Seeing, Understanding, and Architecture: An Armenian Example, Research Paper Example

Table of Contents

Seeing, Understanding, and Architecture: An Armenian Example

Etymological Development of the Concepts

Seeing as an Architectural Concept

Understanding as an Architectural Concept

Defining Architecture

Etymological Summary

Discussion

Seeing as a Form of Communication

Understanding as a Form of Communication

Architecture as a Form of Communication

Defining Architecture in the Context of Seeing & Understanding

Example of Armenian Architecture: The Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Seeing & Understanding the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Conclusions:

Builders Impression of the concepts seeing, understanding and architecture

Lessons from the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Notes

Bibliography

 

 

List of Figures

Figure 1: Etchmiadzin Cathedral, 4th Century

Figure 2: Original Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 3: Etchmiadzin Cathedral Floor plan

Figure 4: Columns of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 5: Ornamental Design on the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 6: Etchmiadzin Cathedral     Figure 7: Grounds of Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 8: First Dome Interior       Figure 9: Second Dome Interior View

Figure 10: Etchmiadzin Cathedral burial Grounds

 

Seeing, Understanding, and Architecture: An Armenian Example

Architects typically hope for their work to be enduringly successful and so they try to design structures to complement cities and work symbiotically with their surroundings.  In order to accomplish this, the structure must be designed to balance cultural, social, economic, and environmental needs.  This includes placing the needs of its citizens at the forefront of all its planning activities since poor planning and management can have severe consequences for the urban economy, the environment, and society as a whole.  Built in 301-303 by Gregor Lousavorich (Saint Gregory the Illuminator), the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, pictured in Figure 1, is the oldest state-built church in the world.[1]

Figure 1: Etchmiadzin Cathedral, 4th Century

Figure 1: Etchmiadzin Cathedral, 4th Century

The 5th-century Armenian annals bespeak of St. Gregory having a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer in the spot where the original vaulted basilica was built when Armenia officially became the first Christian country in the world.[2]  This discourse will exemplify the importance of seeing and understanding in the architectural sense using the Armenian construct of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral as the focal example of how these concepts dictate or facilitate architectural design.  The composition will continue with an etymological analysis of the concepts of seeing, understanding, and architectural expression followed by a discussion of the definition of architecture as well as how the concepts of seeing and understanding relate to architecture.  The discussion will also explore how architecture acts as a form of communication and conclude with an in-depth analysis of how the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (a) is visually perceived [seeing]; (b) is intellectually perceived [understanding]; and (c) fits the criterion as a form of architectural expression.  Summarily, the discourse will conclude with a recap of the aforementioned elements that detail how the construct of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral is a product of the visual and theoretical perceptions of its architect and present indications of how lessons learned from its construct have influenced future similar ventures.

Etymological Development of the Concepts

Local governments have an enormous influence on how urban spaces are used and how this use effects the environment as well as how their cities interact with the more remote regions neighboring the cities and the larger global community.[3]  The buildings and architectural constructs attract people with their visual appeal as well as due to the inherent or implied meanings that inspired their design.  What people understand about why a building or structure was erected can attract a multitude of visitors just as much as the aesthetic qualities.  On a citywide scale, the process of creating places and engaging with the community has much to do with understanding the needs of the people that will be using or occupying that space.  This involves gaining an understanding of the identity or essence of the people, which is necessary in order to successfully see the structure as a functional form that will add aesthetic value to the surrounding areas.  As place-makers, the loci must work to fulfill specific needs and designers tend to use forms of visual engagement because they enable people to attach visual impressions to physical spaces as well as personal experiences.  This section of the examination will analyze the etymological origins of the concepts of seeing and understanding to grasp how they have shaped the evolution of architecture.

Seeing as an Architectural Concept

The textbook definition describes ‘seeing’ simply as vision or perception with the eyes, but this analysis will present the concept as much more than this simple assessment identifies.[4]  Often when people speak of a place, it evokes a mental picture of the scene that allows the individual to elaborate in detail regarding the specific attributes of the locale.  The visual attributes assist in the recollection of the experiences associated with the place, which allows them to develop fond memories ascribed to the structure.  In essence, it is not actually the place itself that they have fond memories of, but the experiences they had in that particular place.  This noun of place is defined as a particular portion of space, but, as the creators of places and spaces, the concept as well as its importance is derived from a continual progression of interaction between the person, their social environment, and the physical setting.[5]

