Gidieon the changes in Architecture, and how

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Gidieon writes of a very European response to the changes in
architecture around the 19th to 20th century. In it, he
gives the examples of the Eiffel Tower, Bon Marche Department Store and the
like. First, he defines the word Industry, explaining how the French Revolution
caused large waves in the industry of construction in France, thus changing the
way things were produced, and who for they were produced, now more for in favor
of the masses. From there, he begins to explain the changes in Architecture, and
how the form of Architecture has moved to creating more skeletal like
structures, and that different niches of Architecture have begun to meld with
each other, and how these changes began to change architecture even in housing.

Then Gidieon begins to explain the result of the industrial
changes toward machinery and how it changed architecture, that architecture as
an art can no longer be a separate entity from that of science and
construction. The next part raises important constructors, such as Labrouste,
Eiffel and Polonceau, whose works are further discussed in the reading.

For a bit, he mentions the struggle between the more artsy
Beaux-Arts in comparison to the Polytechnique, the struggle for defining what
an architect and an engineer should do, and the struggle between Gothic and the
Neorenaissance styles, before leaping into iron as a material, and its
properties in comparison to heavy stone. Gidieon mentions how English
construction had long began to incorporate iron into itself before the French
did, citing the Crystal Palace as an example. He then begins to cite Henri
Labrouste’s library and Labrouste’s philosophy that architecture should be
structurally sound and one had to be able to construct it. Labrouste’s
philosophy was displayed in his completed structure, whereby he utilized the
potential he saw in iron as a load-bearing element and building skeleton
support structure. By this, he could create a structure that is
self-supporting, even without the walls.

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Later, Gidieon mentions the Polonceau truss system, which is
a much more weightless system than that of the English constructions, which
rely heavily on shear, load-bearing walls. After that, he mentions the driving
principles in designing a marketplace, made for the comfort of the end user:
good air flow to prevent bad smells, a proper arrangement to the stalls and
should too allow for good human traffic flow. The principle of choosing
negative space for movement over positive walls was one that was the result of
the understanding of the material chosen as well as the change in the designs
of that time. Slowly, the movement works its way even to department stores,
whereby glass and iron become important materials in creating a positive end
user experience of sufficient lighting, proper flow and a well-structured
arrangement of elements in the building.

As an architecture student, the entire essay shows France’s
struggle in creating and finding their identity in the type of architecture
they seek and enjoy, after denouncing architects for their impracticality in
comparison to that of engineers. It shows too the change in what defines an
architect, and that we should in our designs consider the practical and
feasible in addition to making a beautiful design. The latter half of the essay
is also an exploration into the examples of how iron as a material and by
product of the developing industry played an important role in allowing
architects of that time to change in their designs and opening up possibilities
for them to create more.

In the second reading, Francastel feels that other authors
such as Mumford, Gidieon and Zevi were biased toward the advancements in Europe
alone, and were ignorant of other occurrences in Europe aside from the
technological advancements, and he felt that their biased focus toward Europe
had left out the significant achievements of the rest of the world. However, he
reconciles it with stating that there are two ways architecture has developed,
one that is reliant on newfangled methods of construction and another that is
of seeking the purpose and functionality of architecture for the end user.

Francastel once again brings up the libraries by Labrouste,
the national library and the Saint Genevieve library as examples that utilized
the new material, iron, well to create an innovative answer to that of the
problems of the past that had remained unanswered until iron came into play as
a material. From there, iron began to develop as a material, and was used in
new ways such as cast iron. Its versatility even allowed it to be used as
materials for constructing old styles of buildings in Renaissance and Gothic

However, even with the new possibilities discovered by
architects, it did not lead to new designs immediately, architects such as
Labrouste and Cole still held fast to the greenhouse style of design. I feel
this is still the case in many building designs, whereby huge panels of glass
are affixed to the building, at most with a few ledges, but still retaining the
style of the glass conservatory, instead of pushing to explore new forms. Due
to socioeconomic reasons of elitism toward art, there continued to be a
resistance to the new developments in technology and architecture.

In the later years, it is reported that America herself
begins to advance technologically, and at a rapid pace, in its application of
new methods to create everything. However, there was still resistance in Europe
to new design, and most iron based tools and buildings followed the older
styles. America then, took the forefront in advancement of technology, to
create new technologies that could allow for speedier work and the greater use
of machinery in work. Due to America’s willingness in adopting new design, they
advanced in architecture as well.  Francastel
then brings up Viollet-le-Duc as an example of an architect who utilized the
new technologies in creating older architectural styles such as Gothic
architecture, presenting them as newfound standards to excellence. However, his
student, Richardson, despite his beliefs for Gothic architecture as well was
the first to utilize the new technologies in creating the first Chicago

His works were a result of the changing landscape of the
tastes and preferences of the public and architects at that time, caused by
technological advances and increasing riches of the Americans in turning from
an agricultural society to an industrial one. While the art world strongly
supported such a move, it was slower to adopt by the masses. Francastel once
again later criticizes Mumford, Gidieon and Zevi in their commentaries as they
left out the role of the discovery of concrete. The discovery of concrete,
which allowed for a greater number of possibilities in construction that was
structurally sound, causes Francastel to comment that the engineer in claiming
that they were the ones who created beauty was correct.

Francastel concludes with a retrospective view on the
advancements of society, showing how such an advancement would have been out of
place in nineteenth century architecture, instead was perfectly suited to that
day and age, as the tastes of people would dictate how these new technologies
were used. He also mentions that only with a proper investigation to the ills
of technology toward design, of which he has not seen, can a valid study be
made on the different types of architecture and other arts in our current
status quo.

Categories: Industry


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