Friday, September 5, 2008

Industrial Revolution, part II

Industrial Revolution, part II: Identity and comfort

The industrial revolution brought about many changes for human kind. These changes not only took the form of machines and architecture, but were also evidenced in society structure. Some historians have compared this transformation to the Neolithic revolution (Tate & Smith, 1986, pp. 221), when humans began practicing an agrarian society. The industrial revolution also transformed society in a way that allowed people to become individuals, prompting them to question authority and, for the first time, to question their fate. As more and more factories were added, more jobs and wealth was created; people saw this as an opportunity to “make” something of themselves and to “climb” the social ladder.

The ideas of “comfort” and “privacy” were still somewhat new to 19th century society yet architecture was beginning to take notice of these desires. In the early years of American history, most of the houses had been small and had few rooms however; most of the houses in the 19th century were separated into spaces that focused on the activity at hand (i.e. sleeping, eating, entertaining, cooking). This idea also translated into commercial spaces; hospitals, shopping centers, churches, and government buildings were all separated based on their unique operations. In addition, due to the efficiency of the machine, people were able to enjoy more relaxation, hobbies, and entertainment. Libraries, museums, and theatres were opened to accommodate leisure activities.

While much of the architecture (exterior and interior) during the Victorian period was comparatively similar from house to house, it was the interior décor that provided “identity” and “comfort” to the owner. The more décor, the higher the owner’s intelligence and social standing were gauged. How do you believe this relates to society today? How do you define comfort and identity? What examples can you cite? Be specific.

Industrial Revolution, part I

Industrial Revolution, part I: step forward or step in the wrong direction?

As we have discussed in class, historians relate the Industrial Revolution to that of the Neolithic Revolution, when humans became an agrarian community versus nomadic (Tate & Smith, 1986, p. 219). There is no doubt that because of the Industrial Revolution we have benefited from its many inventions, advancements and improvements. Without it, our lives as we know it would be non-existent. As a person that belongs to middle class society, I would not have had the opportunities which I enjoy today if it were not for mass production and technology. In addition, very few individuals would know and understand the same comfort and luxuries we expect today. Still, history shows that the ancient Romans (before the fall of Rome) were a very advanced society and had invented many processes and materials to make life easier and more secure. Unfortunately, these methods were lost or forgotten with the fall of the Roman Empire. It took many years before these techniques were revived and improved upon. However, these “improvements” employed different methods than what was originally utilized, and since 1850 we now have 35% more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (CBS evening news, August 2007). Sooner or later our idea of “comfort” will have to become compromised in the interest of the world’s future. The effects of this change are sure to bring about a new revolution; one that is perhaps more healthy for our environment, but (as some feel) could be detrimental to our way of life.

Considering global warming, do you believe that the Industrial Revolution, specifically the discovery of coal and other fossil fuels, was a necessary step forward or a “misstep” in the advancement of modern man? Do you think we would have found the same quality of life if we had continued to develop the technology we were already using (such as wind and water mills)? Explain your answer.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.