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The Agglomeration of Modern Materials in Architecture

The Agglomeration of Modern Materials in Architecture

Building materials are both a facilitator and constraint in architecture and design. The development of new materials helps promote the actualization of built structures derived from novel ideas. Throughout the history of architecture, from early constructs into the modern era, materials have manipulated the way we plan and erect our cities and urban landscape. This can be seen in the evolution of Paris, Hong Kong, and Mexico City where different levels of modernization has taken place each with their own understanding and adaptation of building materials. Additionally each of these cities adopted its modern form during different time periods, which creates a dichotomy of overlapping similarities, while at the same time highlighting stark contracts in the use of materials and in architectural forms.

Paris began to modernize in the 1800’s under the Haussmann plan during the reign of Napoleon the Third. During this time a large portion of the city’s medieval blocks were demolished and a rigid and unifying city plan was instated. The master plan of the city regulated sizing for blocks and building lots while establishing a new central axis for efficient circulation between the monumental institutional buildings. In conjunction to the rigorous urban planning, many new developments that were being constructed followed a central form. The principal typology that was established by the Haussmann plan was the bourgeoisie apartment that that lined the newly carved out boulevards. Boulevard-Monmartre-in-ParisThese edifices continued to use masonry structure, but now installed with shimmering fenestrations. The continuous glass of their uniform façade was facilitated by the advancements of glass production technology that had occurred in preceding years. Paralleling the redesigning of Paris’s housing, construction structural materials began to shift from masonry to a system of light cast iron columns and beams. New municipal buildings that required large open spaces began operating with iron trusses and vaulted ceilings. In 1850 the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, designed by architect Henri Labrouste illustrated cast iron’s capacity to develop space and form through the field of columns that articulated the main reading room of the library.Salle_de_lecture_Bibliotheque_Sainte-Genevieve_n01 However, the Bibliothèque retained a strong neo-classical and Beaux-Arts styled elevation thereby masking its interpretation as a modern building. Furthermore, this trend was reconstituted ten years later in the Paris opera house, the Palais Garnier designed by, Charles Garnier, where much of the internal structure consisted of cast iron concealed with stone cladding. Palais Garnier is know as being the paragon for Beaux-Art architecture; its interior special conditions are highly sophisticated and modern. The opera house’s main foyer is a grand reception hall that connects a series of galleries that look back at the central promenade of the ground floor. The conditions of lightened construction and contemporary structural systems enable the design of this grand hall.


While some of the Haussmann plan’s ideas were translated into Mexican architecture during the 19th century by means of the French regent, Emperor Maximilian I, the nation and especially Mexico City did not experience the full aptitude of modernization until the 20th century following the Mexican revolution. With that came the instilment of socialist architectural ideologies drawn from building designs and construction methods in the Soviet Union and the international style. As in Paris, the newly established government following the 1917 revolution sponsored much of Mexico’s construction. Likewise the Mexican government also dictated the designing principles for housing projects, as well as government and institutional buildings. While glass and masonry walls were standard throughout the construction of Paris, concrete became the preferred material by Mexican architects. Juan O’Gorman, a leading artist and architect in the 1930’s expressed the necessity to “eliminate[ing] all architectural style and executing constructions technically (Guillen, Modernism without Modernity),” within his design of low-income housing and government complexes.93313 This statement manifested itself through the use of “industrial prefabrication (Guillen),” techniques and concrete in a series of schools that were designed for the Mexican Department of Education. Following O’Gorman’s practices, architect Juan Segura separated himself from neo-classical ways of building that he learned at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, and his buildings employed steel and concrete structure as seen in the Ermita Building designed, built in 1930. The Ermita was Mexico City’s first high-rise and its program served multiple levels of urban life, similar to the Haussmann apartments, which often had a first floor store or workspaces with housing on the upper floors. Segura’s planning was progressive—he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApaired a theater and stores with mixed income apartments—diversifying the tenet population. This mixed-use typology became a cornerstone for modernist planning, reused by organizations such as International Congresses of Modern Architecture and other leading architects of the 20th century and even into the 21st.


The next period of modern architecture in Mexico continued to rely heavily on concrete. In the 1960’s Pedro Ramirez Vazquez became the new face of Mexican architecture, and through his role of lead designer at the 1968 Olympic games exhibited a profound influence on the direction for contemporary Mexican design. Through investigations into concrete Vazquez created prolific forms leveraging the monumentality of the material. Vazquez ‘s execution of form through concrete is best illustrated by at the National tumblr_inline_mwmq5tNlIP1qagosiMuseum of Anthropology and the Azteca Stadium. At this impressive Museum, the most signifying feature is single colossal concrete column that supports an equally enormous concrete “umbrella,” that shades an exterior courtyard. The magnitude of this shading device as a statement of form is only comprehendible through the dependency of the cantilever on the structural integrity of Azteca Externalreinforced concrete. Similarly, at the Azteca Stadium, which served as the primary stadium for the 1968 Olympic games and the 1970’s World Cup, the system of exposed concrete ribs opens the exterior ground floor for free flowing circulation while supporting the arena seating above.



Similar to Mexico, the modernization of Hong Kong began evolving the in 1930’s with the first official high-rise built in 1935. However, the iconic skyline of Hong Kong’s Central Island did not come into fruition until a real-estate boom during the 1980’s and through the 1990’s. Now the city forest of over 7000 skyscrapers serves as an example of complete agglomeration for contemporary building methods and materials.4911029899_22e9603003_o The skyscraper typology no longer uses large masonry structures found in the boulevards apartments, as concrete and steel framing phased out brick and stone during the late 1890’s and early 1900’s as seen in the Mexican buildings by O’Gorman and Segura. Nevertheless, the building methods used today draw upon techniques established during France’s Second Empire, glass curtain walls in Hong Kong recall the expansive use of glassing of the apartments and the application of uniform facades is similar to the Palais Garnier’s exterior cladding on structural frame. Furthermore, the prefabrication techniques used in Mexican concrete construction have played a vital role on increasing construction efficiency and stream lining skyscraper’s design. Free of ornamentation of the Beaux-Arts era, most skyscrapers rely on simple geometric principles. HK_Bank_of_China_Tower_ViewFor example, I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower completed in 1990 uses a triangular steel space frame structure that is then inset with a glazing curtain wall. Because of the inherent monumentality of the tower it acts as an object in the urban condition much like the Garnier’s opera house or Vazquez stadium.