The term ‘image’ indicates the scale and importance of a project and reflects the ambitions of that project as being sight dependent.  This concept also uses the terms place, destination, and attributes associated with visual details, such as beautiful, as descriptors, and all of these aspects have visual implications.  Such conceptualizations seek to represent or reconfigure a place’s image to accrue economic, cultural, spiritual, and political capital.  However, the organization of the city space has great bearing on the success of the conceptualization of the city’s image, especially the physical, social, theological, and cultural identities of the city.[6]  These markers are dependent upon how uniquely and authentically the characteristics of the city have guided the development of a ‘place appropriate’ framework for the evolution of the city.[7]  This represents a particular shift in thinking, making the analysis of the visual physiognomies regarding what makes a structure authentic or important to human care and well-being, not only for existing residents of the city, but also as a lure that attracts new people to the cities, such as tourists and residents and re-positions global thinking and understanding regarding the edifice.

Understanding as an Architectural Concept

As previously determined, ‘place’ is commonly demarcated as a particular portion of space, but the majority of individuals would add that most buildings are invested with meaning, history, and symbolism by various individuals and groups.[8]  With regard to architecture, although people desire a global and universal understanding of structure design, they also seek to have an abiding appreciation for context, contingency, and local distinctiveness.[9]  These arguments widened the gap and heightened the contrast between place, space, seeing, and understanding.  Essentially, place is considered to be more concretely defined, existential, and subjectively definitive, while space is thought to be a universally abstract phenomenon subject to scientific law.  This leaves interpretations of seeing as a tactile sensory function and understanding to be a conscious action latent with cognitive implications.

This process creates the sense of place that is personally and socially constructed, which results in the significance that is bestowed upon a place.[10]  The constructs of place dependence, place attachment, sense of place, and place identity collectively provide a diverse array of methods for deriving an understanding of the development of human connection to physical structures or spaces.[11]  In recent studies, the term ‘place’ has been classified as both a noun and a process, which will be explored more thoroughly later in this analysis.[12]  Before defining the spatial contexts of the architectural building, it is necessary to first gain an understanding of the architectural design within these two definitive contexts.  It is therefore essentially understood that places are based on these three interrelated components that define architectural structures, which are the physical setting; the person, such as an individual’s internal psychological and social processes and attributes as they are tied to social and cultural factors; and the activities or rituals conducted in the place.[13]

Defining Architecture

From a historic standpoint, architects as well as interior designers have envisaged their design process as being singularly guided by the efficiency of their responses to the utilitarian demands of society without being able to see the emotional and psychological impact of their work.[14]  Furthermore, studies have indicated how architecture is actually a conversion of interior in addition to exterior forces of use and space, which are the elements that create the overall aesthetic appeal.[15]  However, the overall satisfaction of implementing a successful design must also include considerations of the functionality of the space as well as the form since the physical form of the space has a strong influence on the innovation that can be integrated into the design implementations and the functional requirements that can successfully be met.[16]  The inspiration motivating the creation of the building has a definitive impact on whether the functional requirements conflict with the characteristics of the architectural design intended for the space, and the designer must surmount this condition through innovation of thought and creative enterprise.[17] The main objective of the creation of a landmark structure is to support or represent the ideal or theme the architectural design is trying to project in order to achieve effective transformation of the landscape.

Capturing the quintessence of architectural inspiration with a concise and focused design is an immensely complex task, involving the use of methodologies that are meaningful to the bulk of the target audiences, including stakeholders and governing officials of interest, which could effectively distinguish the locale from other international destinations.[18]  It has been established that popular architectural structures can help economies boost their economy by attracting tourists, visitors, residents, and investors to malls, restaurants, and other neighboring businesses.[19]  As the tourism industry became more substantial as a result of increasing competition in worldwide tourism markets, destination personality has become a feasible symbol for establishing destination brands and building a distinctive identity for tourism places.[20]

Etymological Summary

The etymological orientation of seeing and understanding in the context of architectural design is undoubtedly based in the roots of each word.   The sensory applications of sight infuse architectural design with the requirement of aesthetical appeal and the concept of understanding is derived from the inspiration that facilitates the majority of man-made architecturally significant structures, such as the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, which is believed to be inspired by God.

