Monday, September 14, 2009

The Victorian era was the blast into skyscrapers. The demand for skyscrapers was a process. As business’s developed and grew their demand for communication also grew. Because the telephone had not been invented yet, it was highly important for the business activities are in close proximity to each other. The results were overcrowding in offices and the “business district”. This also led to costly land prices and high rents. Because the cities were limited in growing space there was only one solution: to build up. Masonry and columns had prevented this upward growth until now with the introduction of cast iron. Cast iron was an extraordinary material. Its main advantage was that it could be prefabricated. This prefabrication was also used with glass to fill the exterior of these new skyscrapers. Wooden floors came next and were extremely dangerous because they were very flammable. Because of this fire hazard architects preferred to use masonry on the outer walls to create a fire barrier. The next improvement in skyscrapers was the wooden floors. They were replaced with “systems using arches of brick or terracotta tile supported on iron beams and columns wrapped with heat insulation” (258).

These early skyscrapers do not resemble the skyscrapers of today at all. Today the norm is about 20 to 40 floors but these first ones were souring with only 8 to 12 stories. It was very hard for architects to create these skyscrapers because there was no previous history about them. The most precedent use for skyscrapers was for offices. “The typical office building had rows of small offices arranged along corridors so that every office could be close to windows for light and ventilation” (259). The commonplace workspaces were open and were used for the busy workers. All the normal business equipment came into view during the late Victorian Era. Some other key inventions were gaslight, which was followed by electricity, and the telegraph followed by the telephone. Meeting rooms and business executive’s offices only differed a little by adding a rug and pictures. Skyscrapers were also used for apartments, retail stores, swear shops, factories, and hotels.

So after reading and understanding the importances of skyscrapers think about these questions:

In your opinion was the development of skyscrapers a good move? Meaning did they improve the way of living or did they somehow hurt it?


Mark Leavens said...

I would say that in todays world, nobody would think of a world without skyscrapers. They are a much needed space saver in parts of the world and can become symbols of cities.
In the beginning, skyscrapers were an answer to the overcrowding of the city, they employed cast iron and jumped over the classic mindset that is masonry. The need to get up floors faster lead to the widespread use of the elevator which used electricity of move. The needs the skyscrapers created helped push the inventors to expand their thinking. The Victorian era was a time of expansion and really discovery. Trial and error of how things worked really helped push the envelope at that time.
So with the expansion that happened I can't say it hurt the way of living. The high offices and apartment buildings of today are much, much safer than the ones of the Victorian era thanks to the groundwork they laid down. Many people moved out of the city and into the suburbs, leaving more room for cities to be places of work which provided more money because people were working at more places. So it was a small boost for the economy if anything.

Jenna Martini said...

I agree with Mark entirely. If you can't build out, why not build up? Sure, overpopulation may be something one day to deal with, but skyscrapers are the perfect answer for big corporations. Plus, could we quite frankly think Chicago or New York and not think skyscraper? It was the answer to large business owners' problems and quite frankly an architectural genius.

Some of the greatest buildings in the world are skyscrapers: the Empire State building, Wills Tower, and dare I say the Twin Towers. Sure, they bring attention and focal point to a city, creating of the biggest tragedies. But if weren't the Twin Towers, would it not have been another building?

The only thing needed to be considered if high up do we go before it's too high and how much do we allow over-population to build up before population becomes a greater issue. Skyscrapers are perfect for the Victorian era in the time of general curiosity and experimentation. They're perfect for today's powerful economies and United States image. They're focal points of city, but too many skyscrapers can take away from their individuality. Skyscrapers were genius, always will be, as long as the expansion to new heights isn't expanded to competition of surrounding buildings or too overbearing. Over-population should always be considered, but it's true - they created a new world of ideas for the Victorian era and today, tomorrow, and the future generations.

jmboga2 said...

I agree with both mark and jenna, in that skyscrapers became a necessity and crucial during the Victorian era. And furthermore, it is still crucial to this very day. Any average sized city across the U.S has some form of a skyscraper in the downtown area. IF these buildings were not efficient for their purpose, would so many have been built and continue being built? In my opinion, the Victorian era was an extremely experimental time period where designers were stepping out of what was normal and really pushing the boundaries.
Even though building up rather than out allows for more people and businesses to be in a concentrated area, and sure, it cause problems back then (and still today) of overcrowding, pollution, etc. All of those problems I think would have come around naturally on their own. If we had continued to build outward in 1 or 2 story level buildings, then eventually space would have run out, creating another plethora of problems. So in this case, the skyscraper was a very valuable discovery. for my last point, I think when people realized the magnitude and accomplishment of building a building so high up, it opened up other doors of opportunities wondering what else can we invent and how far can we push those boundaries? and clearly, designers and inventors have been testing them.

Robin said...

It’s interesting that manifest desire for privacy and emphasis on making certain social impressions emerged at the same time. No surprise really given that what was happening was the burgeoning of the ability to make, have, and manage all kinds of physical objects, including space. That ability made it possible to have larger houses, enabling more personal privacy, and to fill those houses with objects that communicate messages controlled, at least to some extent, by the object’s owner.

The industrial revolution, which so profoundly changed material culture, also changed social culture, not just in the fact that it began to break up a rigid class structure where birth determined your final station in life, but also in that it changed the organization of communities. In smaller pre-industrial rural communities people pretty much knew each other if for no other reasons than proximity and mutual dependence.

Victorian culture seems pretty antithetical to that to me. It’s interesting that people who would have themselves have benefitted from a relaxation of societal standards around class (merchants and manufacturers and “professionals”) would be so anxious to impose new class standards themselves. I keep thinking of those uncomfortable hall chairs. Again not surprising in a culture and place (especially England, I take it) where class had been and still was so important and changes to that structure were still in their relatively early stages.

What really strikes me though are parallels between the industrial revolution and emerging matters of privacy and our own communications revolution and emerging matters of privacy.

It’s fairly easy to see after the fact and when the damage is pretty self-evident where things went wrong. Last week we talked about what might have happened in our economy and to our life styles had fossil fuels not become primary energy sources. Now that we understand to a better extent the environmental costs of that kind of energy use, we can wish for things to have been different, but we are still fully enmeshed in that energy structure and we inherit responsibility for deciding what to do with our knowledge.

I have to wonder what we are bequeathing to future generations with our communications revolution. I’m certain it will be a lot about privacy.

The Victorians created in western culture the phenomenon of re-making oneself. Well, they had a lot of help from the revolutioners in Europe and the U.S., but still the point remains.

Will the opportunity to re-make ourselves remain available in a world where so much about us and our personal histories, maybe even our private data, is also available?

The capacity to make or re-make ourselves has always been as much about luck and opportunity as personal drive. Most of us are, for the most part, the family we are born into. But there’s a lot of freedom in the idea, the lure, the possibility - even when remote - that we can be something else, something new, something better. That idea fuels the American experiment if not the American dream.

So what does this say about our communications revolution? I don’t know, but the privacy and the anonymity we need to re-create ourselves, to escape our families or our mistakes or our bad luck is part of what’s at stake.

Eunyoung An said...

I agree with all of above. I cannot think about a world without skyscrapers. The demand about the tall building was a natural thing in victoria ear.In order to expropriation of the people who come into the city after that the Industrial Revolution, building skyscrapers were essential.

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