The influence of Fiat currency on Architecture and Design

Marc Sawyer
6 min readNov 9, 2022

The world of Architecture and Design is a fascinating one, with a history that spans centuries. It’s had major influences that have shaped its direction over generations and civilizations. In this essay, I’ll explore the impact fiat currency had on Architecture. We will take a look at how a fiat currency has influenced the look and feel of buildings, as well as the materials used in their construction.

It’s no secret that money has the power to shape and change the world around us. It‘s used to buy and sell goods, to build and destroy homes, and to create or destroy entire industries. Money is a powerful tool, and its impact can be seen in all corners of the globe. It’s that one common value that allows us to transact with each other freely. To exchange goods and services with a common denominator and value.

What happens when that common value is manipulated?

In my time practicing Architecture and Design, money has always been a major consideration and sometimes even the driving factor for my clients. The budget’s created and we design to meet those constraints. Clients' budgets and goals for the project can vary greatly and so you have various levels of design and construction. You have well-built buildings made from quality materials, and you have the other side with less expensive more temporary lasting structures.

Wealthy individuals have always been able to commission the construction of homes and buildings made from the finest materials available, while those with less money have had to make do with whatever they could afford. This is still the case today, although many of the buildings constructed today are financed. Built on borrowed money. Many people are less concerned about the overall price of property and more focused on the monthly cost of servicing the debt used to purchase the property.

Fiat currency has also had an impact on the aesthetics of architecture and design. Different cultures have always had their own unique styles, and this is often reflected in their buildings and artwork. However, the rise of global trade and commerce has meant that many cultures have been exposed to new styles and influences from all over the world. This has led to a more homogenized aesthetic in many cases, as buildings and products are designed to appeal to a global market.

The history of money is a long and complex one, and it would be impossible to cover all of it in this essay. However, we will take a brief look at some of the key points.

It is believed that the first form of money was invented by the Egyptians around 3000 BC. This early form of currency was known as barley money, and it was used as a means of exchange for goods and services. The first metal coins were minted around 600 BC. These early coins were made from bronze and copper, and they were used to buy and sell goods.

The first paper money was introduced in China around 1000 AD. This early form of fiat currency allowed the Chinese government to better control the economy, and it helped to spur on the country’s economic growth. Fiat currency is defined as “money by decree” In other words, it is money that is not backed by a commodity such as gold or silver but enforced as money by governments.

Fiat money has been used throughout history, but its use has become more widespread in recent years. This is due to the fact that fiat currencies are easier to produce and manage than commodity-backed ones. The most famous example of a fiat currency is the US dollar. The US dollar was first introduced in 1792, and it became the world’s reserve currency in the 1930’s. At the time it was redemable for gold. Yet that feature was removed in 1970’s under executive order 6102. Today, the US dollar is used in many different countries all over the world, but is literally backed by nothing.

M1 money supply — Flat until 1970

The benefits of using fiat money are that it can be easily produced and managed, and it can help to spur on economic growth. However, there are also some drawbacks. One of these is that fiat money is not backed by a physical commodity, which means that it can lose its value if people lose faith in it. It’s currently debased at the whims of politicians. Often depending on the programs, they support to stay in power. Those programs require money that gets printed and further debases the value.

This leads to the constant debasement of the money and the inability to save. This inability to save leads to people having to invest their money in other goods and avenues to create yield. People search out this yield to keep up with the eroding value. As Jeff Booth puts it. “If your money has no value, all the things that do have value around you will be monetized.” or something like that.

We have seen this play out in Architecture.

Home Prices

In recent years, there has been a trend towards more minimalist designs in architecture. This is likely because of yield chasing. As a result, Architecture has been seen as a place to park your money. When thinking of it in this way you start to question the importance of factors that don’t add to that yield. Will aesthetics add to the value of a property? What level of aesthetics can be brought to a project in order to draw the right number of people in to create that yield.

Architects have been increasingly under pressure to create attractive buildings while meeting the needs of patrons to generate yield and financial returns on their investments.

Minimalist designs are popular because they are easy to produce and manage, and they often yield high financial returns. This is because minimalist designs are often perceived as being “high-end” and luxurious, which can attract affluent consumers who are willing to pay a premium for such products.

What would the world of Architecture and Design look like today if we would have maintained sound money. Would we still have lost the detail and ornamentation of the past? Would buildings have been built to last generations? Would there be more craftsman with the talent and skill to built intricate ornate details.

What is sound money?

Sound money is backed by a commodity, such as gold or silver. This means that it has a tangible value based on work put in to attain the property and is not subject to the whims of politicians or financial institutions to simply create more. It will be interesting to see how sound money such as bitcoin will have an impact on Architecture and the future of design.

I feel that as we move into a new age of sound money we will have projects and works that reflect the greater time and attention of those projects that we admire to this day. How do you think Architecture will change as we move into sound money?



Marc Sawyer

I’m an Architect. My favorite thing to do is create stories through architectural design. Founder of Whitewash Studio architecture firm in Atlanta, GA.