Posted in History n Theory

Explorations – point theory

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“In the 19th century, the container is a different style than that which it contains.”  This last “Explorations” section of our reading began with this saying from lecture.  From here, we explored the World Fair Building in London.  This building from 1851 was similar in design to the crystal palace and the inside housed charities of interiors of a seemingly different time period.  Remembering where we started from is important to remembering how we ended this section and semester.  To see where design is currently and seeing where design is going is a sharp contrast to how design began.  Stonehenge, Lascaux, Ziggurats.  These structures, from caves to tombs and temples, were design with a purpose. Each structure was carefully planned and constructed to show strength, power and to tell a story.  The suburban style, cookie cutter homes of today, sometimes called McMansions, are designed with faux materials, built quickly and many show little mastered skill of a classical trade. Charles Ashbee said, “We do not reject the machine, we welcome it.  But we desire to see it mastered.”  I feel we are still in the process of trying to master design and somewhere along the way in the last few decades, we lost the purpose.

The 19th Century brought about some new materials being used in construction. Metal, Glass and Concrete were easily available now and helped build  not only a larger variety of buildings, but also build them vertically taller and with many larger open spaces.  According to our Roth Book, (pg. 492), “ The Palais des Machines of 1889 was made possible by the growth of industry in producing iron and steel, as well as by the application of mathematical statics to determine the forces at work in such large structures.  They were manifestations of the impact of the machine on Architecture.”  During the mid to late 1800’s, this becomes apparent in Chicago.  Chicago we founded in 1833 with 300 people.  By 1900, it had grown to over 2 million and was larger then any other city due to the trade routes on Lake Michigan.  Because of this, the city needed to increase their infrastructure to accommodate the increased population as well as the commercial need and the skyscraper was born.  Circulation flow was helped by the invention of the Otis Elevator in 1870’s and using some classical influence was seen now.  When designing the skyscraper, there were three important things to take notice upon seeing their exterior facade.  How the building meets the ground, how it meets the sky and then what happens in between.  Henry Robson Richardson’s Marshall Field Warehouse, built in Chicago from 1885-1887 was influenced by the residential Italian Palazzo. 

During this period, there is more of a sense of the Interior Design profession.  Looking to Will Bradley as a model for interior architecture, he shows what rooms can look like if done holistically with surface decoration.  Louis Tiffany, most famous for lamps, was also a surface decorator and interior architect.  We see the revival of medieval forms for buildings while updating them for modern times.  Inspirations from Art – finding that link between all fine arts and implied arts helps us move forward into Post Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism. Taking what is happening in the world and translating it into a form to live or work in.  Art Nouveau is important to mention here, as it was the first movement in art that only looks forward,not backwards to the classics.  Centered in France as a design style, it experimented in colors and geometry.  Art Nouveau helped paved the way to the creation of more curvilinear forms seen later, such as Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal in New York’s JFK airport and the St. Louis Arch,

By far, this was my favorite section we studied and have really increased my awareness of how each style of architecture had their own piece of a revolution.. Trying to make what once was into something more fitting for “modern” times and learning that “Modern” is all relative to the time period, culture and age of the person describing modernism.  We ended our lectures with a quote by Luis Barragan that I found inspirational and very fitting to my way of moving forward in the design industry.  “A perfect garden, no matter what its size, should enclose nothing less then the entire universe.”


Lover of architectural history, family, building design, coffee and dogs.

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