At the most practical level, the physical structure of any work of architecture has a single mission: to keep it standing. Over the millennia, though, some of the most basic of those elements of construction have acquired a symbolic status. For example, how a building makes use of light or materials can tell us not only about the purposes for which it was designed, but also about the society for which it was built.
Lisa Passaglia Bauman, assistant professor of art history at George Mason University, examines the structural and symbolic elements of some of the world’s most iconic works of architecture, from Stonehenge to the newly opened One World Trade Center. By looking at aspects of their style, social context, and construction, she reveals the enduring richness of the language of architecture.