The Evolution of Aesthetics and Its Impacts on the Construction in Architecture_Old vesion

The evolution of aesthetics in architecture and its impacts on the construction. from Trang Tran on Vimeo.

Abstract:

The evolution of architectural structures can be traced back to the Renaissance period, when buildings were used as a tool to satisfy their owners’ aesthetic preferences and social statuses. As technologies progressively advance, along with the economical aspect that was a result of social changes, modernism architecture came along, emphasizing on practicality of structures and functionality of forms. However, postmodernism were introduced later on, bringing back the aestheticism as the principle factor in a building. The rejection of minimalism of postmodern architecture once again challenged structures and construction techniques.  The period of deconstructionist architecture took this idea and over exaggerated it. Today deconstructionism has capture our attention and have kept us in this mode of thinking that by adding complexity(materials/technologies) to a building, it will add  significance to a building’s performance level; this isn’t always the case.

Aesthetics play an important role in shaping user responses. Users also draw on aesthetic factors that help them judge usability, credibility and ultimately how visual context would reciprocate off onto the user and develop a reaction. However, when aesthetics are put into the context of how a building is constructed and its performance is perceived in a whole other perspective. The functional aspects of a building become more prominent and it is through this that a new assemblage method is derived over time stemming from aesthetic outlooks. Moreover, the impacts of aesthetic factors on architecture have not only altered the spaces and functions of a building, but also its construction process, in terms of the production and assemblage of each structural component.  The evolution of this relationship has started since the Renaissance period to the modern era, until today.

rotonda
Plan and Section of Villa Rotonda- Focus on spatial quality and symmetry of the constructed building (Courtesy of “Villa Rotonda” Royal Institute of British Architects)

Prior when buildings were used as a tool to satisfy their owners’ aesthetic preferences and social statuses, Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, Vicenza, Italy (1550) is an archetypal example for how one represents his buildings are cherished by the outer appearance of a building rather than its function in the Renaissance period. This period marks the revival of culture and the forms of art that evoke certain spaces in responses to the outcome of assembly. Even though the emphasis on symmetry, proportion and geometry is stunning, structural elements such as domes, columns and niches are difficult to be assembled, due to their scales and redundant attached ornaments. Classical orders and architectural elements are also apparent and prefabricated to the desired state of appearance. Elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, entablatures and arches form the vocabulary of Renaissance buildings.  These architectural features that were assembled, at the time, were considered “complex”, but the technics that were developed and used to lessen the demand for technique were well admired and put to good use. Technics like corbelling stones to make a rectilinear object form as a curved surface by rearranging them in a way that was structurally sufficient yet pleasing to look at. Moreover, by drawing attention to these highly prominent technics of assembly, it is easy to note certain distinct qualities that distinguish the building’s conditions.  For instance, the Villa Rotonda is known for its symmetrical facades that are all mirrored on all four sides so that not only can each room receive sunlight, it also has four temple front porticos that allow for a harmonious outlook onto the landscape. Structural aspects like those are designed to appeal to both emotion and reason while also paying close attention to detail, both aspects that focuses on aesthetics but lacks the performance element. Palladio’s skill in applying his classical principles brings him lasting influence and fame. The purpose of his work is to explain the principles of Roman design following the example of his master, Vitruvius. Though he draws his principles from Vitruvius, he follows his own style being that the single most imitated aspect of his style is his use of columns and pediments as a portico. During the Renaissance, architects were trained as humanists helped raise the status of their profession from skilled laborer to artist. Additional key figures that exhibit these condition and qualities are Battista Alberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. They both strived to put underlying systems of symmetry, proportions and geometry into architecture to ultimately the understanding of principles by repetition throughout a building to create a sense of harmony, hence the Villa Rotonda as an example.

otto
The Postal Savings Bank. Architect Otto Wagner.
Interior image of atrium portraying materials and a more detailed image of the building’s construction