Discussion

Sometimes, word meanings overlap, attributing multiple meanings to terms and contested meanings that are closely related to functional buildings as well as urban space.  These monuments are considered architectural landmarks, heritage buildings, and officially recognized historic sites, such as the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, because they create a sense of symbolism and historic significance.[21]  Structures like the Etchmiadzin Cathedral demonstrate the revolutionary ideals in addition to the regional, local, and intrinsic characteristics of place, which are a fundamental theme in academic work as well as novels and other popular discourse.  The most influential aspects of architectural design are viewing the charming synthesis of insights on the genuine feature of places, and their relativity to a basic commonality in the surrounding culture.  Architects often use their insights to illustrate the new perspective of the land, implementing the most current innovations made possible in their time to make the structures they erect distinctive, incorporating common features of urban design such as paths, edges, nodes, districts, and landmarks.[22]  Through their interactions with the architectural structure, people make sense of urban life with reference to these elements and it is the duty of architectural designers to make the city’s image more recognizable, vivid, and memorable to the inhabitants as well as visitors.[23]  Clear images of the structure as an independent place gives people an easy framework for communication, emotional satisfaction, and personal security.[24]  This is demonstrated by the influential movements in landscape architecture and urban design that directly challenged the ideas of modernism.

Seeing as a Form of Communication

Landmarks are central visual symbols that we associated with a specific place and their significance has increased over time through resulting in their current representation as places of value that mark the depth of cultural tradition.[25]  Even today’s natural landmarks have essential characteristics, such as height, distinctiveness, form, visibility, and views that define place, like signpost routes, are used to modify space.[26]  These aspects have also been noted in the development of cultural, economic, or religious meaning.  The physical manifestation of landmarks reflects fundamental human psychology that relies on contrasting features that differentiate it from the surrounding structures and enable visibility.[27]

Additionally, landmarks are ineffective and cannot exist without being seen. We have already shown that visibility relies on contrast since a tree on its own can be a landmark just as well as a group of trees. A clearing in a forest can be a landmark. A rock in a flat desert can be a landmark. A rock or group of rocks in a forest can be a landmark, but in the same context we see the individual tree on a plain but cannot differentiate between trees in a forest. Manhattan is a landmark composed of many towers, an ever changing skyline but is only one single landmark. If you transplant one of the towers to a low rise city like Wroclaw then that tower takes on a totally different visibility. We see something different when we intersperse distance with changing perspective, which is crucial. If you are low, high looks higher.

Landmarks have varying significance with respect to distance form it and possible views. From the sea Manhattan is a single landmark, even when close but outside it remains as a single landmark but it is only from inside Manhattan that individual buildings, particularly the small scale churches become landmarks because from that perspective they offer contrast and the office blocks can only frame the views or act as a backdrop. Visibility is generally appreciated in daylight but we need to note in passing that other factors can have influence: night (artificial lighting), the sound of clocks (chimes), fog horns are substitute landmarks

Understanding as a Form of Communication

Studies indicate the perception that space can be best conceptualized through an understanding of the meanings individuals derive from their environments. These meanings establish links between material objects and human perceptions and, when applied to ornament, these objects and meanings can be considered and understood through the framework of narrative.  The basic ideology of the ideas in current examinations of interior design suggests that, in order to be relevant, interior design has to have more than aesthetic significance.[28]  In their analysis, researchers first analyze the relevance of the entryway in the overall scheme of the interior factor of architecture.[29] The entrance is the initial portal that transports the individual from outside to inside and has significant relevance regarding how they perceive the inside.  The state of the outside can facilitate preconceived notions of what can be expected on the inside, which can cause feelings of vulnerability and has instigated the inception of transitional spaces between the entryway of a room or domicile and the hub of activity within.[30] The impression of coziness or comfort we get from a room or space the first time we enter it creates our appreciation or dislike for that particular atmosphere.  It is for this reason that designing a space from the outside in as well as the inside out creates necessary tensions, which helps differentiate the outside wall as the point of change, making the entryway an architectural event. [31]

Throughout history, many architects have envisaged their design process as being singularly guided by the efficiency of their responses to the utilitarian demands of society without being able to see the emotional and psychological impact of their work.[32]  Furthermore, professional speculation illustrates how architecture is actually a conversion of the interior and exterior forces of use and space, which are the elements that create the overall aesthetic appeal.[33]  A common understanding of the reading indicates that successful design must also include considerations of the functionality of the space as well as the form.[34]  The overall form of the place has a strong impact on the liberties that can be taken with design implementations and the functional requirements that can successfully be met. The functional requirements may sometimes conflict with the characteristics of the space, which must be a condition that the designer can overcome through innovation of thought and creative design.[35]

Examination of Abercrombie’s analysis specifies not to limit the distinction of the design of interiors to inside built form and that it is not interchangeable with interior architecture.[36] This is vital to the ability to apprehend emerging forces.  Fixed architectural enclosures are no longer the dominant shaping and mediating element for interior and exterior relations due to the plurality in the function of the architectural structures in which they dwell.  An example is the home office, which gives the design of the office space temporal definitions, as the office may have to serve another purpose after business hours.  This is when the importance of functionality plays the most important role in determining whether the space becomes commodious or cozy, relaxed or Spartan, bright or stimulating, and all other attributes of the interior design.[37]

