Contemporary Architecture Vs Monumental Buildings in Australasia

Contemporary Architecture in Australasia

Topic: Why are ancient monumental buildings of greater importance to contemporary architects in Austral-Asia compared to traditional vernacular buildings?


To dissect the topic, all the key terms will be defined beginning with monumental buildings which are typically structures erected to honor an individual, event or those that became essential to a social group as a way to recall their history or cultural heritage. On the other hand, traditional vernacular structures are structures built following the requirements of the locals and the availability of building materials and hence it reflects local traditions. Finally, contemporary architecture means the architecture of the 21st century.


The position taken by the team is that monumental buildings are vital to contemporary architecture in Austral-Asia and to outline the arguments, references will be made to the Angkor Wat Temple built in the 12th century in the Asia and the pacific region, specifically Krong Siem Reap in Cambodia (Tourism of Cambodia, 2017). The first reason why contemporary architects tend to prefer monumental architecture is that contemporary buildings are built to get noticed and to astonish the populace. Monumental buildings are the ones that offer this level of aesthetic value since they are built to depict a certain status quo therefore, they offered and still are a sight to be behold (Hirst, 2017). Take the Angkor Wat temple for instance. The structure is among the most important archeological sites in the South-East region of Asia. It is a magnificent structure that signifies spectacular luxury. Additionally, it is artistically unique much like the Taj Mahal which makes it stand out globally.  This is among the features that has given it a place under the world wonder list.

Different contemporary architectures are usually looking for a specific symbolism which may be visual and/or thematic for instance blending with the natural landscapes or adding to it like the De Young Museum in San Francisco built in 2005. The architecture of the Angkor Wat marries this point since from a distance, it resembles a series of long narrow ridges hence making up the landscape of the locale (Tourism of Cambodia, 2017). Additionally, many of its structures and the courtyards bear a resemblance to a cross which may be a thematic or structural symbolism which is a ticking factor for contemporary architects.

Contemporary architects are also heavy on the use of a myriad of building materials and also using materials that are more than conventional which are combined to a single surface, for instance, glass and wood beams. This diversity can be said to have its roots in monumental structures. The temple for instance makes use of repetitive architectural elements (Szalapaj, 2005). That is, it has galleries with columns, tympanums, curved roofs and towers. Additionally, the notion of height was achieved by the amalgamation of a variety of aspects. Hence this shows contemporary architectures that they can span away from the norm to create splendid and yet safe structures (Boscato, Russo, Ceravolo, & Fragonara, 2015).

Contemporary Architecture in Australasia
Contemporary Architecture in Australasia

During contemporary times, we have witnessed a growing demand and appreciation of art. Contemporary architects have not been left behind by this trend which is not a concidence that a majority of contemporary architectures are museums which are havens for art and history (Jarus, 2014). The marriage between art and architecture has been introduced by monumental structures which seem to be a point of reference or one of motivation or both. For instance, the west entrance for the Angkor Wat Temple is characterized by giant stone lion sculptures on each side of the terrace (Jarus, 2014). Additionally, there are paintings all over the temple with the recently discovered in the central tower making up the 200 that have been discovered in the temple. Hence, several contemporary structures feature paintings, sculptures among other artistic features.

By description monumental structures are mainly relatively large and they have a public nature since a majority were built to accommodate many people. For instance, the Angkor Wat Temple is approximately 200 hectares in perimeter and its moat is 650-foot-wide and it is estimated that it could offer residence to approximately 500000 people (Tourism of Cambodia, 2017). This vastness helps in the use of a variety of naturally available resources such as natural light and air for illumination and aeration. This may be somewhat attributed to the lack of technology to provide to the outlined needs. However, in contemporary times we are faced with the problem of sustainability development (Radford, Srivastava, & Morkoc, 2014). Contemporary architects are using the monumental structures to advice on how to make small spaces appear big and by using materials such as large windows naturally lighting is largely utilized which results to energy saving which is in line with today’s sustainability requirements.

Today we learn of the constructors of monumental structures who are marked as legends in the field. For instance, the builder of the Angkor Wat Temple is the king named Suryavarman II, he will remain a figure for coming generations who will learn of his lineage as well as the architectural achievements (Jarus, 2014). Therefore, for contemporary architects, building that which can be referred to as contemporary due to the ingenuity of the design becomes a way to last several lifetimes and also show their architectural prowess (Boutinot, Joly, & Mangematin, 2016).



From the introduced arguments, it is evident that monumental structures have a lot to offer to the contemporary architects. This stems from factors that can be reiterated into today’s structures while others showed points of improvements that can be attributed to today’s structures to result to completely different structures that not only fulfill the basic humanly need for shelter but also reinvents the architectural profession. With the Angkor Wat Temple as a point of reference a clear pattern can be constructed as to how structures have evolved over the centuries to what we see today for instance the Burj Khalifa towers which is the century’s most iconic tower in terms of its height. There are a myriad of other architectural designs that are also iconic in their own different ways. What all these contemporary designs have in common is that they have at least one aspect informed by monumental structures which make up a majority of world heritage sites.



Boscato, G., Russo, S., Ceravolo, R., & Fragonara, L. Z. (2015). Global sensitivity based model updating for heritage structures. Computer aided civil and infrastructure engineering, 620-635.

Boutinot, A., Joly, I., & Mangematin, V. (2016). Exploring the links between reputation and fame: Evidence from french contemporary architecture. Organization Studies. doi:10.1177/0170840616670433

Hirst, K. K. (2017, January 2). Ancient monumental architecture – Types and characteristics.

Jarus, O. (2014, October 8). Angkor Wat: History of ancient temple.

Radford, A., Srivastava, A., & Morkoc, S. B. (2014). The elements of modern architecture: Undestanding contemporary buildings. Thames & Hudson.

Shakar. 2015. Aerial View.

Szalapaj, P. (2005). Contemporary Architecture and the digital design process. Routledge.

The History Hub. (2017). Upper Gallery.

Tourism of Cambodia. (2017). Angkor Wat – 7th Wonder of The World. Retrieved from Tourism of Cambodia

Tourism of Cambodia. (2017). Angkor Wat.

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