culture. This is why it was considered as a new type of nation-state. Similarly, the United Kingdom evolved into four nations, the English, the Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh.

Association of First Nations National Chief Matthew Coon cited the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (released in 2001 by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard) proposal of a Nation Building Model of Economic Development. The project defined Nation-building as: ‘Equipping First Nations with the institutional foundation is necessary to increase their capacity to effectively assert self-governing powers on behalf of their own economic, social and cultural objectives.’ [3]

The architecture came into existence in the Neolithic period around 10000 BC. This was the time when people stopped living in caves and started to think about their houses, how it should look and what it should feel. As there was development in building designs and different materials became available, the term ‘architecture’ became possible and hence was evolved, which with time developed different styles. The architectural style then came into existence during the Byzantine and Romanesque periods (527 – 1200 B.C). By this time the majority of architectural style began to use brick instead of stone.

Earlier buildings played only two major roles:

  • Consolidate security and power
  • Please the Gods

The richer the society was, the more important these functions were.

The Early conceptions defined a nation as a group of people sharing similar historical background, traditions, culture and sometimes religion. While approaching the question, what nation-building is, and what is its relationship with the state-building, it is important to know that the definition specifies the legitimate use of the governing body.

The core elements of a Nation-Building Model are:

  • Self Rule (Funding, resource allocations and Strategy for the development)
  • Effective Governing Institutes (non-political dispute resolution system and free from corruption)
  • Cultural Match (Legitimacy in the eyes of the Citizens)
  • Strategic orientation (Long term planning of the system)

The chronological history of Indian civilization is about 34,000 years old when there was the first trace of human existence on the Indian subcontinent. Since then, India has hosted some of the greatest civilizations that shaped human history. The examples of such existence are Aryans, Mongols, Kushans, Sakas, Greeks, Huns, Arabs, Persians, and Turks. There are shreds of evidence of migrations and invasions during different periods of Indian history. These immigrant groups transferred their cultural and traditional behaviour patterns to the Indian lands, lost relationship with their homeland and became an integral part of the process of cultural transformation in India. This adaptation process and interaction with various groups caused the emergence of diverse ethnic groups in India. This composite composition of Indian civilization has been distinguished by an interwoven texture reflecting the shadows of different cultural groups, influencing the nature of Indian architecture and has also developed the different regions of the country. Some of the major cities of India like as Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai and Calcutta one may find many beautiful buildings, such as monuments, palaces, temples, churches, mosques and memorials. These buildings have been a part of the architecture through generations, reminding us of the glorious past that our land has.

The earliest evidence of Indian architecture is found in the cities of the Harappan Civilization boasting a unique and remarkable town planning. In Post-Harappan architectural styles have been classified as Hindu, Buddhist and Jain whereas the medieval period depicts the Persian and indigenous styles of architecture. Then comes the colonial period that brought the influence of Western architectural forms to India which began with the British Rule. The British then promised to make changes in the Indian government which would give the Indian people greater control of their own nation. Indian nationalism started growing since then. “Identity” then became the major challenge, saying how to reconcile the national identity and the difference in a plural society like India. Constructing then a national identity out of plural society in India required to follow its own independent and historical specification.

In 1913 when the official Delhi Town Planning Committee started working on the master plan of the capital city with Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. The concept of ‘Garden City’ style of planning was considered, considering it the centre of the city- ‘the Central Vista’. Lutyens introduced a geometry with a central axis, distributing open spaces with trees and well-planned lawns alongside. Through Jama Masjid two central roads known as the King’s Way and the Queen’s Way was designed such a way that it gives a visual connection with the Mughal History. Post Independence the grand ceremonial area in the heart of the city became the venue of the Republic Day celebration. This connects India’s imperial past with its chequered roads in becoming a secular, socialist republic. The Viceroy House then became the Rashtrapati Bhavan. With this diverse framework, India began its journey towards modernity, telling us how Indian architecture is a combination of both indigenous styles and external influences leading a unique characteristic of its own.

When India became a republic nation in January 1950, a new democracy was found by the world’s largest philanthropic organisation, the Ford Foundation. This was a time of reconsideration and reconstruction of a newly independent India, a young nation. The dedication of building an autonomous institutional-building invited designers Charles and Ray Eames to India. On April 7, 1958, the Eames presented a report to the Indian Government. The report defined the fundamental spirit that would lead to the foundation of NID, the first design education institute in India. The report suggested a problem solving-design, linked with the learning with the actual experience on how a designer could bridge a gap in between tradition and modernity. Soon Nehru set into motion his idea of nurturing individual centres of higher education and research, the first Indian Institute of Technology was then built in Kharagpur in 1950 with plans for several other institutes.

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Another industry that plays a major role in the contribution of growth and development of the country is tourism. It helps in building a country’s brand value, image and identity. India is a culturally rich and diverse nation, architecture and tourism are very closely related to each other or rather say, dependent on each other. Indian Architecture is an expression of lifestyle, art and culture; a timeless civilization of living traditions. Having a fulfilling cultural heritage with some of the iconic buildings, India has a complex heritage, the greatest example is the forms and texture of the iconic building the Taj Mahal. With time the identity of a city or state is being destroyed due to the rapid urbanization. Thus the architects and planners need to works on the development and reconstruction of the heritage sites. So that when a tourist enters a city he is not bombarded with an urbanised version of the ‘identity of the city’ and gets a clear picture of the place and its roots.

