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?

VICTORIAN ERA: Impressions and Privacy

During the Victorian Era many new technologies and methods were developing allowing for more people to have access to fine furnishings. With several specializations developing in furniture design house plans changed to allow for more rooms, because people could now afford to fill them. Like “Ames” said, much of the design of the front of the house was based on first impressions. Houses developed to allow the host family to keep their guests in the front entertaining rooms and have their private living quarters hidden from view upstairs.


Many houses had what was called a front hall where guest were first received, here much consideration was given to the furnishings. The larger and more expensive your hallstand and other furnishings, the higher your social standing would seem to the guest who enter your house. The Victorians perfected the concept of controlling the first impression.

What guests had access to was changing, the family now had some control over what other people thought when they came to visit. These new ideas on the importance of first impressions allowed for the development in the concept of privacy. Rooms could now be entered independently, you no longer had to travel through one room to the next, invading the privacy of the occupants along the way. Families could now afford for everyone to have their own bedrooms were they could go to escape in quite. They were no longer forced to all sleep in the same room.

Having visitors became a more common occurrence. As privacy became more of a need then a luxury, designers started to incorporate it into their programming. Dumbwaiters were developed so waiters wouldn’t interrupt a private conversation, back staircases were added so the servants could move around undetected to perform their duties. Victorians at the time were very concerned with what others thought of them and didn’t want to be seem as poor or unable to afford the luxuries. People would sometimes splurge to decorate their front halls and parlors more elaborately then the rest of their houses. You might even say some people still do this today when they buy a fancy sports car they only use for work, or buy designer clothing with large obvious labels to show others what they can afford.

Was the development of privacy a much needed development or was it one of the main contribution factors to the deterioration of family structure? And did this obsession with first impressions stimulate consumerism or was it the other way around, and how can these values be seen in todays culture?

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.