While separated by era and styles, modernism has built upon itself over the course of its development. It began with restructuring Paris, which allowed for expanded uses of glass and iron, followed by the international style of efficient reinforced concrete and steel structure that fit the needs of a socialist society. Ultimately these gains embodied themselves in the skyscraper typology of the 20th century and most evidently in Hong Kong where “starchitect” from around the globe engage with monumentality and bigness through the most modern means of construction and materiality.

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pedro ramirez vazquez: father of mexican modern architecture,1919 2013. (n.d.). designboom. Retrieved December 13, 2013, from

Architecture – Creating an Illusion of Utopia

As a preface to the essay, watch this video collage compiling footage from the 1927 German movie Metropolis as it displays a dystopian city.

To cater to the desire of clients and consumers, architecture often creates an illusion of Utopia, by masking issues instead of bringing them forth and attempting to disentangle them. Architecture resorts to working like a Band-Aid, a wall, a mask, a short-term “solution”. In this way, architecture divides people and hides society’s problems. It is easy to rationalize this architectural method that is more economically feasible and tends to satisfy clients. However, this “out of sight, out of mind” mindset is harmful as it blinds us to the issues of many sorts that surround us. This deceptive quality of architecture is seen often throughout history. Blatantly, it is seen in The Siheyuan courtyard-style house (link:, slave castles like that of Elmina, and in Victorian Era Housing in the United Kingdom.

The Siheyuan abides by this architectural condition of creating an illusion of utopia by isolating itself from the outside world. This is achieved by creating an opaque barrier between the residence and its surroundings. Windows face an interior courtyard, a heavy masonry wall wraps the perimeter of the complex, and only one access gate (usually screened for privacy) penetrates the façade. The courtyard also contributes to this division, as it allows for a separate cared for and lush landscape to flourish, oftentimes resembling a dreamscape nature. The Siheyuan eliminates any transparency and connection to what lies beyond the property. The Siheyuan’s ultra-privatized design was formed by architectural decisions relating to Chinese traditions and values (Confucianism), as well as formal ideas of privacy, sunlight optimization, and wind breaking. The consequence of the design is a creation of a private world for its residents, protected from the outside environment; i.e. intruders, and the noise and dust from the streets. Social hierarchies that appropriate the Siheyuan only led to further social divide and disengagement between China’s social classes. The extensive use of the Siheyuan throughout China’s history obstructed the creation of a community, instead creating many microcosmic compartments. The Siheyuan contributes a condition of unawareness to its residents.

The Elmina Slave Castle in Ghana, described in detail in Angela Shin and Esesua Ikpefan’s essay, “Architecture as a Social Segregator” (link:, also shows a utilization of architecture as a mask and problem perpetuator. The architecture, in this case, created two separate domains, combining high-end government facilities and residences with a horribly-kept prison. Disobedient slaves were put in condemned cells, and forgotten until dead. The governor lived an opulent life above the slaves, with little connection to them. The architecture allowed for the two parties to live without acknowledging each other. This racial segregation made it easy for the governor and other Dutch workers to dehumanize slaves as they were so distanced. The governor and other Europeans of high status were able to live in a manner where what they did not want to be in sight, was not in sight. If the governor desired sexual favors, a slave would appear in his room through a trap door, bathed and ready. This further exemplifies the segregation of both parties. The governor could summon sex as he wished, with no involvement in the process of the summoning. This blindness in regards to processes creates a philosophy where the end justifies the means. This results in the cheapest method of obtainment, no matter how immoral. The architecture of the castle is successful as it intentionally and effectively divides two races, as opposed to the Siheyuan, which divides the classes and families in a more consequential way. Both use opacity in construction to divide a utopia from an arguable dystopia, this being more extreme in the Elmina castle. Both instances use the idea of protecting a party from another to create a division of society and wellness. In the case of Elmina, the two parties are more defined. The problem, being the slave trade and slave facility as a whole, is hidden from the governor through the architecture. The illusion of utopia created here is exclusive to the governor. Whereas the Siheyuan is set against a town or village with conventional problems of safety and privacy, the Elmina castle is set against a much more contrasting landscape of slavery and torture. Its architecture further juxtaposes these two vastly dissimilar environments (filth and opulence). While the Siheyuan removes itself from its surroundings and problems, the slave castle cannot. The Siheyuan is considering and accommodating only one party; the slave castle complex accommodates for two.

In Victorian era houses in the United Kingdom, the key to running a good home meant that maids and servants were not visible. Different passages were used by the served and the servers. This again shows a delusion of the power-holder that a utopian life can be lived where things clean themselves magically, and dinners cook themselves. In this world, the servants are never seen. Frequently, such are the aspirations of the upper-class. The process of maintaining and running the house is considered nonexistent. Only the result is seen and important. Windows faced away from the principal areas of the house and doors leading to the servant’s quarters were concealed by screens and wallpapers or disguised as bookcases. Servants were not to be acknowledged. This house type shares with the Siheyuan and the Elmina castle a means of division through visual blocking. Opacity and transparency is an obvious tool in separation and concealment. However, what is distinct here is the lack of physical boundaries. The servers were a part of the house. They were not constrained to a specific area like in the slave castle. The two classes here are much more interwoven and connected then in the Elmina castle, which in turn is more connected then the Siheyuan. All three cases divide social classes, and demonstrate a desire to hide what is, to each client, considered unpleasant or inappropriate. Oftentimes, what falls under this category is people (a segregation of society seems to be a defining characteristic of our idea of dystopia). In Victorian era manors, there are no gates or cells to divide the served from the servers. In this case, architecture works to create an illusion of utopia only to a limit. Most of the illusion is credited to scheduling, obedience, and the politics of the household. The lines that divide and shroud problems and people are the most blurred, as opposed to the Siheyuan and Elmina castle which have defined lines and boundaries. Instead of interwoven spaces like that of Elmina these spaces overlap and smear.

