Friday, April 17, 2009

Reflections unit summary

The Reflections unit started with an architectural parlance, started in France in an effort to rewrite the established architectural rules of past cultures. With many revolutions starting during this time (industrial, agricultural, financial and transportation) the world was at the tipping point of finally connecting information in one country with another with much greater speed than ever previously imagined. The advent of mass media such as magazines, books, and newspapers changed the influences of design by this connection. The 18th and 19th centuries made the world smaller, in terms of the speed that information could travel. In the architectural realm, The Place de Vosges was a series of townhomes built to create the façade of a castle with individual homes contained within, with, this individual homes began to also have public spaces of their own, much like today’s subdivisions. This sense of belonging or the need to match the neighborhood context is the forefather of many modern day zoning regulations. With this new way of thinking, the enfilade or rooms for public activities in front leading to private rooms in the back of the home was not new, but was cemented as the norm during this period.
A movement of academic theory of architecture started with Boullee’s cenotaph for Newton, stating that the idea is just as important as the physical structure. This opened the door for a shift in the number of professions created, as more specialists were needed for these new ideas to come to fruition.
With Ledoux’s Salt works building, industrial structures started to become stylish or more aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand the Pantheon built in 1792, put structure first and aesthetics second. The world seemed at odds with itself, many designers wanting to keep the past references forever and a new breed of designers working toward reinventing architecture.
As America became independent from England, its colonies had traditionally been divided into north and south, the north following England’s example of wood structures emulating the homes and buildings built there, but in the south, the renaissance inspired Georgian mixed with Palladio’s influence. The southern structures stretched across the landscape and were built of masonry. Furniture in America starts to move away from English influence and begins to move outside of the established box of conventional design. Buildings like Jefferson’s Monticello, the White House and US Capital set an American precedent of using classical influence for civic building and universities, just increased the scale for this new use.
The industrial revolution brought about new materials and mass production techniques of existing ones. Iron and glass made possible the reengineering of larger structures with lighter materials. In Europe increases in population in larger cities spawned the need for shopping arcades like the Burlington arcade in London and climate control for these. Large glass and iron structures also housed exhibitions of technology and plant life not native to Europe. These buildings also provided the wealthy a space for social gatherings with a feeling of being outdoors but controlling nature as well, The Crystal Palace was the most famous of these. Using prefabricated materials these glass and iron massive structures could be erected in a short amount of time and moved if necessary.
As existing nations and new nations just created evolved, a nationalistic movement started. Gothic revival building like the House of Parliament, and Strawberry Hill conveyed the pure values, and romanticism and great emotion represented in this Nationalistic movement.
Trade with the east had been around since 500 B.C., but mass production made reproducing oriental designs integrated with European styles. China also catered to the individual European counties style and shipped many interior decorations to Europe. Clothing was influenced by eastern design as well. With Japan opening itself to the rest of the world in 1858 a new design influence came to light. Japanese influence becomes fashionable also. Bamboo, cranes and Asian flower motifs were seen in most wealthy homes in England and some in America as well. This highly stylized form of design, some from the comic and commercial ad used as packaging materials of goods, influences western art and design. This Japonisme style was embraced by many affluent people in Europe and trickled down to the middle class.
A rejection to the mass production was inevitable and as Massey stated “the most important reform movement to affect the interior in the 19th century was that of the Arts and Crafts.” With the influence of writers like john Ruskin warning against the practice of making one material look like another and warning that any new style could not surpass Gothic revival, and his critique of mass producing furniture and furnishings, led William Morris to create the Art and Crafts movement. Art and Craft was is some ways the forefather of sustainability. This short lived movement led to many shoot offs and soon died out because of expense of handcrafting all items. Beaux-Arts became the next evolution of the Art and Crafts movement by accepting machine made materials, but tailoring them to individual tastes. Beaux-Arts made its way to America with the designers Mckim, Mead, and White who designed the Boston Public Library with a mix of classic revival and Art-Neauvo. This new adaptation of using specialized iron forms as interior decoration became widely accepted in America.
The city of Chicago became the breeding ground of the new concept of taking buildings vertical and not horizontal. As the population exploded in America and the Great Fire in Chicago leaving the city to rebuild, a visionary group of designers brought innovation out of necessity. “The tall commercial buildings arose from the pressure of land prices, pressure of population,… vertical transportation, masonry construction into metal frame, and ideas from spans in bridgework.” –Sullivan. The Marshall Field’s building in Chicago by H.H. Richardson borrowed from Palazzos in Italy, broke the tall buildings façade into three parts, one at street level, the middle, and a top portion. As these buildings became taller iron skeletons were used to support the exterior and left walls thinner and more area for glass to let in natural light. This also increased the rentable area within to maximize production and rent for developers. This rise of the skyscraper led to a race for height between Chicago and New York City, which leaned toward the classical revival style and not the modern ideas in Chicago.
Residential structures in America were also changing during this time with designers such as, Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley looking for the American style of homes. The 3 major groups of design were the Prairie Style, Green and Green-Arts and Crafts, and in upstate New York - concentrating on all aspects of design exterior and interior. These different styles in different areas of America made America a powerhouse of design in the world. All of these aforementioned ideas and styles combine to make modern design as we know it possible.