Feb. 18 Architecture for Industry


New building materials (iron), new building types (factories, worker housing, railway stations, exhibition architecture), and new ways of constructing buildings (iron frame, slow-burning construction, prefabricated kits, balloon frame) were brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

The first architecture designed especially for industrial work, mills and factories, were mostly long, narrow buildings arranged across rivers. This allowed natural light to penetrate the building and machines to work incessantly. The "image" of the factory was equally important. Towers, bells, and even the use of brick eased the transition to this completely new sense of work. In Europe, the depletion of forests also affected the use of materials. Cast iron became acceptable in industrial buildings and was particularly popular following Abraham Darby's development in the first half of the eighteenth century smelting iron ore with coke instead of charcoal. Many historians cite Jules Saulnier's Menier Chocolate Works, Noisiel-sur-Marne near Paris, as the first true skeleton structure, with its exterior walls reduced to simple infill. The bridge at Coalbrookdale is an example of the tentative use of the new material.

The Industrial Revolution also caused a crisis in housing, especially for workers. A great range of rather utopian designs was produced, like Port Sunlight. The idea was that the provision of good company housing in picturesque contexts with plenty of fresh air and sunlight would increase worker productivity. Most factory workers in the 18th- and 19th centuries lived in slum housing.

The development of the a system of mass transportation led to the need for completely new building types, most obviously the railway station. Since there was no precedent for many of the building types associated with industrialization, new forms and materials were often employed. King's Cross Station by Lewis Cubitt and St. Pancras Station by George Gilbert Scott in London are evidence of the architects' search for a new formal language. Henri Labrouste produced incredible interiors using iron in his libraries, such as the Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève in Paris.

The full acceptance of industrial forms into bourgeois consumer culture was marked by the construction of the Crystal Palace, designed by gardener Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition in London of 1851. A combination of cast iron and wrought iron, this huge greenhouse offered an unprecedented impression of limitless space and had an enormous impact on the development of subsequent building types, such as the department store. Exhibition architecture, like that designed for industry and the railway, was often pioneering in its use of forms. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, designed by Gustav Eiffel in 1889, is another example.

By the mid-19th century, iron was accepted as a material for ordinary buildings, especially stores. By that time, industrialization had also impacted the construction of houses, with the development of the so-called balloon frame.

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