What makes a work of architecture? In his seminal An Outline of European Architecture, first published in 1943, the great architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner made a now famous comparison: ‘A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture.’ ‘Nearly everything’, he continued, ‘that encloses space on a scale sufficient for a human being to move in is a building; the term architecture applies only to buildings designed with a view to aesthetic appeal.’

Few would disagree that a building’s appearance is amongst an architect’s chief concerns. However, the insistence that something as subjective as ‘aesthetic appeal’ be the defining characteristic of a work of architecture is problematic as it presumes a homogeneous ...

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