Architecture has the power to create environments within environments, but when these artificial environments mask societal issues or separate parties that ironically have to communicate and interact, then architecture is creating a delusional dystopian society where reality is hidden and the motto is “ignorance is bliss”. The Siheyuan, with its seclusion from the outside world; the Elmina Slave Castle, with its content of two distinct residents living with little regard to each other; and the Victorian manor, with success being gauged by how invisible servitude is, all conform to the idea of problems under rug swept. By utilizing architecture in this way, the gap between problem and problem-solved only increases, as people are unaware of issues and satisfied with the temporal, Band-Aid solution. The dystopian society created is one of two worlds, a private world that is livable and illusioned; and one destroyed and plagued by never being dealt with.

Circulation: Intended vs. Unintended

Architects learn to manipulate circulation when designing a building. Circulation needs to be considered within enclosed spaces as well as how that corresponds with the circulation of its immediate surroundings. And when architectural values always respond to the requirements of social, cultural and economic values of its community, any change to this direct relationship impacts the circulation made. The resulting circulation, however, isn’t always outcome as manipulated or intended. French architecture in the 17th century, like the Palace of Versailles demonstrates how social values produced unintended circulation causing social segregation. In a less successful case, like the Eight Mile road in Detroit, socio-economical values result in unintended circulation, which manifests through a physical division of social and racial segregation. Though in contrast, modern Hong Kong society displays economic values determine Hong Kong’s highly dense and successful urban planning.





PALACE OF VERSAILLES: Circulation from hierarchal segregation

French court societies in the 17th century have cultural values demonstrated in architecture. The cultural value involved a self-presentation of beauty through housing, fashion, parties and transportation. King Louis XIV and his Palace of Versailles are prime examples that represented this practice in the 17th century. King Louis XIV reinforced his status by embellishing the Palace with the most prestigious furnishing and surrounded himself with the most elite members of the court. The king being one of the role models of the social values at the time, he claimed the Palace to be a public building for the rest of France to see the beauty of his Palace.

It was thought that the public should acknowledge royal life, so a few day-to-day routines like sleeping and dining were allowed observation from a distant within the palace. Though the palace was considered a public building, circulation for the public and the elite members of the Royal Court was different. Considering program and function, most members of the court was allowed access to most public rooms while the public was restricted to only ones that were on exhibit for beauty. This organized a specific sequence of spaces for each the public and court members. The more decently dressed citizens were allowed access to the public squares, gardens and the ‘public’ spaces within the palace.

The creation of the Hall of Mirrors marks the start social segregation through the creation of circulation. Though the Hall of Mirrors was the main reason the King decided to make the palace public, it was mainly used for state receptions, court meetings, and as a networking center for the royal court limiting access to the public. King Louis XIV’s decision to claim the Palace public created more types of circulation and due to the hierarchal differences (Monarchy, upper class and middle class) specific and separate circulation was created for each social group. Subtly generating a physical separation of these social groups.













Palace of Versailles: Public Spaces (Dash) vs Private spaces (Blocks)







THE EIGHT MILE ROAD: Circulation from cultural and social segregation

The Eight Mile road in Detroit, Michigan is an example of an unsuccessful architectural move that lead to racial segregation. The road runs for approximately eight miles, hence its given name and the road physical represents a division of two communities since its creation in 1928.













A Map showing the population by racial ethnicity around Eight Mile


The diagram shows a clear separation between the black and white residents. The two distinct communities are not only divided into cultural but also social groups along the entire eight miles; the rich Wayne and Washtenaw counties from the poorer Macomb, Livingston, and Oakland counties The 2000 U.S. census showed that the “median family income for the city of Detroit, and 81.55% African American area, is $33,853 with 26.1% of its residents below the poverty line”. On the other hand, the north region of Eight Mile, Oakland County is “82.75% white region, with a median family income of $75,540 with only 5.5% of its residents below the poverty line” according to Detroit Historical Society. Not only does the racial difference cause a split but the financial imbalances triggers the gap to grow. Due to the split the circulation within the region of the city is disconnected.

A non-profit organization, ‘Eight Mile Boulevard Association,’ was founded in 1993 to improve the conditions though transportation and business promotions along the Eight Mile by linking the private and business sectors on the road. Also some middle class black Americans are moving north to the suburbs, however, a strong socioeconomic divide still remains. The Eight Mile demonstrates a clear example of socio-economical differences causing a separation of social harmony along the Eight Mile road. There is no interaction between the two dividing parties and as disconnection of circulation continues, this could lead to further segregation in the future.



HONG KONG URBAN PLANNING: Circulation from economical advancement

In comparison, Hong Kong displays a more successful example of a complex circulation system created based from their economic values. Hong Kong is one of the most successful cities today in terms of urban planning. Cities like Hong Kong thrive on the basis of economical stability, therefore aims to create prospering quality of living as well as business-orientated environment with control. The necessity to strike balance between housing, business, industries, transportation and recreation put Hong Kong though a socio-economical and political transition since its independent sovereignty in 1997. Also, Hong Kong’s limitation in space and reconstruction of economy requires it’s urban planning to be highly dense.

Due to its many limitations Hong Kong tries to take advantage of vertical urban planning. By creating such tight spaces, connections between regions are constructed with complex designs. Hong Kong has specifically planned elevated walkways within the city, influenced by vertically planning, that connect between roads, open spaces and the different types of buildings.












Hong Kong’s complex walkway networks

This complex design creates a complicated but sophisticated system of networks between residential, governmental, industrial, commercial spaces. The complex circulation system Hong Kong developed not only works for their goal to create life of prosperity but also for its economic growth, which continues to thrive today.


