‘Building to “renounce the architect’s bombast”. One

‘Building
in France’ by Giedion and ‘Technology and Nineteenth Century’ by Francastel
both talk about the effects of the industrial revolution and technological
advancements on architecture.

 

Giedion
begins by establishing that the advent of industry shifted the works from
handicraft to machine production; the individual to collective design. Both had
its pros and cons, handicraft retaining uniqueness and intricacy but lacking
precision and speed when it comes to cookie-cut produce, which instead could
have been achieved using machinery. Moreover, Saint-Simon foresaw that
development of a classless society that was fair and without bothers, one which
ended the age of man’s exploitation of man, with an industrial economy. Giedion
states that advancements have caused a paradigm shift in what architecture used
to be and what it became. From its origins of stone and thus monumentality,
monumentality was achieved with other materials such as iron and steel. One
good example would be the Eiffel tower. Architecture, from sharing the isolated
position with the arts, painting and sculpting, was pushed towards the lines of
engineering and construction which took part in the shaping of the earth. These
blurred boundaries and overlapping fields only emphasise that architecture was
working in a great indivisible space where relations, connections, and
interpenetrations exist. The overlapping of fields meant that construction was
encroached by engineering, and similarly, architecture was encroached by
construction and engineering. Constructors became the guardian that pulled
architects to reality, to “renounce the architect’s bombast”. One renowned
example that encompasses this merging of fields would be the architect-constructor
Henri Labrouste, who believed that the buildings that are best artistically are
those constructed simply and rationally. He was known to be the daring pioneer
to expose construction components in his work as an architectural and artistic style
that was not heard of in his time. Also, the increased use of iron and its
acceptance in the industry signified a change from craftsmanship to industrial
building construction. Its ability to condense high potential stress into the
smallest and most efficient dimensions led to new laws of design. However, this
took a while, as explained by Francastel.

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Francastel
stated that pre-industrialisation, there was always a clear lag between
original intentions of artists and the final creations by the craftsmen.
However, with the transition from stone to iron, and the pushing forth of
modern construction and architectural functionalism, new designs and methods of
construction could be considered. For instance, glass panels could be utilised
in larger scale and quantity such as in the Crystal Palace, with the use of
metal, rather than the completely weight-bearing designs that made use of
stone. The introduction of cast-iron columns and production of prefabricated
parts were also quantifiable advantages that came out of industrialization.
This, in the 1850s, also coincided with the worldwide increase in decorative
designs. However, as mentioned earlier, progress in the industry of
architecture, construction and engineering combined took a while because of the
desire to preserve the past: “it is easier to increase the production of
old-style objects than to design new ones”. In the initial phase, people were
making use of new materials, such as iron, but not altering their designs to
suit the advantages that the new materials offered. Man became more powerful
through new methods discovered with the help of technological advancements, but
never changed his perspective or artistic taste for design.

 

Giedion and
Mumford tried hard to discern the time in which modern architecture was
introduced through the analysis of American activities ideologies. Francastel
finds this debatable as there was little focus on other communities that might
have progressed faster or slower but were not as documented. This difficulty to
delimit styles and methods brings us to believe that it is hard to pinpoint a
single style in one period of time, rather, we should accept that in all
aspects, interpenetrating and overlapping is expected. 

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