What is the difference between the purpose of architecture & the purpose of art?

Primavera (1482) by Sandro Botticelli.  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Newcomb pottery c.1910.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
FINE ART has no practical purpose.  It is meant to engage the mind, touch the heart, evoke the senses.  These are achieved by only the best artists.

The purpose of the APPLIED ARTS is usually easy to discern and is only successful as applied art when the function/goal is met with efficiency and grace.  A gorgeous chair that is not meant to be sat in is a sculpture of a chair and not applied art!


ARCHITECTURE's purposes as an applied art are decidedly more complex and layered.  And yet much of its beauty is derived from a similar efficiency and grace in achieving its goals.

A bridge is beautiful for its efficiency/grace in attaining its design purpose  = the span.

Samuel Beckett Bridge (2009) by Santiago Calatrava in Dublin.
Image courtesy of Ariost80 via Wikimedia Commons.
"Seed Cathedral", UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010
by Heatherwick Studio.
Image courtesy of JACK728 via Wikimedia Commons.

If a building merely succeeds in being a very expensive interesting sculpture and fails in its architectural goals, then it is successful art and unsuccessful architecture.  The "Seed Cathedral" at right is an inhabitable sculpture at the scale of a building.  It was not designed to be architecture, but is quite successful as public art.

The very subjective tests for successful architecture are just as multifaceted as its goals; and yet, many people uneducated in the arts of architecture will instinctively recognize the good stuff when they see it!

I think that an object (or a person) fulfills the measure of its creation when its PURPOSE is beautifully and readily apparent.


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