In Urban Design for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities (2nd Edition), by Lance Jay Brown, David Dixon, historical trends and practices are used to explain current theories of urbanism. The following excerpt illustrates one such historical trend, detailing exactly how the advent of railroads and skyscrapers following the Industrial Revolution radically changed the urban landscape.
Before the Industrial Revolution, forces such as trade, agriculture, and defense determined the shape of cities in North America and Europe, whether planned or unplanned. How far a person could reasonably walk and the requirements of carts, wagons, and herds of animals heavily influenced the layout and dimensions of city streets regardless of the form the larger city took. Defensive strategy and technology also dictated form, but the resulting walls — and the need to guard them — often imposed smaller footprints than cities might otherwise have produced.
With no casualties, last week’s fire at the Glasgow School of Art, which caused significant damage to parts of the building and gutted Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s canonical library room, will be remembered as a tragic event that robbed us of one of the best examples of Art Nouveau of its time. The intention of the Glasgow School of Art is to restore the building in the hope that in generations to come, the fire will be all but forgotten, a strategy which has been largely well received by the profession.
However, in the case of other fires things have not gone so smoothly: for millennia, fire has played a big role in determining the course of architectural history - by destroying precious artifacts, but often also by allowing something new to rise from the ashes. Read on after the break as we count down the top 10 fires that changed the course of architectural history.
Produced by The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, this somewhat hypnotic video charts the development of London from its origins as the Roman settlement of Londinium to the present day. It maps the changes in the city’s road network and built environment, and catalogs the thousands of historic structures which are now protected by either listing or scheduling. Among the fascinating thing revealed by the video is how historic events continue to have a profound effect on the city’s built environment: for example a law passed after the Great Fire of London determined that new buildings had to be built from brick, resulting in the large number of Georgian buildings that have survived to the present day.
The following article originally appeared on Metropolis Magazine as “Five Architectural Highlights from the Pathé Newsreel Archive.” It has been slightly adapted to fit ArchDaily’s format. The video above, from 1930, shows the Empire State Building under construction.
Newsreel archives are a goldmine for design buffs—and when you have an archive of the size and scope of British Pathé’s, there’s hours of compulsive watching in store. The famous film and production company recently put up 85,000 of their videos on Youtube, in high definition, for free viewing.
The Parisian Pathé Brothers pretty much invented the newsreel format at the turn of the century, and established their London base in 1902. From 1910 to 1970 they produced thousands of films on events and trends around the world, including, of course, subjects of significance for architecture and design. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to see some great classics in their context—with people using them, reacting to them, commenting on them.
Some videos, like a round-up of skyscraper-inspired hats from the 1930s, might not stand the test of time, but others, like a tour of Le Corbusier’s Couvent de la Tourette, are priceless. The latter video seems even more precious because it is marked “unused material”—footage that Pathé shot, but never edited into one of their newsreels—meaning that very few people have had a chance to see it before you do now, on your screen.
More outstanding videos to get you started on your newsreel binge, after the break…
In this article published by the National Women’s History Museum, Despina Stratigakos delivers a fresh perspective on the current phenomenon of women leaving the architecture profession. Starting with Architect Barbie and jumping back to the likes of Julia Morgan, the successes and struggles of pioneering female architects are chronicled, offering women pursuing architecture careers today a firm understanding of their roots. Read the article here.
Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century steel magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — steel was the new kid on the block. People were wary of steel, scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.
Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American history, with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel construction.
So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper – what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.
Can you imagine the intersection of Broadway and the Bowery in lower Manhattan as sparsely populated “Uptown” used as a burial ground for indigent people? Well, according to the the book Painting the Town by The Museum of the City of New York (via Ephemeral New York), this scene painted from memory by Albertis Del Orient Browere in 1885 depicts what Union Square used to look like back in 1828 – just 20 years before this area started to transform into the bustling, concrete jungle we know today.
Compare it to an updated photo of Union Square after the break.
To join in on all the holiday cheer, we decided to share with you this architectural funny that depicts the architectural history of the christmas tree. We found the clever illustration by Subtle Design on deviantART – “the world’s largest online art community”. Enjoy!