Role of Architecture in Nation- Building

The universal definition of Architecture is; ‘the art and science of designing and constructing a structure.’ An Architect as a designer builds an environment by providing the foremost vital need: ‘Shelter”. The stability of a nation or any society describes the welfare, safety and efficiency of the habitat of a system. Architects don’t have an autonomous position in reference to the surrounding world but must add constant dialogue with the users and manufacturers of the building. As a built environment is a component of lifestyle, architects need to create such an architectural concept that should bode well with nature and solidify their relationship with humanity.

A complex relationship exists between building form, function and social context. Architecture, rather than going into aestheticism needs to answer culture, context and time including its link with nature and humankind, the inner and the outer realities, performances and meaning. In modern architecture, many ‘stunning’ buildings with ‘sound structures’ do not meet the socio-cultural and psychological needs of the users. This is because architecture isn’t just limited to the layout of interior spaces of buildings but it also features a public face and community dimension. Additionally to serving the client, architects should also fulfil the social obligation. Explaining to the context; let’s imagine a space designed by people that doesn’t consider the necessity of the disabled people, such as their need for different sort of doorknobs, urinals. Even for normal people, it should be kept in mind that the person’s forehead shouldn’t play limbo with the upper floor’s slab once he moves up a flight of stairs. Therefore an architect’s job isn’t just to design buildings of a particular style, but also to advocate for the best structure that defines its relationship with humanity.

Architects are typically liable for every activity administered in a building. Primarily because anyone who enters a building must feel the comforts and advantages of the design. Architects increase the efficiency of a building by applying social reasons to ponder, smile, celebrate or be pleased with the sweetness of their country.

Paul Goldberger (American architectural critic) states in one of his articles that great buildings have expanded people’s sense of human possibility — they shape their experiences of who and where they are within the world. Buildings aren’t just inanimate objects; they’re occasions for human contact; they frame people’s understanding of the place and this makes them a living part of the world.

Hence, it is sensible that architects play a big role in building a nation of inspired and empowered citizens. Architecture is something that easily integrates itself into every aspect of our lives.

In an interview with Architect William Ti, the principal architect of ‘WTA Architecture + Design Studio, said that ‘architecture is the mother of all arts.’

Architects just do not design a structure as an object but build it as a part of the whole surrounding. They might not have the self-determining position in relation to the surrounding but they should be familiar with the notion of the boundaries, mapping, public and private domains, as the built- environment is a part of everyday life. An Architect on his mission for nation-building should not forget society’s heritage and culture. He must never forget people’s past heritage to integrate national identity into the new concepts. The built environment should promote its self-identity and pride in the community, should reflect the strength and resilience of the culture and define the nation as unique and innovative. Thus architecture has a relationship with the socio-political concepts of the nation and helps define its cultural identity.

‘A conscious effort and sensitivity is the nature’s demand’- this concept also needs to be followed by Architects to help achieve stability in a nation. The Architect’s role is to seek ways to minimize the negative environmental impacts of buildings and structures and enhance its efficiency. The usage of resources is vital not just for a nation and its welfare but also for the upcoming generation’s survival. The impact of an Architect’s role in providing a space solution and technology for structures to decrease the consumption of the resources without sacrificing comfort and safety can push the nation towards stability. Architects regulate many disciplines in the construction world by influencing and providing the standards and rules for any structure that is erected and constructed. He should be able to mould a nation composed of different groups and identify and integrate them as part of a cohesive society under one flag. This way he helps to promote unity through Architecture.

The National Library is a good example of explaining the concept of the role of Architecture in Nation Building. A library is a place which caters to the responsibility of acquiring, processing and circulating the information to meet the educational, recreational, social, political and economic needs of the community. A National library plays an important role in society by classifying the social, cultural and political development of the nation.

Libraries can be classified as:

  • Academic Library- for institutes like schools, colleges, universities.
  • Special Library- provides subject-based information for the specific needs of its users
  • Public Library- available for all to serve the interest of everyone
  • Private Library- owned by an individual

Libraries contribute to nation-building in two ways:

  1. Educational advancement: A well-funded academic and public libraries are a valuable asset to the advancement of the education system. The academic libraries provide the information and the resources needed for quality teaching, research and learning in institutions.
  2. Information literacy support: Alesina and Reich (2015)[4] states that ‘nations that stay together when citizens share enough values and preferences and can communicate with each other.’ This means that effective communication cannot be ensured in an information-less illiterate society.

The project, ‘The Book Stop Pop-up Library’ is the vision of Philippines-based architectural firm ‘WTA Architecture + Design Studio’. The project focuses on the core vision of a library as a place for reading books, a place for human interaction, and a platform for educational growth. The Book Stop works on rethinking about the physical architecture and the distributional system of libraries. It emphasises the ease of access and refrains from trying to reinvent the purpose of libraries. The project maps out various public spaces within the city having a high volume of pedestrian traffic. This serves as a redistribution point for old books, allowing the open and free sharing or transfer of ideas from one person to another. This is the way to bring people together. Such creations help the architects in developing a positive culture in the society. Considering this example, we can see how creating a small pocket space in a city brings people of different origins together.

Thus architecture is an indicator of democracy. Coexistence of pluralistic culture respecting each other’s identity, dignity, freedom and public participation within the decision-making process are the essential norms of democracy in any form.


  1. [Nation-Building and therefore the politics of state-building: the French example and its limitations
  2. Lipset, Seymour M.(1979). The First New Nation.W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.
  3. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Available online at Accessed Feb 9, 2005.

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Role Of Architecture In Nation Building. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from
“Role Of Architecture In Nation Building.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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