What Is Architecture?

Architectural and Design Principles
Architectural and Design Principles

As the foremost artifact of a solution, architecture is the conceptual, logical, and physical representation of an object (the solution) from various viewpoints or perspectives, which identifies its building blocks, relationships, interactions, boundaries, interfaces, environment, and context and guides the evolution of the solution across its life cycle.

~ Wentz Wu


  • A set of related physical and logical representations (i.e., views) of a system or a solution. The architecture conveys information about system/solution elements, interconnections, relationships, and behavior at different levels of abstractions and with different scopes. (Source: NIST SP 800-160 Vol. 1)
  • that set of design artefacts or descriptive representations that are relevant for describing an object such that it can be produced to requirements (quality) as well as maintained over the period of its useful life (change) (Source: Zachman:1996, ISO/TR 20514:2005)
  • fundamental organization of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution (Source: ISO/IEC 15288:2008)
  • set of concepts and rules for a system that describes the inter-relationship between entities in the entire system, independent of the hardware and software environment
    Note 1 to entry: Architecture is described through a series of viewpoints that might be at varying levels of generality/specificity, abstraction/conception, totality/component, and so on. See also “communications viewpoint”, “functional viewpoint”, “organizational viewpoint” and “physical viewpoint” definitions below. (Source: ISO/TR 26999:2012)
  • fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution (ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011)
  • representation of the structure of the item or element that allows identification of building blocks, their boundaries and interfaces, and includes the allocation of requirements to these building blocks (Source: ISO 26262-1:2018)
  • conceptual structure of a system
    Note 1 to entry: A system may consist of several interacting subsystems, each with its own architecture. (Source: ISO/IEC TR 29108:2013)
  • set of principles on which the logical structure and interrelationships to an organization and business context are based
    Note 1 to entry: Software architecture is the result of software design activity. (Source: ISO/TR 18307:2001)
  • specific configuration of hardware and software elements in a system (Source: IEC 61508-4)

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