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Sample Paper: Demonstration of Modern Attitudes to Architecture by the Industrial Culture at the Great Exhibition of 1851

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Sample Paper: Demonstration of Modern Attitudes to Architecture by the Industrial Culture at the Great Exhibition of 1851

The Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace was an embodiment of the possibility of social class mobility. As a result of being the largest industrial fair of its time, the Great Exhibition attracted people of all social classes and backgrounds. Six million people, approximately a third of the Great Britain population at that time, visited the Great Exhibition.[1] This included royalty presence such as that of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the rich and the poor alike. The fact that people from British colonies such as India and Australia were allowed to exhibit their collections was also an indicator that change was forthcoming. The architectural design of the Crystal Palace encompassed people of all social classes. The idea of the exhibition and the design itself challenged the way people saw the world. Improvement turned to be a mentality. This mentality of equality is what we benefit from to this day.

            The Great Exhibition attracted 13,937 exhibitors from all around the world. The public accessed the diverse displays from two-storied pavilions constructed all around the building. The exhibitions presented were from different fields enabling the viewers to embrace the interconnection between art, design, science and manufacture. These four are the most important components that make contribute to the success of architectural design. There exists a close relationship between architecture, art, science and manufacturing trends. These components, coupled with societal needs, are the primary considerations a designer looks at during the design and construction process.[2] If an architect can incorporate art, science and contemporary manufactured elements in his/her design, it is very likely that it becomes successful. Just as observed in the Great Exhibition, modern architecture is very attentive to these details.

            Of all the exhibits in the Great Exhibition, the building itself was most magnificent. Joseph Paxton, a gardener, landscaper, and architect in 1850, designed the Crystal Palace. Paxton developed an ingenious means of incorporating labor and capital intensive methods which enabled his workers to put up the entire 5000-ton-building in a mere 8 months.[3] His design employed use of prefabricated modules of glass and iron. Use of prefabricated elements was not common at this time. Moreover, glass and iron were rarely used; brick and wood were the most widely used materials then. Paxton’s design of the Crystal Palace turned out to be a major motivation for a later generation of architects who later built skyscrapers. The design of this building has influenced modern attributes of using steel and glass to put up buildings.

            A competition was announced to select the architect who would design the building required. This competition involved the production of 248 plans. However, the committee rejected all the proposed plans.[4] They even tried to design their own, but their design was unsuccessful and unsuitable since their design would have taken more time to build than was available. However, when Joseph Paxton submitted his plans, the committee accepted the design mainly due to its innovativeness and ease of construction. This phenomenon is a similar representation of the competitions that modern-day architects undergo during bids to win a design project. Moreover, the industry that Paxton manifested in his design is an illustration of the amount of effort architects in modern times apply so to win a design competition.

            Another demonstration of modern attitudes in architecture portrayed in this case was the incorporation of labor and capital intensive methods during construction of the Crystal Palace. Paxton employed around 5,000 men to construct the Crystal Palace.[5] At the same time, he invented ingenious machined that made work easier for his laborers. Using one of these machines, one man could fix a hundred glass panes in a week. Additionally, it took only one week for workers to fix the huge curved ribs of the transept arch which were some of the most breathtaking features in the building. Consequently, it only took 5 months to construct the entire building. In modern times, contractors constantly try to balance the use of manpower and machinery during construction. This makes it possible to save time and resources while at the same time ensuring that human dexterity is applied on site.

            Another important attribute in modern architecture is the ability of a design to inspire later designs. Architecture is a constantly evolving field. Therefore, it is important that a design is a source of information and motivation to future generations.[6] The Great Exhibition in itself was a source of knowledge for not only the attending persons but also for other people. For instance, Architect Matthew Digby Wyatt studied the design of the Crystal Palace and built the Byzantine Court within its grounds. The art and architectural content displayed in the exhibition is still a reference for artists and designers in the modern world. This is made possible since surviving objects from the exhibition were collected and stored in museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum.

            Some exhibits made in the Great Exhibition were also a reflection of modern day architectural services. An example is a monumental hydraulic press invention that had previously been used to lift heavy metallic tubes during a bridge construction. Each of those tubes was about 1,144 tons heavy yet the machine was controlled by just one man.[7] This invention has been modified and its theory is now applied in the manufacture of construction cranes that lift materials during construction of tall buildings. Moreover, the principle of hydraulics that was explained in this presentation is now used in the installation of hydraulic lifts and escalators in today’s high-rise buildings.

            The relationship between Architecture, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering is also an important consideration in the construction industry. There was an exposition of engineering machine tools and exhibits during the Great Exhibition.[8] This reflected the advancements made in the mentioned fields. Consequently, advancements in engineering directly translate to advancements in architecture. In this Exhibition, a railway steam locomotive designed by Sir Daniel Gooch, the steam hammer created by James Nasmyth and Henry Maudslay’s marine engines were a reflection of technological advancement. The incorporation of such technologies with architecture and art was a demonstration of the modern architectural attributes that we have today.

            The element of color in the Great Exhibition is also a reflection of modern attitudes in architecture. Color is an important element in design and therefore, designers in the modern world appreciate it just as designers of the Crystal Palace were.[9] For instance, Paxton fitted one of the upper galleries with a wall made of stained glass. This created a technicolor effect when sunlight streamed through the glass. Another use of color in the Great Exhibition is the use of brilliantly colored carpets obtained from Axminster and colorful ribbons and curtains from Coventry. This use of color is a demonstration of modern attitudes involving design elements.


 

Bibliography

Auerbach, Jeffrey A., and Peter H. Hoffenberg, eds. Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851.Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008.

Hannah, Gail Greet. Elements of design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the structure of visual relationships. Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Hobhouse, Hermione, ed. The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition: Science, Art and Productive Industry: The History of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. A&C Black, 2002.

Mallgrave, Harry-Francis. Modern architectural theory: A historical survey, 1673–1968. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

  1. Hermione Hobhouse, The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition: Science, Art and Productive Industry: The History of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, ed. (A&C Black, 2002), 81.

 

  1. Jeffrey Auerbach A. and Hoffenberg Peter H., Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, ed. (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008), 200.

 

  1. Hermione Hobhouse, The Crystal Palace, and the Great Exhibition: Science, Art, and Productive Industry: The History of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, ed. (A&C Black, 2002), 80-84.

 

  1. Jeffrey Auerbach A. and Hoffenberg Peter H., Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, ed. (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008), 200.

 

  1. Harry-Francis, Mallgrave, Modern architectural theory: A historical survey, 1673–1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 170.

 

  1. Jeffrey Auerbach A. and Hoffenberg Peter H., Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, ed. (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008), 210.

 

  1. Hermione Hobhouse, The Crystal Palace, and the Great Exhibition: Science, Art, and Productive Industry: The History of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, ed. (A&C Black, 2002), 81-86.

 

  1. Harry-Francis, Mallgrave, Modern architectural theory: A historical survey, 1673–1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 168.

 

  1. Gail Greet Hannah, Elements of design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the structure of visual relationships, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 27.

 

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