Architecture is a Cocktail Stirred, Never Shaken
Architecture, like a martini, is a mix of three ingredients. Functionality is the gin. Aesthetics is the vermouth. Elegance is the olive. Elegance, like the olive, can be a garnish, but it's not necessary. A bridge or building that lacks elegance is still a structure just as an olive-less martini is still a martini. This is not to say, however, that a lack of aesthetics is a good thing. Aesthetics and elegance in architecture are sometimes confused.
Aesthetics have more to do with the artistry of how a structure's minor components are connected and finished. Aesthetics take into account the height, length, width, and thickness in order to determine how to best proportion their location, spacing, and frequency of placement.
Elegance on the other hand refers to the creative engineering touches that go into the design and appearance of the structure. Elegance concerns itself with combining art and technology in order to give the structure an element of beauty. It creates a unique visual identity but also takes into account the efficiency of its constituent materials and the method to be used in construction.
A truly elegant aesthetically designed structure walks a fine line between pureness and simplicity of form and a sense of daring but in the end, it is a failure if it lacks a sense of purpose. Both elegance and aesthetics go for naught if its functionality is lost in the process, The bottom line is no matter how elegant and aesthetically designed a building or structure may be it can only be deemed a success if it meets the core needs of those for whom it was designed. In other words, it must be functional.
Achieving The Perfect Mix of Aesthetics and Elegance in Architecture
Functionality, like aesthetics, requires that attention be paid to the selection of appropriate materials and the efficient use of space. Functionality is dependent on planning that makes use of logical circulation through optimally proportioned rooms that permit their intended use whether it's a kitchen in an apartment or a laboratory in a university, In structures like bridges, causeways, or airport terminals, functionality extends to the use of compatible construction materials that fit together to form secure joints.
But no matter whether they are designing an enclosed structure or an open infrastructure, architects have to take into account the fact that over time nature will exact its toll. No matter how much secure construction they build into their plans, and how well engineers and construction crews execute them, gravity and climate will be fierce combatants. Temperature fluctuations will cause materials to constrict and expand. Foundations will settle and components will warp. And so the aesthetics of any structure must extend to structural attachments specifically designed to absorb slippage and minute movements while maintaining weather-resistant tight seals.
Stirring the Cocktail
And so what it all boils down to is no matter how much dignity and character aesthetics and elegance lend to a structure, they will not provide functionality unless they can work together in the real world. For a poorly planned concept intended to provide elegance will still be a poor concept; just as a solid and aesthetically robust architectural connection will be a weak link unless that structure is functional.