Machine Age the Five Architectural Projects Reviewed Essay

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Machine Age

The five architectural projects reviewed in this section represent the pinnacle of a confluence of a number of different factors that pertain to the early half of the 20th century. For the first time, man focused on erecting structures with an unparalleled degree of height and functionality that suited a variety of purposes. Yet as a review of the following pages indicates, the process by which the technology, craftsmanship, and managerial principles necessary for this type of efficiency elucidates some of the most salient aspects of the Machine Age.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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It is far from coincidental that some of the most well-known architects during this epoch originated from Germany, particularly when one considers the impact Germany had on the first part of the 20th century politically, economically, and socially with its part in both World Wars (Jessen). More than any other nation during this time frame, Germany best exemplified the cyclical economic boom and bust that dominated theories of economics advocated by the Austrian School and by Joseph Schumpeter in particular. Hayek's notions of totalitarian government were brought to life in Deutschland, which was able to revive its devastated economy (Castillo) after its decimation during the First World War in part due to the production of materials in preparation for the Second World War. Although Walter Gropius erected his crowning achievement, the Fagus Factory, prior to World War I and his affiliation with the Bauhaus School for which he was renowned (Simkin), the construction of this edifice helped to reinforce Germany's need for industrialization and the spread of corporate prowess that was part of its initial economic prosperity during this century. This structure emphasized the utilitarian principles that Machine Age construction was noted for in a number of ways -- most demonstrably via the fact that its purpose was to help spur the aid of industry as a means of manufacturing. The most widely used construction material on the project, glass, was one of the chief materials of the age, was one of the most defining features of this structure (Pevsner 4-5) and helped to provide light for employees to work within for a highly utilitarian purpose, which was another central tenet of construction during this period.

The usage of glass and steel frames were responsible for the erection of the primary structure that the Machine Age was noted for -- skyscrapers, which were initially built by Louis Sullivan (Kaufman 52)in the declining and early years of the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively. Skyscrapers sum up the key characteristics of Machine Age construction. They are highly utilitarian and provide a variety of uses for the furtherance of corporations and the industries that depend on them via their means of providing considerable office space in a limited length and width. This notion was one of the most important that Sullivan bestowed upon the other master builders that followed him during the Machine Age -- the concept that form is derived from function (Sullivan). When one examines certain aspects of Sullivan's Guaranty Building, for instance, and denotes the different usages for retail shop space, office space, and equipment storage, it is fairly apparent that this building adheres to this principle. Even the modest ornamentation of this structure is simply rooted in the construction materials (Sullivan 1). The apex of functionality for residential buildings would be constructed at the end of the Machine Age, with Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, which served as a virtual village of sorts and provided domestic housing, schooling, healthcare facilities, and retail opportunities for residents. This structure helped to spawn the utilitarian architectural movement known as the Brutalist Movement (Banham 16)

Another characteristic of Machine Age architecture that the Guaranty Building exemplifies is the fact that its construction was completed in a modest amount of time, within two years. The increasing speed in which projects could be planned, designed, executed, and finished reflected the virtues of superior construction technology and materials that emanated from the Industrial Age and from the newfound principle of scientific management -- the precursor to project management -- that was developing at the same time that Sullivan was forming his primary notion of construction. In some ways, notions of management and the efficacy that it produced was equally as important, if not more so, than Sullivan's principles of design that the Machine Age has been noted for. There are several noteworthy building projects during this period that utilize the management theories that chiefly stem from the efforts of Frederick Taylor, which were in response for a uniform need for such a field of study (Wrege and Hodgetts 1283-1291). One of the most effective contributions Taylor made to management principles that directly affected construction was his abetting of the mass production process via the assembly line, which is an excellent example of the concept propounded by Schumpeter that innovations accompany periods of prosperity that address some of the causes of the preceding recession. Taylor's focus on methods to improve employee and overall company productivity and to partition processes into specific tasks that require as little body movement and deviation from work as possible (Taylor), was instrumental to the construction of structures such as Mies van der Rohe's renowned masterpiece at 860 and 830 Lakeshore Drive. Such a structure was able to implement not only notions of management popularized by Taylor, but also conceptions of scheduling as advanced by one of Taylor's disciples, Henry Gantt, whose Gantt chart is still incorporated into scheduling and labor management charts today (Weaver). Van der Rohe, more so than the other architects who erected acclaimed works during the Machine Age, utilized a minimalist style that served to underscore a high degree of functionality and incorporation of natural elements that was based upon a logical structuring (Puente 31). The degree of efficacy in which his work on Lakeshore Drive was completed is exemplified that the pair of towers only took two years to create -- approximately one year per building. The design itself was a series of glass rectangles reinforced by steel casings that was refreshingly void of visible ornamentation (Harris) and extremely utilitarian in the amount of living space that it provided to Illinois residents. The architect's usage of the skin and bones technique (Filler) was both aesthetic as well as adherent to the crucial feel of minimalism he was striving for. It should be remembered that these buildings were finished at the conclusion of the Machine Age, after World War II, and were created during a time in which the U.S. had successfully escaped the financial devastation from the Great Depression and was enjoying the monetary boons of a robust wartime economy that was still benefitting from the recent victory. The creation of skyscrapers for purely residential purposes, although not necessarily innovated by van der Rohe, certainly helped to underscore the economic trend of recession and financial stability with certain innovations based on the success. Van der Rohe's structure was able to provide a viable means of housing for a wide number of people at a minimum of space and decoration -- yet the buildings were still noted for their stark design and eminent, simplistic design. Such a profitable architectural project with prominent social boons helps to underscore the very virtues that the Machine Age represented.

The Empire State building represents a zenith of several facets of the Machine Age as well. Due to its sheer height, it is the acme of skyscrapers and represents the perfection of the work initially begun with Sullivan in the 19th century. It was completed between the two world wars and just prior to the economic downturn of the Great Depression, demonstrating that economic prosperity serves as a crucial background for cultural and scientific developments which this building represents. The celerity in which this structure was erected in order to earn the distinction of the world' tallest building (Myers) attests to the influence of scientific management and the prudent application of resources and materials that functioned as the professional zeitgeist at the time, particularly since it served as a means of providing space for the increasing trend towards white-collar work.


5. Conclusion (Please help to add 1000 words)

Please use existing references from sections 1 to 4. New reference is not required. A total of 20 references are needed

In the Industrial Revolution, the professional designer and the professional construction manager received their definitive separation, and were regarded by some as being improper to attempt to be related to one another (Kostof 194). The process leading to this had its founding in the Byzantine period. Then in the Renaissance the issue was clearly raised as a debate between the traditional master builder, who comprised multiple roles linked with design, craft, and building, and the pure designer. The Baroque period moved further in this direction with the separation of designer and engineer, the latter responsible for the actual technological process of building and craft supervision. Yet it was the final period in the 1800s where the two roles were severed entirely.

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