Throughout history, social, cultural and economical values have displayed its impact on manipulated circulation. During the 17th century, the unintended circulation formed from social values creates segregation. The unintended, disconnected circulation along the Eight Mile road in Detroit continues to keep the communities apart due to social and racial differences whilst Hong Kong provides a more integrated environment with a complex circulation created from economical values. Though all social, cultural and economical values created unintended circulation, they all impact the communities differently. Perhaps the time period at which these circulations were created also need to be taken into account of its impact on the resulting circulation. And whether they would be successful in terms of their primary goals are still at question.


















Chateau De Versailles. “La Chambre du Roi en.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


Chateau De Versailles. “The Hall of Mirrors.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


“Eight Mile Road | Detroit Historical Society.” Detroit Historical Society | Where the past is present. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <>.


Massey, Jonathan. “Court Societies.” Class lecture from School of Architecture, Syracuse, NY, September 11, 2013


Massey, Jonathan. “Modernizations.” Class lecture from School of Architecture, Syracuse, NY, September 13, 2013


PBS Home. “Mirrors.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


Youtube. “The Rise and Fall of Versailles,” YouTube Video, 53:01, posted by “prussianeagle”, 14 July, 2013,


Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guide Book,2012


Wikipedia, “Hong Kong” “Last Accessed November 17, 2013.

The Reconstruction of Heritage Sites – Johnathon Phillips

Johnathon Phillips

The Reconstruction of Heritage Sites

Every major civilization has and will continue to have architecture linked to its core cultural identity. The massive, the monolithic; these things that do not change but stand as a testament to the idea of a nation lead to a reverential awe. And so it passes, just like the great nations before them, that these gems of architecture become a wreck and ruin of their former glory. But what is the proper response to the insult of time? When confronted with such a task, that being the rebuilding of the old, destroyed or damaged, we must prove ourselves to be above the historical reconstructionist that merely mirrors the past. We must understand that what happens to a thing throughout its lifetime shapes and molds it into what it is now. To take a building and “restore” it to what someone’s idea of what it once was is an insult not only to the building itself, but to those who live in its presence and call it their own.  To deny history from being read in a building is to have that building lie and deceive its observer. No, the building should be an exemplar of its environment and show, through its architecture, the history it encountered and made.

Sermon’s in stone: perhaps one of the best ways to understand almost every aspect of the Frauenkirche. This Protestant Church in Dresden, Germany was a grand Baroque church, once Roman Catholic, fell victim of an Allied bombing campaign of WWII, resulting in the leveling of Dresden and the church herself. But it was the reconstruction and how that influenced the building post war that is of importance. The burnt mason bricks from her destroyed walls that were baked into a charcoal black by the fires of incendiary bombs once again held the weight of its dome. By incorporating this small nod into the rebuilt plans of the church, we understand that something traumatic and devastating happed here. But the key here is that we can see these tragedies through the lens of reconstruction which is the hope of the future, that great confidence we obtain in the thought of a better day to come. This is only the result of struggle and hardship – this idea of reaching a level of peace. And how appropriate that it so matches with our own human condition in that we only find the peace after the hard day is over.

However, this pristine case of historic and modern day relevance is not always captured in other facets of architecture throughout the world. If we take for instance Los Angelis Times Bombing of 1910, can we see any hint at the history that occurred in what is the new building now? In the short essay by John Hayden and Christopher Walker we can see that, while there was immediate reconstruction over the site, no recognition was given to the event that had preceded it. In fact, if we look at the current LA Times building we can see it has undergone several periods of construction, all of which have not addressed any of the buildings past. In contrast to the above proposal this design strategy ignores site context in such a malevolent way as to not acknowledge those lives lost in that tragic act of violence. Instead we see that by choosing to ignore this, they intend to ride themselves of this awful scene and instead return to business as usual.  By turning backs on this event, the architects responsible chose not to take the value from this experience and use at as a space-making design strategy but instead ignore it and take the easy way out. Massey diagram

Figure1: A diagram of The Frauenkirche before, during, and after its reconstruction.


               If we look at the strategy employed by the architect, however, can begin to see that it is not for the sake of incompetence that he designs in the way he does, instead it is to supply a sense of security into a recently afflicted space. While this approach is noble, it is worth asking the question as to whether a space can be designed in such a way and still meet the above criteria for rebuilding on deviated sites. As Mr. Hayden and Mr. Walker put it, there goal was of course to find an architecture that might “become part of a safe society.” But it is interesting to think if its implementation be brought forward without neglecting the past.

In their short essay Safety and Architecture, Jake Copich and Victor Abreu take on this aspect of the defense of the Civilization through Architecture and Technology. However, it is easy to see that overreaction and emotion can be blown out of proportion after site destruction occurs. While dealing with building a new structure in order to repel invading forces we can see that this idea of defense has become the stereotype of “safety.” What’s interesting is what constitutes safety in our modern day. Surely thick walls that surround the perimeter of a city protect it from today’s modern threats of war. Nonetheless this idea of what is safe and strong has and previses architecture into becoming an art of mimicry and not of originality.

If we take the point of this essay and give it life within the subject of reconstruction it becomes clear that a choice must be made. First, buy admitting to rebuild in a way that satisfies the idea of preserving all historic we have set a goal to allow site information to help us develop our designs. Now, by adding this new piece of criteria it begins to seem difficult as to how one should proceed. We run the dangerous path of ignoring the context of history in our sites if we sway too closely to creating the “idea” of safety. I say “idea” to reiterate the vast difference between how architecture can look esthetically safe and how architecture can act preformatively safe. Only now, after these two issues have been addressed can the full architectural benefit to society come into play.

