Architecture is a term that has over history acquired different, though indirectly related, meanings all of which have currency today.
- Architecture, in its first and traditional usage, refers to the art and science of designing buildings. A wider definition would include within its scope the design of the total built environment, from the macrolevel of town planning, urban design, and landscape architecture to the microlevel of furniture and product design. Architecture also refers to the product of such a design.
- From this original meaning, the term architecture has been extended to the design or act of designing other complex systems and is usually qualified using a prefix, for example: computer architecture, software architecture, information architecture, product architecture). In these cases, it tends to refer to the overall structure of the system.
- Common to all contexts is the idea that architecture embodies a coherent set of organizational principles and objectives guiding the design of each aspect of a complex structure. Generally, a product resulting from such guided design can also be referred to as architecture.
- Computer architecture is the theory behind the design of a computer. In the same way as a building architect sets the principles and goals of a building project as the basis for the draftsman's plans, so too, a computer architect sets out the computer architecture as a basis for the actual design specifications.
- Software architecture is a coherent set of abstract patterns guiding the design of each aspect of a larger software system.
- Information architecture is the art and science of structuring knowledge (technically data) to be published in a web, and defining user interactions (also see use case).
- A vehicle architecture is an automobile platform that is a shared set of components common to a number of different vehicles.
- Product architecture comprises the structure of a product or product family including its constituent subassemblies and options for commonality, customization, upgrading, or repair. Vehicle architecture is an example.
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