An Architects View: Government Buildings

Posted May 3, 2018 | Tags: Government building, civil building

Government buildings are an important part of a people’s cultural and political personality. The design of your government buildings can have varied effects on the people in the surrounding area.

Government buildings can bring them together and bind them. It can also tell visitors a visual story of what makes a people who they are. With the right kind of architectural expression, a government building can be brought to life. It doesn’t have to be a soulless and purely functional concrete mass. Civil buildings can also be a work of art that not only houses a government institution, but also the hopes, dreams, and goals of a people.

When a building is well designed, we say it has character, and this character can be communicated through various aspects of the design.

There are three ways this character can be expressed.

1. The Implied Character

The implied character has to do with elements in the design of the building that signal the purpose of the building. These elements and their implied meanings are generally cultural driven and some of them have been in use for many millennia.

An easy to understand example of implied character is the use of the Cross on a tower at the entrance of a building. This obviously indicates a church.  But the ‘obviously’ part is the result of this element persisting in the designs of church buildings for a better part of history.

For much of American history, federal architecture and the elements that define it has persisted in the design and construction of government buildings. Recently, however, Greek architecture has seen a reprisal and is becoming more prominent in our government and civil buildings.

Features such as Greek-style columns and grand marble statues signal the cultural association of that architecture with the stewards of social governance. Whatever elements you choose to include in your building, make sure they communicate the exact message you want them to and give your building the right implied character.

2. Functional Character

The functional character is a lot more straightforward. A building is made for a specific purpose and its design is supposed to support and communicate that purpose.

A museum will be characterized by tall and long walls with well-spaced but numerous windows to leave space for art displays. Public buildings will typically have a large block in the center with a very wide entrance. This gives a feeling of balance and leaves most offices well within reach of the central entrance.

If you’re looking at designing a City Hall, you might want to have a large skylight to maximize on natural lighting in a space where large gatherings are likely to take place.

Functional design is dictated by purpose, and is, therefore, easier to understand, even without being an architect. Despite its simplicity, however, it is a crucial part of the character of a building.

3. The Aesthetic Character

The aesthetic character is perhaps the most subjective aspect of a building’s character. It also happens to be the most artistic aspect.

A building is not unlike a person. It can have a personality.  You can say of a building that it is graceful, dainty, solid, powerful, and even gaunt. If it is designed well, it will communicate the right aesthetic message.

A government building, for example, is not only supposed to be seen as a solid foundation that the community can rely on; it should also be seen as an open place where people can be heard and their needs met.

Understanding the character of government buildings is a talent that architects like Bill Whittaker possess.  He can work with you to bring out the best characteristic of your new government or civil building.



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