While there are many thoughts as to how buildings should be reconstructed. It seems clear that if we have any desire to acknowledge former historical context including the events that led up to the cause of the buildings ruin we should approach from the view of all history being important to display in a building. Surely this is how we should approach architecture. By putting history into the eyes of our society we can keep so many other ideals alive as well. Just by our one gesture toward the past, we can display national pride, cultural identity, and a reverential respect for all that has occurred in the area of our site. Truly, if we can acknowledge these few things in our designs, we can perpetuate that which inspires us. We can continue to be moved and motivated by simple facts of educational identity solving architecture. By showing the history of a place in bricks and mortar, by the way in which walls are made transparent or kept opaque, in the way we address an entrance, this is how we can become effective. It is not the scale of the project that can determine its impact. While it is massive, The Frauenkirche symbolizes a new birth out of the ashes of war. It does this not in its size but brick by brick. It is our detailing that matters. How we confront these social issues in years to come will shape our society and its beliefs. For, just as you become like the people you are around most, so also the buildings you inhabit.



Improving Environments With Urbanization

Slums and squatter settlements are visually striking. In photographs and on film, cardboard or corrugated-aluminium roofed shanties, stretching in some cases for miles, are typically compared – both visually and symbolically – with glass-and-steel skyscrapers and high-rise luxury apartments (Scarpaci, 2003). It is a known fact isolated areas such as slums and ghettos experience a high crime rate and drug rate discouraging people from living in areas near these places. This is due to the state of poverty that the people dwelling in the areas have. 

These isolated areas tend to support a very small percentage of the population due to their hazardous nature. City planners are always in the task of seeking proper arrangements for different types of structures in order to provide maximum satisfaction for the residents and business organizations.  However, the introduction of public and commercial building spaces such as malls or office building s in these isolated spaces will serve to reduce crime rates and integrate city outskirts with the city.                        



     Many continue associating slums to pockets of poverty and violence, lacking any positive contribution to the city. Such views contribute to reinforce misleading stereotypes about slum dwellers and to perpetuate social segregation in the cities. The residents of slums themselves refer to this issue as an invisible wall that separates them from residents of the formal city. In developing the infrastructure in major towns, one should consider on how to make the isolated areas more accessible and secure for the dwellers. Architecture should serve many audiences (Riad, 2009). This point is clearly brought out in the design of a mall in an isolated settlement or a busy government office in such a place. The large inflow of people daily will tend to discourage crime practices and suppress unlawful actions.

 Architects could make better use of intermodal passage hubs—linking road, bus, rail or bicycle—in structure keen links within urban areas, and could place more commercial activities at such hubs, reducing travels while helping outlying zones revolve around such protuberances (Mark & Shannon, 2012).There is substantial works on the importance of a sense of community in the creation of distinct and cohesive neighbourhoods. Planning literature has looked at the importance of community in terms of neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood organising.

Over history, leaders upgraded the security of their premises by consciously applying designs that took advantage of dense population in the city. Buildings provide the most conspicuous elements of a city as they show their unique characteristics. In ancient England, Kensington palace was a perfect example of city-scale security; its many doorways and the concept of the building being located in the city and protected by the enclosure of surrounding parks for security yet not for complete urban isolation.                              


 Urbanization of the isolated centres will help to alleviate poverty, stop urban sprawl, give humans more social contact and hold the country’s population in order. However, open space must be left to improve the quality of a peaceful urban life. Architectural designs should always seek to increase the value of the surrounding. In the process of these planning, it is important not to distort the elements of community namely; membership, integration, influence and emotional connection. The new development should actually foster a sense of community and not cause division. Once a place starts developing well and draws good profits for the investors, the same force acquires a new force of inactivity.

Before sinking into such a venture, one needs to carry out a background survey to assess the community in different affected neighbourhoods to actually be able to identify the impacts of such programs, plans and designs based on the character of the community. This would yield information that would be used in evaluating pre-existing designs. With the concerning of site, material, and structure, structural design has been an instrument to advance human living conditions by protecting from peripheral threats and providing expediency since the past.  

An example of people located there in the 15th Century, people of the tribe Dogon have worked to establish their own ethnic village in Mali, South Africa. The most essential factor, of Dogon people’s site choice was the concerns that the Niger River flowed near the cliff and there was a rivulet that flowed over the lower part during the wet season.  Since the Dogon refused to convert to Islam thousands years ago, they chose to build their settlements across on the Bandiagara escarpment. They did not only improve the land limitation and prevent invasion, but also avoided water shortage without taking the risk of being submerged. This made the Dogon a very unique tribe (Terry, 2006).

For the constraint of this study, sense of community can be seen as a starting position for evaluating on going planning interventions within the community. It is through a better knowledge g of sense of community that neighbourhood planners and designers can better understand the impacts of their work on the people in the areas within which they work (Levine). Slums arose from political and economic intrigues between the state, industrial capitalists, and a growing urban poor and working class population during the emergence and development of the city’s capitalist economy. It is these relations that I argue are most consequential if we are to understand the emergence and resilience of slums.

The industrial revolution in Manchester saw a large influx of people in the urban centres. By then, there was a different gap between the social statuses of the citizens living there. Finally, the city was redesigned beautifully to be what it is currently. As the city developed, it expanded and reached its outskirts where development started taking place. The level of insecurity grew, reached a maximum then started daily declining.

The road network grew and it became easier to pay visits to each other developing a civil environment that in no time was well populated. Since the streets that were always empty before, new faces came in to fill thus a general reduction in the rates of crime. There was also innovation and creation that was seen in the city which endure with jobs in industries coming up (Akinmoladun, 2012).


Supportable places will need to renew an obligation and connection to the community. They suggest that the locality may be the suitable estimate for which integrative and all-inclusive tactics towards the security, socialism and comfort of a larger community can be realised.





















Akinmoladun, Olugbenga I., and Idris O. Salako. 2012. PLANNING IMPLICATIONS OF PERI-URBAN SETTLEMENTS IN NIGERIAN MEGA CITY: CASE STUDY MOWE AND IBAFO COMMUNITIES ALONG LAGOS-IBADAN EXPRESSWAY. NAAAS Conference Proceedings: 1250-1272, (accessed December 9, 2013).7

Terry, Rochelle Mireille. 2006. Why architecture matters: A study on design inspired planning for the 21st century american city. Ph.D. diss., California State University, Dominguez Hills, (accessed December 9, 2013).