Architecture as a Form of Communication

We always refer to a landmark as geographic aspect used by travelers or other people to navigate their way from one area to another.  Nowadays, people use this term in a more modern context, and a landmark can include anything that is easily recognizable, such as a monument, building, vegetation, or other structure.  American’s use the term to indicate places that have notable physical features or historical significance and might be interesting to tourists.  In addition, both British and American English uses the term landmark is also used in casual navigation, like when giving directions, and is useful whether the person is familiar with the area or not.  However, the term landmark has nonetheless become a very blurred concept.

The components of the description of a landmark are relative because they rely on the viewpoint of the observer and that may differ from one person to another.  In such a classification, it is difficult to determine which buildings or places can be potential objective landmarks as opposed to subjective landmarks.  People usually tend to establish a major criterion when grading the buildings for their location’s value.  Although location in the spatial configuration is one of the crucial criteria for the building to be considered as landmark, it is not the sole criterion.  In some cases, symbolic, aesthetic, and historical features play a crucial role in determining whether a building will become a salient element.

In the case of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, also called the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church, it was founded by St. Gregory, who became the founder of the Armenian Apostolic Church.[38] St. Gregory named the church ‘Echmiadzin’, which can be translated as “the place where the Only Begotten descended”, renaming the city of Vagharshapat the same, making it the capital and religious center of Armenia.[39]  Initial analysis of the structure begins with the entryway, since this greets the guests first in the overall scheme of the interior factor of architecture.[40]  Additionally, the entrance transports the individual from outside to inside as the initial portal and that has significant relevance concerning how they perceive the inside.[41]  The inception of transitional spaces between the entryway of a structure is intended to ease the guest from existing in the outside state, which can facilitate preconceived notions of what they can expect on the inside, leading to feelings of vulnerability or apprehension regarding the room or domicile and the hub of activity within.[42]  The impression of well-being or relaxation we get from a space the first time we enter it creates our approval or dislike for that particular atmosphere.  This can be surmised as one of the reasons that the outside of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral has been designed on the same level as inside, which assists in  alleviating unnecessary tensions and helps differentiate the outside perimeter as the point of change, making the entryway an architectural event.[43]

Defining Architecture in the Context of Seeing & Understanding

As previously mentioned, an unconventional definition of ‘place’ has emerged and become increasingly significant in urban studies.  This new definition indicates ‘place’ in terms of a process, defining it as the process by which social, economic, and political relations generate meanings for and through particular spaces such that these social relations are never entirely local, and thus any attempt to mark out a ‘place’ by drawing boundary lines, or by identifying fundamentally unique historical factors, is doomed to failure[44].  Specificity of a place does not depend on a long internalized history.  In actuality, specificity is constructed out of a particular combination of social relations meeting and then weaving together at a particular locus.  Within the last two decades, the concept of place as process has grown, as writers and geographers developed a new theory of place.[45]

This depends primarily on the process and its interconnection between the local and global sense of space.  It is summarized in four major interrelated points that first indicate that place is never stagnant.  This is illustrated in how social interactions tie localities to global economic, cultural, and political interactions, which leads to constant changes in place in the short term as well as the long term even if that short time demonstrates a period of relative stability.[46]  The second point specifies that there is no need to identify or define any boundaries that isolate a place from its wider context in the world.[47]  While some practical reflections may warrant drawing boundaries in order to study a specific set of circumstances, this can make it very hard to understand place as process.

The third point stipulates that places do not have single, unique ‘identities’ and are full of internal conflicts, which, has defined many places at various points in their history and is particularly true for Mediterranean nations like Armenia.[48]  The fourth point indicates that places do not remain unique because of a fundamental essence that emerges out of a nostalgic sense of undisturbed history and locality, but because of the turbulence of global flows, interactions, and intersections, which defines them through the local intersection of these changing social relations.[49]  For this reason, place is not easily defined and cannot be considered as a one-dimensional word at all.  As a process, place has numerous facets and dimensions that are rich and complicated, fascinating and frustrating, beautiful and horrific all at once. Although it may be confusing to use a noun in the context of a verb, when we realize the process of place and the global sense of place, it allows us to understand the realities of the modern struggles regarding the meaning that we can find in so many circumstances.

Example of Armenian Architecture: The Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Cathedral architecture originated prior to the inception of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in 303 AD, seen in Figure 2, and is descriptive of a unique type of design representative of the Hellenistic structures popular during the third and fourth centuries[50].