As technologies progressively advance, along with the economical aspect that was a result of social change, modernism architecture came along. The movement of modernism in architecture was introduced by leading names such as Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. Modernist Architecture became tremendously popular after World War I for its practicality and elimination of redundant embellishment that had been used since the Renaissance period. The concept of modernism emphasizes on minimalism in form, to exploit the use of spaces, using the phrase “form follows function” by Louis Sullivan as the associated core principle. Moreover, it focuses on the visual expression of structure and nature of materials. Looking at the movement more nationally, the Australian Architect Otto Wagner was mainly known in his first decade of work for his close link to historicism but the ambitiousness of the buildings go further than the usual historicist buildings. One example would be The Postal Savings Bank located in Vienna, is one of the most symbolic buildings that represent technological techniques improved along with the development and expansion of modernism. Designed by Otto Wagner in the 1900s, the bank rapidly gained mass admiration amongst the public in general and the architecture world in particular, for its innovative application of materials and phenomenal structure. The beauty of the exterior is defined not by redundant decorative elements, but honesty in the use of materials. Even though the brick structure is concealed by the square marble plated exterior, it is still exposed through the façade that resembles the pattern of the structure beneath.  Its influence on the functionality inspired modernism in Europe and also its bring-up was radical and fundamental. The core of the building is raised up and approached through a wide stair-cased atrium to the central banking hall. This detail entitles a dramatic bright, white space glazed both around on the walls and above on the pergola shaped iron and glass ceiling with a brick floor. The simplicity and scale of this hall, 550 square meters, is part of Wagner’s innovation against the rules by combining two systems to achieve a spatial solution. Trying to give his designs a rational base in order to an establish form as the inevitable result of functional form. This could have not been done without the advance in prefabrication technique and modular system. The structural modules were assembled rapidly on the concrete foundations. The limitations as to what materials and design qualities increase exponentially and become more lenient. Construction components become standardized and mass produced, making the assemblage process easier. The Postal Savings Bank is an example of how one would take the new-found materials of iron and glass and modify them to look astounding but also perform functionally, by putting to practice what the Renaissance period lacked. However, postmodernism were introduced later on, bringing back the aestheticism as the principle factor in a building.

The rejection of minimalism of postmodern architecture once again challenged structures and construction techniques.  Postmodernism were introduced later on, bringing back the aestheticism as the principle factor in a building. The rejection of minimalism of postmodern architecture once again challenged structures and construction techniques. Robert Venturi, one of the pioneers in post-modernism, took the basic ideas of Renaissance architecture and reinterpreted them in a new way.  One of his early works, the Guild House, is an example for this tendency. Located in Philadelphia, this apartment complex for the low-income elderly has a very ordinary front façade at the first glance. It fits in the neighborhood by mimicking the brick material and dark coloration of other nearby buildings. However, what lies behind the façade tells a different story. The two slits at the top suggest that there is a discontinuity. The stepped-back walls allow more windows and exposures to sunlight. While appearing ordinary, the windows’ sizes actually depend on their relations to the streets. Core elements like proportions and ornamentations were rearranged to create contradictions and ambiguities in structures for an illusionary effect.  Deconstructivism took this vernacular and exaggerated it.

Outcome of Sketch--Constructed, Los Angeles, CA (Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP)
Outcome of Sketch–Constructed, Los Angeles, CA (Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP)
An initial sketch of the Disney Concert Hall (Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP)
An initial sketch of the Disney Concert Hall (Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP)

The Disney Concert Hall’s was designed accordingly to the conceptual hand-drawn sketch by Frank Gehry : “…the shapes of the exterior of Disney Hall are based on sailing. When you’re wing-on-wing, with the wind behind you, it forms a beautiful space…” Aestheticism is brought to the foreground, and the construction has to be a result of the arts. The beauty found in the compatibility between structural components and honesty in materials was no longer the priority.  Despite the development of computer derived structures, extreme forms characterized by the infringement in geometries and proportions requires challenging assemblage processes, in which each component of the structure is unique and necessitates different methods of installation. Thus, it is inevitable that changes in geometry and material lead to the risk of leakage. Regardless of its disadvantages, deconstructionism has captured our attention and become the trend, expressed through numerous projects that draw both admiration and scorn from the architecture world in specific and the public in general.

Although the aesthetics is not the principle factor determining a building’s form, it undeniably has effects on doing so. As a result, the construction process would also be impacted by the predesigned forms that originate since the Renaissance period to modern time that still are prevalent in design and assembly. The emerging technology that exists and inevitably cannot avoid, offers some modes of expansion though design leniency, meaning that the materials and technics that are discovered can serve a basis for further integration into a building assemblage. However technology offers “distractions” in terms of how knit-picky or detailed we choose to construct a building based on principles, bias or simply on the aesthetics. All of these factors can deter away from the significance of a building’s performance level and assembly. It is not simply how we perceive a building is made, but more so how the building came about and was assembled should be made apparent to people that would inhabit or view a building.

Bibliography:

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Aylesworth, Gary, Aylesworth,. “Postmodernism.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 30 Sept. 2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Azachee, Blanche. “Otto Wagner & The Vienna Savings Bank.” Prezi.com. N.p., 7 June 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.Bose, Sudip. “National Trust for Historic Preservation.” Preservationnation.org. Preservation, June 2008. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.

“Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Architecture in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Philomena Mariani. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

“History of Architecture.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Piller, Frank T. Mass Customisation and Personalisation in Architecture and Construction. Ed. Poorang A. E. Piroozfar. N.p.: Taylor & Francis, 2013. Print.

Steph. “Deconstructivism: 7 Wonders of the Postmodern Architecture | Urbanist.” WebUrbanist RSS. Wed Urbanist, 2008. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.

Treister, Charles. “Architectural Intensification : Patterns of Use and Construction Assemblage as Opportunity for Elaboration.” Architectural Intensification : Patterns of Use and Construction Assemblage as Opportunity for Elaboration (1981): n. pag. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.

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