LeVine, Mark. 2007. Globalization, architecture, and town planning in a colonial city: The case of jaffa and tel aviv. Journal of World History 18, (2) (06): 171-198, (accessed December 9, 2013).

Mack, Jennifer Shannon. 2012. Producing the public: Architecture, urban planning, and immigration in a swedish town, 1965 to the present. Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, (accessed December 9, 2013).

Riad, Mahmoud. 2009. Architecture: Music, city, and culture. Ph.D. diss., University of Maryland, College Park,


Scarpaci, Joseph L. 2003. Architecture, design, and planning: Recent scholarship on modernity and public spaces in latin america. Latin American Research Review 38, (2): 234,

Compact Urban Planing and Boundaries



Compact urban city planning generates prosperity and creates a homogeneous society. The well being of the city depends on the society that belongs there, however when there are even detached problematic boundaries it prevents the whole from being decent. Compact urban city planning can avoid the isolation of the society by breaking down the physical boundaries that might also create social boundaries if not paid attention. While Venice had a dense plan, a part of it known as Venetian Ghetto was isolated by both physical and social boundaries, which has taken away the prosperity of the city by the problems the sensitive area caused. Florence and London on the other hand, are cities that generated with a compact city planning without letting physical boundaries. They kept their level of prosperity and homogeneity even in the periods that immigration rose rapidly. Venice, as oppose to London and Florence, portrays how the physical disconnection in urban planning prevents the prosperity and the health of the society, which also causes social isolation.

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Furthermore, one of the most significant examples of how physical disconnection prevents prosperity is the Venetian Ghetto in Venice, Italy. This was initially a region in Venice where all the Jewish families were placed after the expansion of their population following a group exit from Spain. The Jews were only allowed to exit the Ghetto and enter the regular city during the day and they were locked in the night. So if they needed something from the city they would have to wait until the morning. The Venetians, by doing that, they gradually turned this region into a ghetto since the Jewish population rose as time passed, however the life standards could not follow up the fast overpopulation. This had multiple negative effects not only to the Jewish community but also to the rest of the island. By putting these people on the corner, which is already divided by physical boundaries, the only outcome would be wretchedness and misery. People would become more aggressive and start harming the rest of the Venetians as a result of their isolation from the society. In addition, in Venice which was one the cities with dense urban planning and a very high prosperity in 1500’s, the social and physical boundaries were the only problematic urban issue that have started to interrupt the society’s safety. Dense urban planning should be implemented in order to prevent social isolations and that circulation around the city is not interrupted. In fact, the interruption to Venice’s dense plan and circulation was not the limitations brought to circulation of Jewish people, but also a very wide canal, Canal Grand, was serving as a wall between the city and the ghetto.


Moreover, Florence in the Renaissance is a working well example of dense urban planning. This is a city, which was designed in a way that became superior to other main cities. There was a lot of emphasis given to circulation and monuments. That is because they wanted to make every civilian’s life easier and more comfortable and also increase the attractiveness of the markets, trades, art that the city capitals provide. Dense urban planning worked as a great way to create immediate growth and development in Florence. Florence was one of the biggest European cities that let a lot of merchants, bankers, businessmen and art investors to dwell homogeneously in the city. Although there were class differences between the people due to socio-economical structure of the society’s culture, the city existed of a very compact urban planning. Nowadays in Florence, one could see that lots of the buildings were built in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds because that is when Florence was at its peak of growth and they are not constructed around a cosmic center or divided by a physical boundary. This is a technique to make the society more homogeneous and decent, that also makes the governing easier by improving the both city and the society. As a result, although there was a river, Fiume Arno, cutting through the dense plan in the center, it did not lead to physical or social boundaries. Bridges provided the access and there were a lot of attractions in the both sides of the Fiume Arno.


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Another city that the compact urban planning had helped its improvement was London during the 18th century. Although London was a very attractive trading and business center, neither The British Empire nor England had improved enough to make London a first world metropolis for business. London also had a physical boundary cutting through the dense city, which was the River Thames. The River Thames had never served as a boundary in the society, since there were bridges, which helped by making the city’s circulation vivid. The majority of the attractions were centered and especially with the industrial era London started to expand a push its limits rapidly. Even though there were some problems with the sudden overpopulation, the welfare of the city was balanced. London’s expansion around the existing city boundaries did not become detached areas from the society as it happened in the Venetian Ghetto, so the society had benefited from the dense city plan by having no social or physical boundaries.


In conclusion, the answer of using compact urban planning when a city is improving tends to prosperity. I strongly believe that both physical and social disconnection can have catastrophic results not only to the city itself, but also to the people of the city for a very long time period. This happens with the creation of ghettos as seen in the example of the Venetian ghetto, which harmed not only the Jewish people placed in the area, but also Venice as a whole, both socially and physically. Florence and London on the other side are two perfect examples of compact urban planning making easing the circulation and making the citizens’ life more comfortable. Thus, the prosperity comes from a homogeneous compact city plan without any social or physical boundaries.




Richard A. Goldthwaite, The Building of Renaissance Florence, Jhu Press, October, 1982

Clive Emsley, Timm Hitchcoock and Robert Shoemaker, “London History, Old Bailey Proceedings Online, version 7.0, 23 october 2013

Anonymous. The Geography of the Renaissance. The Renaissance Connection

Moment.  “Venice, Harlem and Beyond.”  Last modified May 2013.

Ruderman, David B.  Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy.  New York, 1992.

Wikipedia.  “History of the Jews in Venice.”  Last modified May 2011.








Architecture as a form of Safety

In order for architecture to be successful, it must work to address and solve the numerous problems relevant to its location.  Depending on the site, these problems can range from man-made issues regarding security, to natural issues regarding extreme weather and natural disasters.  One of the most important roles of architecture is to create an environment that is safe and inhabitable.  Throughout history, architecture has adapted and evolved in order to address this issue of creating safe environments, be it from enemy invasions in the medieval cities of Europe or flooding problems in present-day Holland.

