Architecture as a Form of Protection

For as long as humans, both primitive and advanced, have been around, they have been using natural and man made shelters to protect themselves. Architecture in its most basic form is simply a way we have altered our surroundings to protect ourselves. There are numerous natural occurrences and conditions that pose threats to the unprotected human, and with our innate tendency for violence, man made shelters necessary for survival and prosperity.

In the previous project, I discussed architecture and its relation to earth’s natural disasters. Due to human’s natural desire to move and inhabit as many areas as possible, we have developed ways to colonize and thrive in areas that have conditions that are not ideal for inhabitation. We have taken areas prone to certain natural destructive occurrences and made these areas not only livable, but places that humans thrive. Through architectural techniques of design, these structures work with or against individual natural forces to protect the inhabitants.
Not only have humans been designing structures in response to what nature throws at them, but also humans have the unique ability to alter the existing environment to their benefit. The large-scale alteration and use of an areas environment creates yet another defense mechanism unique to humans. These alterations protect the inhabitants from both natural and other human threats.

With the existence of war and conflict for almost all of human existence aside from a few hundred peaceful years, architecture is a key aspect for the protection of civilizations and has been adapted in countless ways to deal with the abundant man made threats.
One of the greatest threats to humans is the wide range of natural disasters and natural phenomenon. We have been able to develop specific architectural methods to deal with the natural disasters that exist in certain areas. There isn’t really any standard design when it comes to architecture because different areas around the world have to deal with different factors. For example, Japan has to design buildings that are able to withstand seismic activity and earthquakes, while places in the Philippines and South Asia have to deal with the threat of flooding and water damage. Traditional buildings in Japan use wooden construction, which is far more flexible than steel or concrete. The buildings are placed on seismic dampers that allow the building to move freely on the surface as the ground shifts. They also use a center beam that helps to balance the building and isolate the movements. The joints, which are made of wood, are very flexible which doesn’t cause damage to the structure when the building moves. One of the most noticeable traits of Japanese architecture is the wide eaves, which also act as counter weights to balance the buildings. These methods have been in use in japan for hundred of years and still prove to be effective today. They have been adapted and used in new construction, allowing an area that would not be suitable for large-scale inhabitation to thrive.

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As opposed to what the natural world throws at our buildings, there has always been human conflict that threatens the safety of populations. Unfortunately, we must construct buildings to protect ourselves from each other. We have built walls to keep others out, fortified structures to protect against direct attacks, and countless other specific buildings all to keep areas and inhabitants safe. Some of the best examples of architecture as a means of protection from other humans come from influential political leaders that were in constant danger. Because of their social status and power, they are often targets of attack, therefore more intense measures are taken architecturally to protect them than would be required for the average citizen. The castles of England, and most other castles around the world have been designed to protect the most important leaders and officials of a civilization. They would be entirely different if the constant threat of attack and destruction wasn’t there. These threats brought about the development of most of the distinguishing features of a castle. Windsor Castle in England is a prime example of large scale fixed fortification permanent forts. It was created under the rule of William the conqueror and over the time it has grown and expanded has exhibited many successful methods to protect the inhabitants from attacks. The effectiveness of these structures has allowed the building to stand for over 800 years, and is still used today (although not for defensive purposes). The combination of moats, certain walls, towers, large fortified gates, wards, keeps and countless other features make thee structures so effective as a means of protection. Simply by locking the structure down they become fairly easy to defend, but are very difficult to breach.

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Another form of protection is the alteration of land as a means of protection. This could protect against both natural occurrences and man mad occurrences. A very common practice as a means of protection is the creation of sea walls and land barriers to protect against tides, waves and storms. Sea walls allow people to inhabit areas that would otherwise be unstable, while protecting both man made structures along the coast and the natural shore. These structures create dampers for waves that stop the day-to-day damage, but also in the event of larger scale storms, help to lighten the blow. Walls allow large structures and civilizations to inhabit larger areas of land and allow for denser construction closer to the water. Fortresses are often placed on or behind sea walls, which creates far more easily defendable coasts, lessening the danger of attacks by water. This allows a safer environment for boats and trade. Sea walls have been around since ancient times and are proven to be a widely effective land alteration. A prime example of an effective early sea wall, which was created in the 1st century BCE by the Romans, is the Caesarea Maritima. This wall was created by filling ships with concrete and then strategically sinking them to create a harbor that still exists over 2,000 years later. The breakwater is used to protect the inner coast from weather and longshore drift, making the inner populated area far safer.

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Humans have the innate ability to alter most things to better their lives in one way or anther. Our ability to create as safe place to live is one of the distinguishing factors of the human race. We are able to create structures that stand up to some of earth’s toughest conditions. While we are able to create structures to protect ourselves from nature, we also have to create structures to protect ourselves from each other because unfortunately the human race is not an entirely peaceful one. We are forced to develop new ways to protect ourselves as the human race advances and finds new ways to overcome the previous forms of defense. Therefore, incredibly strong and safe structures have been created over time. Finally, our alteration of our environment is one of our greatest feats for protection. We have made areas far more inhabitable and expansive then one would ever believe possible. In conclusion, humans have found ways through architectural means to protect our selves from a wide range of dangers, both natural and man made.

Bibliography:

“Windsor Castle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

“Seawall.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

“Breakwater (structure).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

“How Japan’s Oldest Wooden Building Survives Giant Earthquakes.” Gizmodo. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

“Castle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2013. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

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