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Importance of Hierarchy In Architecture

Have you seen monumental buildings flaunting huge domes over them? Ever wondered why it is a dome shaped structure and not a flat roof? Why is it in the center and not elsewhere? Why are they huge? And why do certain spaces feel empowered compared to others? The answer to all these questions lies in understanding the importance of hierarchy in architecture.

Image source: romesite.com

Architects and designers always aim for ways to build a hierarchy in their designs. Doing so allows them to organize and prioritize specific spaces or forms. 

Now answering the above questions, 

  • Domes differentiated the monumental buildings from their surrounding residential and commercial spaces.
  • Compared to sloped and flat roof structures, domes differ in massing, shape, and size, thus defining a strong context for the monumental buildings.
  • These domes are usually in the center, matching the internal core of the structure, which usually zones the main space of the structure.
  • And let’s not forget their enormous size and stature, demanding attention and dominance.

All these reasons will route you back to one common agenda–hierarchy! 

In this article, we shall discuss the importance of hierarchy in architecture and how you can achieve it. We will also discuss how to follow hierarchy in architecture and its significance. Read on as we elaborate it in detail!

What is hierarchy

To begin with, let’s understand what hierarchy is in the first place. 

Hierarchy is a system. It is the principal to arrange or organize items and rank them by importance. It also involves placing items in an orderly sequence to regulate significance.

But why should you rank or order any item?

Well, having unorganized data or information can create confusion. It lacks priority or deviates us from the main agenda of any piece of information. It works similarly in all industries. Since hierarchy is also a vital design principle, it’s ideal to involve it in architecture and similar creative industries. 

Importance of hierarchy in Architecture

Architecture relates to hierarchy as a design principle that articulates significance to any space or form. You can create such significance by regulating the shape, size, or placement. Or in other words, hierarchy in architecture is all about making a specific design element noticeable and dominant. The more noticeable the element is, the higher the significance. 

Hierarchy allows designers to highlight and direct the spectators to relate the significance of any shape or form. Through visual and spatial experience, you can create relevance to any zone in your design. Adding such relevance will allow the building to communicate better with its viewers and enhance its priority.

Ways to classify hierarchy in architecture

Design is a simple process, provided you follow the principles. One such important principle is the hierarchy. To put it in plain words, you create a space or form that regulates significance through visual and spatial experience. Now the real question lies in HOW do you do it? 

Well, there are three ways to create hierarchy in architecture such as,

  • Shape
  • Size and
  • Placement

These techniques enhance spatial dominance and upgrade the priority in its context. They also amplify the importance of hierarchy in architecture.

Hierarchy By Size

Image source: gharpedia.com

One of the ways to emphasize a space or form in design is by controlling its size. When you change the size of an element among a cluster of similar elements, you create a contrast. This allows the differentiated element to gain better attention and create a focal point. You can often find a large structure contrasting an array of smaller structures.

Hierarchy in architecture
Image source: indiatoday.in

For instance, consider the arches in the Gateway of India in Mumbai. Here you notice three arches on it, but which arch gains your most attention? The middle one, isn’t it?

Well, this is where hierarchy dictates order! 

Among an array of similar elements, when we differ the size of one element, we alter its priority. However, sometimes reducing the size of an element can create hierarchy, like a fountain on a huge lawn. 

Hierarchy By Shape

Hierarchy in architecture
Image source: gharpedia.com

Another way to emphasize a space is by contrasting its shape with its composition. Changing the shape or form of space can instantly create attention. Imagine a circle in an array of squares. You will notice the circle first, followed by the square. Thus, adding significance to the circle in a square composition.

Hierarchy in architecture
Image source: mymodernmet.com

For instance, let’s consider the Louvre in Paris as an example. It is a triangular structure made of glass. You must zoom out a bit if you are wondering where the hierarchy is. On a bigger picture, you will notice that this louver art museum is an epitome of contrast to its adjacent palace of rigid renaissance style. Located in the heart of the palace, the museum gains instant attention for its out-of-place shape and structure. 

Sometimes, standing out of the crowd is all you need to create dominance. What’d you say?

Hierarchy By Placement

Hierarchy in architecture
Image source: gharpedia.com

Another alternative way to emphasize hierarchy in design is by strategical placement. You can alter the composition flow by creating a point of contrast in design. The sudden change in placement pattern creates focal attention and attracts dominance. Often these placements are executed under strategic planning to avoid disrupting the functional flow.

Image source: maxpixel.net

For instance, we can consider any Gazebo in a park as an example. Usually, these have a linear axis that leads to the junction point. Such placement strategically adds focus to the pavilion even if you are away from the pathway. The linear path leads your attention but creates a focal point when it meets at a junction. 


Be it the renaissance or the contemporary style, design elements and principles are mandatory in any design. These principles allow the design to create functional and aesthetical appeal for the structure. And one such vital principle is hierarchy. Understanding the importance of hierarchy in architecture allows us to create relatable spaces. 

With all our discussion on hierarchy, isn’t it phenomenal how much significance strategic planning can create? Now, try reciprocating it with every building you see out there.  

By Hajara Banu

Hajara Banu is a professional architect, content writer, and strategist. She is on her journey to share her love of architecture, design, and content creation. Besides writing, Hajara loves coffee and often experiments with cooking and organizing in her free time.

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