Figure 2: Original Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 2: Original Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Professional opinions regarding the original appearance of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral vary.  According to some hypotheses, the cathedral had the shape of a basilica at the beginning of the fourth century and, after reconstruction at the end of the fifth century, its plan became rectangular, seen in Figure 3, with a four-apse cross and rectangular corner annexes fitted into it.[51]

Figure 3: Etchmiadzin Cathedral Floor plan

Figure 3: Etchmiadzin Cathedral Floor plan

The building is originally thought to have had five domes but, in the seventh century the apses were moved outside the limits of the rectangle, which gave the building the cross-cupola outside shape.[52]  The configuration is similar to the Hoysalas building style, which developed much later, and is distinguishable by the star-like patterns of their buildings made up of a grid of rotating squares distinguished by circular columns.[53]

Temple plans in this style are typically composed of a multitude of columns of Ionic, Doric, or Dravidian style, which support the large dome ceiling, which is a distinct exodus from the conventional square form of the temple.[54]   While the traditional square construct is thought to have been added to the original basilica construct in the seventh century, by the twelfth century it had transformed into an independent style, which was uniquely cultivated during the reign of the Hoysalas, and this style is credited to over 1500 building structures, of which about a hundred temples have survived to date.[55]  In addition to influential features reminiscent of Western designs, cathedral such as the Etchmiadzin Cathedral have also contributed design attributes to temples in other cultures and were symbolic of the religious teachings made popular by the architects and philosophers as well as the military conquests of the numerous kings seeking to exceed the constructs of their native influences in artistic achievement.[56]

Some features of Etchmiadzin Cathedral column designs, seen in Figure 4, includes the use of chloritic schist or soapstone as basic building material, the stepped style of the towers, the effect of light and shade on carved walls which they used to maximum effect in their sculptures in the numerous projections and recesses, the abundance of adornment on the domed ceilings, and the numerous crosses adorning the steeples, which gives a fair idea of the social life styles of the times.[57]

Figure 4: Columns of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 4: Columns of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Impressive examples of this multi-faceted style of column design reached the peak of inclusion during the thirteenth century, when structures bearing this format dominated the expanse of the many of the large and small temples built during this era.[58]  A number of these constructs are still standing today as testimonials of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral architectural style.   The strong flux of architectural activity during the birth of the Armenian nation as a Christian country was strongly influenced by the social, cultural and political events of the period, which is partially responsible for the additional inventive decoration and ornamentation features unique to Etchmiadzin Cathedral, pictured in Figure 5.[59]

 

Figure 5: Ornamental Design on the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 5: Ornamental Design on the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

A popular tourist destination in in modern times, Etchmiadzin Cathedral offers an excellent opportunity for pilgrims and students of architecture to examine Hellenistic architectural tradition.[60]

Seeing & Understanding the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Religious buildings and archaeological remains of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral testify to the implantation of Christianity in Armenia and the evolution of a quite specific Armenian ecclesiastical architecture, characterized by the modern Etchmiadzin Cathedral, pictured in Figures 6 and 7, which has deeply influenced the architectural and artistic development of the entire region.[61]

Figure 6: Etchmiadzin Cathedral      Figure 7: Grounds of Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 6: Etchmiadzin Cathedral      Figure 7: Grounds of Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 7: Grounds of Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Figure 7: Grounds of Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Although the Etchmiadzin Cathedral was originally a vaulted basilica, various political events carried to its partial destruction and its reconstruction according the current cruciform plan, carried out in 480.  In 618, its wooden dome was replaced by an identical stone dome, seen in Figures 8 and 9, which is kept almost unchanged to the present day.[62]

Figure 8: First Dome Interior

Figure 8: First Dome Interior  

Figure 9: Second Dome Interior View

Figure 8: First Dome Interior  

It is based on four massive pillars, connected to the external walls by slender arcades; those on the north side date back to the 4th and 5th centuries.[63] Three-story campanile built opposite the West entrance dates from the 17th century and the rotundas in six columns based formed of four pillars, built at the beginning of the 18th century against Northern apses, is southern to give the appearance of a five-domed building at the Cathedral.[64]

The essential features of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral are the fundamental harmony of its plan and its proportions, as well as the simplicity and classical purity of its facades, which are the main qualities of Armenian architecture of the early middle ages.[65]  Apart from the construction of a campanile in the 18th century, the monument underwent no fundamental transformation.[66]  The Etchmiadzin Cathedral is not characterized by slender and delicate proportions. During the 17th century, it was rebuilt with a cupola and different ceilings, as well as a large portico used as a burial place for the most prominent members of the Armenian clergy, shown in Figure 10, built along its western façade.[67]