One of the main issues architecture has had to face throughout history is the issue of providing security for people in areas prone to war.  In the medieval cities of Europe, this issue of security was addressed through the use of huge perimeter walls, surrounding entire cities, which became known as boroughs.  There are various examples of medieval cities successfully utilizing these walls such as the cities of: Dubrovnik, Rome and Carcassonne.  The walls surrounding Dubrovnik were the most successful, and have never been breached by any enemy forces.  The Dubrovnik walls were built in order to protect the city from attacks by land and by sea, and have continued to be adapted over the centuries to account for the new weaponry.  In order to protect from a land invasion, the walls of Dubrovnik are around 20ft thick at certain strategic locations to thwart breaches by soldiers and artillery on the ground, and rise up 85ft in strategic locations facing the sea in order to minimize damage to the city from canon fire.  wallsAnother successful example of a walled-city is found in the fortifications surrounding the city of Carcassonne in France.  The walls and fortifications securing the city of Carcassonne have been able to successfully thwart off numerous attempted sieges, most notably being the sieges during the hundred-year-war and the Black Prince raid of 1355.  (  The walls of Carcassonne are constructed as a double wall system, with numerous fortifications spread out among the 3km of wall.  The Aurelian Walls that surround Rome are another example of an effective defensive wall.  These walls were built using a combination of concrete, brick and mortar.   The walls were constructed in order to thwart attacks from local barbarian tribes, and at first were only built around 25ft high and 11ft thick, but later extended to over 50ft high in the 5th century.

As time progressed and weapons evolved, the use of perimeter walls as a defensive strategy became ineffective, paving the way for a new type of defensive infrastructure.  During WWII, the threat of attack in Normandy France forced the Germans to develop a new defensive strategy, which called for the use of numerous bunkers spread apart from each other at great distances, collectively forming an impenetrable barrier along the coast.


Because of the vast distance that had to be protected, the use of walls to forcibly keep the allied forces out would be impossible, so these bunkers were strategically placed to protect the coast from being breached.  These bunkers, or “pillboxes” were constructed out of reinforced concrete, with walls that reached up to 7 feet thick, in certain strategic places, mimicking the thickness found in the perimeter walls of numerous medieval European cities.

Successful architecture also has to create environments that are safe from the effects of natural disaster and extreme weather.  For centuries, the issue of flooding in Holland has been an issue that architecture has strived to solve.  One of the earliest forms of defense in Holland against rising waters was the invention of the dike.  Just as the medieval cities in Europe erected walls to protect them from attack, the Dutch created an intricate system of dikes to protect their cities from the threat of rising water.  A dike is a simple barrier that is built high enough to protect against the predicted storm surge.  The earliest construction methods called for the use of packed earth to form the support structure for the water barrier, which is then laid between the packed earth and the water, usually consisting of stones or other non-absorbent materials.  Lastly, a drainage ditch is constructed between the packed earth and the dry land to collect and transport any water that manages to get through the dike. All together, the invention of the dike has proved very successful and is still in place today in Holland’s current flood prevention plan.  Another successful form of flood prevention in Holland is the relatively recent invention of amphibious housing.  Amphibious housing works by acting as a normal house, resting on concrete footing when water levels are normal, however when flood conditions are reached, the house actually rises from the footing as the water rises.  In order to maintain all services such as plumbing and electricity to the house during flood conditions, all service connections are housed in flexible tubing that enables for expansion and contraction depending on water conditions.  In order to maintain stability during flooding, the house is guided by piles driven deep into the ground on all corners and in the center, which secures the house from all lateral loads such as wind and collision events.


Another important issue architecture faces is in creating inhabitable environments safe from the destruction caused by earthquakes.  Throughout history, earthquakes have proven one of the most destructive if not the most destructive forces faced by architecture.  In ancient Japan, earthquakes posed a huge problem, bringing destruction to thousands of buildings and injuring thousands.  The master builders that built the 5 story pagodas scattered around Japan over 1,300 years ago designed genius structures that are able to miraculously survive the destructive forces brought by earthquakes.  In order to mitigate the lateral forces in the earthquakes, each of the 5 roofing structures shifts independently left and right with the forces from the quakes.  At the points where they connect, special structures are used that enable this shifting to occur, that use friction to slow the movement of each structure down so as not to cause destruction.earthquake

Throughout history and even today, architecture adapts to better suit the needs of the people through creating better solutions to problems both man-made and natural.  Successful architecture addresses the problems of safety through creating spaces that better protect people from the harmful forces of nature and each other.





Wikipedia contributors, “Operation Overlord,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, December 10, 2013).


Wikipedia contributors, “Carcassonne,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 10, 2013).


Wikipedia contributors, “Aurelian Walls,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 10, 2013).


Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Dubrovnik,” accessed December 09, 2013,


UNESCO, “Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne.” Last modified 1997. Accessed December 9, 2013.


“WORKS OF DEFENCES, THE ATLANTIC WALL.” Last modified 07 2012. Accessed December 9, 2013.



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.






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.

castle wlls





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.

sea wall


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.


“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.

Protection Against Fire

Throughout human history, we have been building structures that we can live in, and as long as we have been constructing buildings, fires have been there to burn them down. As time went on and as technology advanced, we’ve come up with technologies to counteract the effects of fire. But even today with all of our advances our buildings still succumb to the extreme heat. As devastating as fires can be, they have helped us come up with newer ways to save our buildings.

In London in 1666 a fire started in a little bakery around midnight and quickly spread throughout the entire city burning down tens of thousands of homes and other buildings, the fire lasted for about four days. The fire was able to spread quickly because most of the buildings in the area were constructed mostly with wood or wood framing. What saved the south side of London from suffering a similar fate to the area north of the River Thames was a gap on the bridge between houses which acted as a firebreak. There were many plans for the reconstruction of city, one of which would have rivaled cities like Paris with large avenues and parks, due to labor reasons the baroque style reconstruction plan was abandoned. Houses that were made of brick or stone were not harmed in the fire. Compared to more recent history, back in the times of the Great London Fire, fire proofing came through the design of the building, width of hallways and amount of open space. Now, we have the invention of the cavity wall, which can allow for insulation and fire proofing technologies.

