Friday, March 6, 2009

Part One - The last 100 years of Architecture

Architecture was rooted in historic eclecticism, leaving the age of agriculture and entering the industrial age. This was the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. The overwhelming focus of the architect was on the edifice and the architect’s fate hung on his bias/talent regarding particular architectural styles and the preferences of the culture/patron regarding the acceptability of those styles. Functional aspects of architecture were rudimentary and static in the eclectic design process.

There was at that time, economic and social pressure to embrace and adapt design styles that utilized the products of industrialization as well as the many advances in transportation in the design of the built environment. Entirely new building types (railroad stations etc.) were being enshrined in the eclectic past. Eiffel had designed his tower in Paris and other structural engineers were exploring cable suspension and reinforced concrete structures as well as iron/steel framing. The ball fell in the architect’s court to “get up to date”.

Primary responders were the architects of the “Bauhaus” school in Europe and the more informal “Chicago” school in the US. Eclecticism of the past became DOA and the concept of generational eclecticism was born. “Form follows Function” ,“Less is More” and “Unity in Design” became the architectural mantras of the time. This revolutionary shift in architectural focus enjoyed the support of youth and the tolerance of adults through to the last quarter of the 20th century.

During the last twenty five plus years of the 20th century, the first phase of the energy crisis emerged with general environmental concerns spawning advances in the applications of ecology and produced profound concerns regarding the built environment. “Sustainability” in the selection of construction materials, site selection and energy conception of buildings became a dominant theme or at least a concern of architects. Paradoxically, during this same time, architectural thinking experienced a new generational shift; returning to a focus on the visual aspects of exterior design and interior design became an independent outcome of the edifice. This brings us to the near present and the next section of the blog.

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