Figure 10: Etchmiadzin Cathedral burial Grounds

Figure 10: Etchmiadzin Cathedral burial Grounds

Landmarks express meaning by giving a visible message that relies on a relationship between the emitter and the receiver and, since architectural design is complex, this involves a myriad of stakeholders, decision makers, and people, including client, landowners, planning authorities, and fundraisers whose requirements have to be interpreted by the designer.[68]  Receivers are all users after transformation, both those directly envisaged by the emitter and, because it is an urban area, all those who will experience the benefit of the building. The referent is the value and the code is the language of communication which for landmarks is its form. Visibility is the landmark’s principle attribute. The meaning arises from the relationship between value expressed by landmark and receiver.

The value and meaning expressed through landmarks in developing city structures have been directly converted throughout human history.  Both inherent and man-made landmarks are subject to human interpretation of their visual attributes, although man has changed the natural spatial order by modifying natural features to enrich their vocabulary and to express distinctive value through architectural design.[69]  The visual references provided by landmarks are necessary for static confirmation or knowing where we are, communicating and expressing values, dynamic orientation or knowing when we are moving and in what direction, understanding meanings and relationships with a given culture, and defining place through design.[70]  The city has always differed from other areas because of its diversity and landmarks express meaning by giving a visible message.  Next we will examine why it is important for landmarks to be recognizable.

Cities are ever changing; they are ‘alive’, they respond to ever changing need. The most constant feature of cities is change. They represent a process of evolution by changing all the time but not always with a great evolutionary success.  Cities change because life changes. Urban form adapts to changes in civilization reflecting their social structures. Urban transformation is often considered as a ‘modern’ feature of the city such that people are inclined to regard current changes as something unusual particularly in scale and depth of their transformation. Looking back in the Mediterranean region there have been no less than three great urban transformations leading to a completely different form of the city.

Using the semiology model shows that meaning is the relationship between the landmark and the receiver.[71] This depends upon a common language so that although one can superficially appreciate the meaning of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral without education, and with further knowledge greater understanding, the full meaning is lost as it can only be comprehensively experienced through participation in the ceremonies of the time.[72]  Some might forgo this painful experience and rely on books.  Cities contain many places with meaning, not all are landmarks but crucially all landmarks must, through meaning, communicate to the receiver. On a personal level the same building may have very different values and meaning, a tourist visiting a religious icon does not necessarily involve worship. Since cities are in constant change the meaning of landmarks must also respond that process. If those changes are small or slow then it is easy to understand adaptability within the meaning. Where changes are significant, for example where there is transformation, then meaning can be severely affected or even lost. A redundant church might be demolished, or transformed from ‘religious’ to ‘cultural’.[73]

Conclusions:

The intention of this discourse was to present an analysis of architectural elements through the use of the Armenian iconic landmark, the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, as the focal point to exemplify the points made.  Explanation of landmark attributes requires an appropriate method for exploring and defining them. This analysis was required to inform our understanding of the form and quality of landmarks. Landmarks at their simplest level are ‘signs’; therefore we have to study ‘signs’ using semiology -the study of signs -as an appropriate method for our analysis of landmark attributes.  From this reading, the experiential knowledge gained about the basic ideology of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral is that, in order to be relevant, architectural design has to have more than aesthetic significance.  It is important to consider whether the design encourages or directs movement, is open or closed, has psychological, symbolic, and other relevancies, and is functional, making all these criteria aspects that must be closely considered when designing an interior.

Builders Impression of the concepts seeing, understanding and architecture

Within the context of architecture, the ability of the public to envisage the designer’s intent as well as conceptualize the explicit and implied meanings relative to the design has a strong impact on whether the structure achieves the status of a landmark.  The strength of the character of the room as illustrated through the interior design as well as the exterior must demonstrate the architectural intent in order to impress visitors.  Natural attributes of the room, such as the view, natural lighting, or an inconveniently placed support beam are just a few of the inherent conditions an interior designer must be prepared to circumvent to bring out the best potential of a space.  This is the beginning of the spatial planning process and the symbolic, psychological, and narrative functions of the space must also be incorporated into the planning process.  The utilitarian features of the room must not be ignored, as too much stimulation in an environment meant to be bland would not support the functionality of the room.  The psychological attributes of the room, meaning whether it facilitates feelings of arousal, pleasure, dominance, approach, or avoidance, are all aspects that have to be considered when implementing a design plan for any space (Abercrombie, 1990).

