Outside of some of the issues identified in the other answers, architecture often reflects the environment that the characters live in. Prior to the advent of inexpensive energy and integrated electrical grids, houses and structures were designed and built in such a way as to reflect the local environment. Most modern buildings reflect economic factors rather than environmental ones, since there is plenty of energy to run HVAC, lighting and other environmental controls without too much reference to the outside.
For example, houses in the southern United States were built with wide verandas or porches with huge overhangs so the people could sit outside, sheltered from the sun or rain and enjoy the breeze, rather than being cooped up in an very hot, stuffy and damp house. This style of architecture died out in the 1950's and 60's with the advent of cheap air conditioning.
Other rather simple examples can be made for such things as the shape of the roof (steeply pitched roofs can shed rain or show more effectively than shallow ones), the thickness of walls (thick stone, adobe or rammed earth can serve to moderate temperature swings in buildings in a desert climate) or even heating (one reason old stone hearths were so massive is the stone retained the heat even after the fire was out, keeping the room warm without a large expenditure of wood).
Other architectural features relate to such things as social status (separate servants quarters and passageways to allow the help to move around without disturbing the owners; grand foyers or dining rooms to emphasize the wealth of the owner, etc), natural or man made hazards (ancient buildings in Çatal Höyük evidently did not have doors or windows the way we understand them, people accessed the building through a ladder and a hatch on the roof. Other ancient cities in the region are dug into the surrounding hillsides to prevent detection) or religious functions.
Architecture used in this way can provide more of a sense of place without a huge data dump (although there will be people who are not going to catch the significance of a steeply pitched roof), so when you look at the buildings in the older sections of a city or town, ask yourself "why" they were built that way.