ARTH101 Study Guide

Unit 6: Architecture

6a. Explain how the form of architecture affects the use of a structure

  • What impacts how works of architecture are built and how they appear?
  • What typical human functions does architecture support?
  • What have been some of the main technologies that influenced architectural style?

Since buildings serve to support human functions, their forms require different approaches to their structural design. Designers sought the optimal structures to support the required function. The earliest surviving structures used a post and lintel system that combined vertical (the post) and horizontal (the beam or lintel) structural elements.
The Greeks elaborated on this structural concept by using colonnades – long repeating sequences of freestanding columns topped with Ionic, Corinthian, or Doric capital styles connected by a horizontal entablature – which is an important feature of the Acropolis complex of structures in Athens.
During the Roman period, new structural forms such as arches and domes integrated curving surfaces to provide open interior spaces and stronger load-bearing capacity. Arches supported aqueducts or "water highways" that transported water over long distances throughout the empire.
During the Romanesque period, architects elaborated on the Greek and Roman precedents. Arches adopted a more semi-circular shape. Gothic cathedrals incorporated slender arches with tapering vaults to support the tall ceilings that would maximize the amount of outside light to penetrate the interior spaces to create a heavenly presence. This required new inventions such as vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses.
The Industrial Revolution introduced several key building technologies suitable for mass production and scale. Reinforced concrete, which can withstand compression (downward) forces with metal rebar to enhance its strength, could support larger structures and improve their ability to withstand shearing forces in which elements are pulled in opposite directions, such as during strong winds.
Central train stations were built with iron trusses and skylights to accommodate several tracks and trains to transport thousands of passengers who used them on a daily basis. Their new, busier lives required more frequent travel between cities.
Column-frame structures created a horizontal and vertical grid of elements based on standardized sizes.
Modern architectural movements such as Art Nouveau (1890–World War I), DeStijl (World War I–1931), and the Bauhaus (1919–1933) embraced these new technologies to advance the forms of our built environment to suit a post-industrial age.
To review, read Methods and Materials.

6b. Describe traditional and modern styles of architecture and the effects of the Industrial Revolution on architecture

  • Compare structures built before and after the Industrial Revolution to show how architectural norms changed.
  • What were some of the main techniques for making buildings before the Industrial Revolution?
  • What were some of the main technologies introduced by the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution (1760–1840) in Europe brought the ability to mass-produce building components, including new possibilities for steel-based frames and concrete that would radically increase the scale of built structures. These buildings were inherently different from those built out of stone or wood and assembled with much less technological apparatus.
Steel and reinforced concrete meant spans could be larger, loads could be heavier, and the buildings could withstand more forceful stresses. It also meant contemporary architects and designers would deem traditional styles of ornament and decoration unsuitable. They fully embraced the new building materials and methods and refused to remain tied to forms based on earlier technologies.
To review, read Architecture and the Industrial Revolution.

6c. Explain how architecture acts as a reflection of culture

  • What are some examples of buildings that show influences from different cultures?
  • What examples of buildings with features can we trace to a cultural factor?
  • What were some ways cultural interests in architecture changed during the 20th century, according to various styles?

When we travel to other countries, we notice how buildings change based on their geographic location. The buildings we see across the world reflect alternative social contexts and represent the variety of cultural backdrops in which these buildings were created. While their general functions may be similar – for worship, education, work, housing, or military defense – the uniqueness of cultures means architecture will find unique forms that are well-suited to the cultural environment, which distinguishes these forms from those built elsewhere.
Example: Modernist architects rejected ornament and decorative elements based on past historical styles. Rather, they wanted to embrace contemporary materials and methods and create a style dissociated from the past and addressed the present. A popular Modernist idea was that homes should be like "machines for living."

The form of a cathedral was based on the idea of creating a great sense of height, with lots of colorful light to provoke spiritual contemplation and awe. This form's aesthetics was grounded in Christian practices of worship and in Catholicism in particular (relative to later Protestant movements).

Religious buildings were meant to possess a sensual grandeur to inspire the faithful and create a strong sense of ceremony.

To review, read Cross-Cultural Influences on Architecture.

6d. Describe how new green technologies are changing architecture and design

  • What are the main kinds of building systems and functions that sustainable technologies in architecture address?
  • What are the main technologies used in green architecture?
  • Can you name some examples of green design in architecture?

All buildings are systems. While we may think of them as structures, offices, or homes, they support human functions by assembling multiple specific functions to address our human needs. Typical building systems include heating, cooling, lighting, ventilating, and powering. Today, these systems might recycle rainwater or support a living roof.
We can trace the associated methods and technologies for each of these systems back to the origins of architecture. However, many of these systems are unsustainable in today's more ecologically-informed era. Green or sustainable design explores new ways to provide the same kinds of traditional building systems with new approaches that minimize harmful environmental impacts.
To review, read Green Architecture.

6e. Describe recent periodizations of architectural history during the past century

  • What is the difference between modern and postmodern architecture?
  • How does postmodern architecture treat past historical forms?

Despite conservative trends such as neoclassicism at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, architects began to incorporate a more integrated approach to their designs. They abandoned their concern with ornamentation (which represented past historical epochs) and embraced new forms that were "truer" to post-Industrial Revolution methods of construction. Buildings began to look like the concrete, glass, and steel they were made of. They no longer adopted the veneer of being made of carved stone to resemble the Greek, Roman, or Gothic exemplars.
Modernism abandoned ornament, embraced function and utility, and gave universal value to forms such as the uniform grid. However, architects gradually rebelled against many of these modernist tenets; they perceived they were too serious and lacked vitality. With postmodernism, architects re-embraced ornament and non-grid forms, often with a more playful and ironic spirit.
To review, read Modern Architecture: A New Language and Post-Modern and Contemporary Architecture.

Unit 6 Vocabulary

Be sure you understand these terms as you study for the final exam. Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • arch
  • Art Nouveau
  • Bauhaus
  • colonnade
  • column-frame
  • compression
  • Corinthian
  • DeStijl
  • dome
  • Doric
  • entablature
  • flying buttress
  • form
  • function
  • Gothic
  • green design
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Ionic
  • iron truss
  • load-bearing
  • neoclassicism
  • ornament
  • post and lintel
  • rebar
  • Romanesque
  • shearing
  • system
  • utility
  • vault
  • vaulted ceiling