Lessons from the Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Summarily, scrutiny of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral has taught me not to limit the distinction of the design of interiors to the inside built form and that it is not interchangeable with exterior architecture. This is vital to the ability to withstand natural events, especially considering numerous instances of human destruction the structure has withstood.  As demonstrated in this discourse, the perception of space can be best conceptualized through knowledge of the significances individuals derive from their environments, since such connotations establish links between material objects and human perceptions. The value of an iconic landmark, or several, can have the same significance and conceptualize the same meanings if their construct shares the same inspiration.  This is demonstrated in the multiple reconstructions of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral throughout history.  It is essentially a given that values are relative to power, political, economic, or ideological principles, as exemplified in the differentiation in the value structure represented by the iconic images of the White House and Versailles versus the derivation of meanings in the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

This discourse has illustrated the numerous ways that seeing and understanding  influence the architectural presence of a structure’s conceptual design using the Armenian construct of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral as the focal example of how these concepts dictate or facilitate architectural design.  The etymological analysis of the concepts of seeing, understanding, and architectural expression presented how humans derive or apply meanings to places based on their experiences, which is a principal aspect of the spiritual, aesthetic, and economic value attributed to the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.  The discussion of the definition of architecture as well as how the concepts of seeing and understanding relate to architecture clarified these examples using the direct connotations of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.  This helped facilitate a more thorough understanding of how architecture acts as a form of communication in the case of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral through the visual perceptions of the structure, intellectual perceptions of the historical meanings of the structure and fits the criterion as a form of architectural expression.

Limitations of this research present in the use of one example, the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, to demonstrate the concepts of seeing and understanding in the context of architecture.  This presents areas for further research and the opportunity for this research to be expanded using examples of cathedral architecture from other cultures/regions and also to include other forms of architecture, as in other types of buildings aside from cathedrals, such as museums.

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[1]. Etchmiadzin Cathedral. n.d. http://www.armenica.org/cgi-bin/armenica.cgi?=2=ba=1====baz0001 (accessed March 29, 2013). (Etchmiadzin Cathedral n.d.)

[2]. UNESCO. Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots. 2013. (UNESCO 2013)

[3]. Edmond W. M. Lam, Albert P. C. Chan, and Daniel W. M. Chan. “Determinants of Successful Design-Build Projects.” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management (ASCE) 134, no. 5 (May 2008): 333. (Lam, Chan and Chan 2008)

[4]. Seeing. HarperCollins Publishers Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition . 2013. (Seeing 2013)

[5]. Place. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. 2009; D. Smaldone, C. Harris, and N. Sanyal. “An exploration of place as a process: The case of Jackson Hole, WY.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 25 (2005): 397 (Place 2009)

[6]. J. Winfield-Pfefferkorn. “The Branding of Cities: Exploring City Branding: Case Studies of Weak and Strong Cities.” 2005. (Winfield-Pfefferkorn 2005)

[7]. Ibid

[8]. Place; Donald Norman. Emotional design: why we love (or hate) everyday things. New York: Basic Books, 2004. (Norman 2004)

[9]. Paolo Girardelli. “Between Rome and Istanbul: Architecture and Material Culture of a Franciscan Convent in the Ottoman Capital.” Mediterranean Studies 19, no. 1 (2010): 163. (Girardelli 2010)

[10]. Smaldone, Harris, and Sanyal, “An exploration of place as a process”, 380. (Smaldone, Harris and Sanyal 2005)

[11]. Ibid.

[12]. Donald Norman, Emotional design.

[13]. Smaldone, Harris, and Sanyal, “An exploration of place as a process”, 398.

[14]. Ibid, 340

[15]. Pierre Berthon, Morris B. Holbrook, James M. Hulbert, and Leyland Pitt. “Viewing Brands in Multiple Dimensions.” MIT Sloan Management Review 48, no. 2 (2007): 37. (Berthon, et al. 2007)

[16]. Smaldone, Harris, and Sanyal, “An exploration of place as a process”, 400.

[17]. Ibid

[18]. Kurt Hanks, Phil Gerould, and Larry Belliston. Draw! A visual approach to thinking. Menlo Park, California: Crisp Learning, 1992. (Hanks, Gerould and Belliston 1992)

[19]. Lam, Chan, and Chan, “Determinants of Successful Design-Build Projects”, 333.

[20]. Michael C. Loulakis, and Lauren P. McLaughlin. “State Agency’s Use of Best Value Design/Build Struck Down.” Civil Engineering (American Society of Civil Engineers), May 2011: 88. (Loulakis and McLaughlin 2011)

[21].  Ibid.

