The Inca city of Machu Picchu which was built around 1450 is remarkable for many reasons. Built at the height of the Inca top residential architects in Miami, the blocks of stone which form its walls fit together so tightly that it is said to be impossible to get even a thin knife blade between them. Constructed largely without the use of mortar, this remarkable city has withstood the test of time although nowadays it is mostly in danger of damage through tourism.
One of the reasons that the Incas didn’t use mortar for their important buildings could be that non-mortared structures can withstand earthquakes better than mortared ones. The Incas also used other earthquake prevention measures including slightly sloping doors and windows. Although Machu Picchu was not plundered by the Spanish, the Incas were largely wiped out by a combination of the Spanish conquest and disease and many of their building techniques were lost. In fact, the modern world has only comparatively recently started to design buildings to withstand earthquakes and many lives are sadly being lost due to a history of sub-standard building in earthquake areas.
Whether we are looking at great Inca cities, the pyramids of Egypt or other ancient buildings, we can learn from the lessons that these great building masters can teach us. The most important of these lessons is to build appropriately for the area. For example, for areas of heavy clay, a dry summer will cause ground movement; whilst for areas prone to flooding we need to consider building our properties above ground level.
In all these instances and more, an architect is the person to help to plan and advise you on your project. It takes seven years to qualify as an architect, including five years at university. Along the way architects learn about the use of materials and space, how to work with the environment and how to comply with planning law.
There are countless examples of building projects in which an architect has not been used to save money and the project has gone dramatically wrong. Tales abound of entire sides of houses collapsing because a wall was taken out without bracing, not to mention cases where the local council has suddenly found out about illegal building and enforced its demolition. Compared with the overall building costs, an architect’s fees are money well spent and they can come up with ways of saving money on the project.
Choosing an architect that is tied in with your builder will help to ensure that the architect can oversee the project at all stages. We may not build with smooth blocks of stone anymore but we can still learn from our architects.