Architecture plays a key role in shaping our environment. Covering ancient and modern architecture from across the world, this book examines its very essence in a new way, opening buildings up to reveal what lies behind their design. It introduces the ideas that underpin the concept of architecture, adopting a thematic approach that deals in turn with the functions, the meanings, the structural and the social aspects of buildings. Architecture is an art, expressing most clearly the values of its age, as in the great cathedrals of the middle ages or the corporate headquarters of today. Buildings work directly on our emotions, filling us with awe or serenity; they also help us to organize our crowded lives. Architecture is an expression of our place in the world, our environment and our beliefs.This book explores the aesthetics and techniques of architecture, tracing its response to new ways of living, new developments in technology, new environmental concerns. Lavishly illustrated, based on the unequalled architectural resources of the RIBA and V&A, it is structured in four sections: Buildings and functions; Architecture as art; Creating Buildings; and Buildings Together (in cities and towns). The result is an original and stimulating book: a refreshingly contemporary approach for the new century.