[22]. Girardelli, “Between Rome and Istanbul”, 163.

[23]. Ibid.

[24]. Berthon, Holbrook, Hulbert, and Pitt, “Viewing Brands in Multiple Dimensions”, 37.

[25]. Utah Department of Transportation. Best Value Design-Build Selection: Manual of Instruction. Utah: Department of Transportation, 2011.

[26]. Peter Raisbeck. “Perceptions of architectural design and project risk: Understanding the architects’ role in a PPP project.” Construction Management and Economics 26, no. 11 (2008): 1147. (Raisbeck 2008)

[27]. Winfield-Pfefferkorn, “The Branding of Cities”.

[28]. Crispin Branfoot, and Anna L. Dallapiccola. “Temple Architecture in Bhatkal and the “Rāmāyaṇa” Tradition in Sixteenth-Century Coastal Karnataka.” Artibus Asiae 65, no. 2 (2005): 253.

[29]. Ibid.

[30]. Ibid.

[31]. Ibid, 254.

[32]. Ezio Cadoni, Luca Botturi, and Daniele Forni. “Learning by Seeing: The TEMAS Multimedia Learning Objects for Civil Engineers.” TechTrends (ProQuest Central) 52, no. 5 (September/October 2008): 18.

[33]. C. R. Morey. “The Sources of Mediæval Style.” The Art Bulletin (College Art Association) 7, no. 2 (December 1924): 37.

[34]. Ibid.

[35]. Ibid.

[36]. S. Abercrombie. A Philosophy of Interior Design. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

[37]. Ibid.

[38]. UNESCO. Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin.

[39]. The Armenian Church. Holy Etchmiadzin. 2013. http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net/our-church/holy-etchmiadzin/. (The Armenian Church 2013)

[40]. S. Abercrombie. A Philosophy of Interior Design.

[41]. Ibid.

[42]. Smaldone, Harris, and Sanyal, “An exploration of place as a process”, 400.

[43]. Abercrombie, A Philosophy of Interior Design.

[44]. Smaldone, Harris, and Sanyal, “An exploration of place as a process”, 402.

[45]. Place.

[46]. W. Samuel. Niece. Design-Build Construction Projects: Overview and Tips for Success. February 2, 2009.

[47]. Ibid.

[48]. Ibid.

[49]. Ibid.

[50]. Ronald T. Marchese, and Marlene R. Breu. “Sacred Textiles: The Hidden Wonders of the Armenian Apostolic Church Collections of Istanbul.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, Spring 2004: 86.

[51]. Samuel Graham Wilson. “The Armenian Church in Its Relation to the Russian Government.” The North American Review (University of Northern Iowa) 180, no. 578 (January 1905): 89.

[52]. Ibid.

[53]. Gary M. Tartakov. “The Beginning of Dravidian Temple Architecture in Stone.” Artibus Asiae 42, no. 1 (1980): 45; Yaguchi, Naomichi. On the Spatial Units of the Hoysala Temples: A Study of Spatial Composition of the Hoysala Temples. 2005.

[54]. Tarkatov, “The Beginning of Dravidian Temple”, 68;

[55]. Yaguchi, “On the Spatial Units of the Hoysala Temples”, 184.

[56]. Marchese, and Breu. “Sacred Textiles”, 90.

[57]. Crispin Branfoot, and Anna L. Dallapiccola. “Temple Architecture”, 261-262; Ibid, 68; Ibid.

[58]. Tartakov, “The Beginning of Dravidian Temple”, 68.

[59]. UNESCO.

[60]. Ibid.

[61]. Maxine Simpson. “Faith in the City: At the ‘crossroad’ St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral.” New York Daily News, May 03, 2009: 32.

[62]. Ibid.

[63]. Ibid.

[64]. Ibid.

[65]. The Armenian Church. Holy Etchmiadzin.

[66]. UNESCO.

[67]. Ibid.

[68]. Dennis R, Papazian and Richard Hovannisian. “The dynastic periods: from antiquity to the fourteenth century.” Canadian Journal of History, April 2001, 36 ed.: 209.

[69]. W. Samuel Niece. Design-Build Construction Projects: Overview and Tips for Success. February 2, 2009.

[70]. Jay Ruby. “Speaking For, Speaking About, Speaking With, or Speaking Alongside: An Anthropological and Documentary Dilemma.” Visual Anthropology Review 7, no. 2 (Fall 1991): 50.

[71]. Ezio Cadoni, Luca Botturi, and Daniele Forni. “Learning by Seeing”, 19.

[72]. UNESCO

[73]. Winfield-Pfefferkorn, “The Branding of Cities”.