In 1871 at the Tuileries Palace in Paris France, 12 men threw petroleum, liquid tar, and turpentine which set the palace on fire, causing a fire that lasted for 48 hours. If the building were made with wood framing like many buildings during the time of the Great Fire of London, then the building would have been completely destroyed. Instead, the building was made of concrete, which is highly flame retardant. The dome collapsed after an explosion where a bomb was place in the middle of the room and set off by the ensuing fire. The roof and interior of the palace were destroyed in the fire, but the shell of the building was made of stone and remained intact, which allowed for the reconstruction of the building, but in 1882, a vote was casted to demolish the ruins of the fire. After the demolition the central courtyard was opened up and connected to the palace grounds.

In Los Angeles California in 1910, a bomb was placed on the side of the LA Times building exterior and exploded a main gas line causing the building to go up in flames. With plumbing becoming more and more popular around this time, the plumbing under the ground became more and more complicated; with more pipes running closer together which allowed for a bigger explosion to occur. The reconstruction of the building was made to stand taller and more uniform, unlike the previous building which was built in parts. The main body of the building was revealed from the exterior like a Gothic nave. This section of the building is supported by two layers of buttressing. Long verticals increase the height of the building, which ultimately ends with a flagpole and the bronze eagle. The heavy stone material is fire retardant, which like in the case of the Tuileries Palace, would keep the shell of the building intact in the case of another fire, and would allow for an easier reconstruction. This style of building and reconstruction allows for there to be bigger spaces with higher ceilings, which would slow down the rate at which the fire would spread.

To this day we keep coming up with ways to protect ourselves against fires. But as time went on, these advances changed from construction material to more aesthetic materials such as Spray Gypsum Based Plaster, Calcium Silicate Boards, Intumescent spray fireproofing.  This allows for less emphasis on figuring out a way to protect against fire through construction materials now that we can spray a material onto the structural elements of the building to protect them.


Defense Design

John Hayden

Arc 134- Section 006



Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe once said, “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” What Mies was insinuating was that the value of architecture lies in its permanent physical form. This is very true to an extent in modern times. With the development of technology, architecture extends outside the boundaries of physicality and reaches more towards psychology and technology, thus changing the forms that are produced from such factors.


Throughout history, defense has been the primary concern of almost every civilization. Defend against nature, defense against other civilizations, defense against unwanted outsiders, even defense against ideas. For the most part, the longest reigning method of defense is the wall. A structure, vertically oriented and solid, surrounds a specific area, protects whatever is inside and keeps out whatever is outside. As technology slowly developed, walls became more and more elaborate. They started as mere circular wooden enclosures but became more and more complex with time. By the medieval times walls had been built and arranged in a strategic system to accommodate the needs of the defenders. Built of strong materials such as rock, and thickened to allow for a man to stand atop. Some of the most elaborate and well-built walls could withstand attack for years, that was until gunpowder was developed. The invention of gunpowder had rendered the wall obsolete. As nations began to prosper and grow during the industrial revolution, defense fell into the hands of the military. The architecture of defense had shifted from massive walls to strategically placed buildings throughout an area, mostly in the form of trenches, forts and outposts. Technology has advanced even further since then. Enemies no longer wear uniforms and march into foreign nations looking for head to head conflict. Modern threats wear the same clothes as a common citizen and sit behind a computer thousands of miles away. An attack on any building can be carried out from any location in the world, rendering defense fairly useless. Defense however can be integrated into a building, even into a whole block of buildings, not to stand tall and proud but rather subtly waiting, apart of the everyday use of the building but in disguise always ready for when it is needed.


According to James McDonald, Castles were designed to give the defenders the greatest possible advantage over their attackers. Walls were laid out in such a way so that here would be no “dead spaces” or spots where attackers could seek shelter against the wall. They were also designed so that no enemy could undermine the wall by building on solid rock or digging a moat. Britannica encyclopedia describes the defenses of a castle as a series of outer walls around a keep accompanied by a series of moats. These walls and moats were had only one vulnerable spot, the gate. Builders accounted for this by building heavily fortified gatehouses that could withstand enemy attempts to breech the wall. The citadel or keep was often the center of the defenses, the last resort and the most fortified, would be the place where the defenders would retreat to. This created a centrality to every defense system.  With the keep at the center of the defense other defensive systems radiated from the keep. These fortresses stood for hundreds of years until Europeans had developed fire arms. In 1494 the French invaded Italy and systematically dismantled every castle they came upon with their new firearms. Buildings that were once meant to withstand attack for months and years were now taken down in a matter of hours. The great defenses of medieval times had now become no more than a mere obstacle to an invading force.


With the development of weapons and further advancement in technology, the once simple system of defense had been destroyed. What  arose was a complex, fragmented mess. A network of buildings and men had become the new form of defense. This network allowed defense to be stretched over much longer distances. The difference this time that it was not so much about having the advantage as it was about being able to counter the ever-present threat of attack. One of history’s greatest examples of trying to use fortified walls as a defense in the age of machinery is the French Maginot Line. During World War I, the French had constructed a series of walls and fortifications that were meant to defend against the German Army. When it came time for the Germans to launch their attack, instead of spearheading the French defenses facing towards Germany, they moved around and attacked from the behind, the defenseless side of the French defenses. Defense had become mobile and much easier to deploy to counteract attacks by an opposing military. Predictably technology had outgrown this form of defense once again, but this time something else had changed, it was the enemy himself. Threats no longer came from nations but people, singular beings and small groups, often with no affiliation with larger parties such as an entire nation. The enemy now hid in the shadows of their targets.


The modern situation of defense lies primarily in surveillance, watching these certain parties, waiting for them to make an attempt at an attack. However through use of computer technology, it can often be impossible to pick up un such threats, now leaving the disadvantage to the defender. With no true sense of when an attack might occur until it happens it is key that “defense” must be ready. This defense must be integrated into daily life and even into the architecture the we encounter every day. The architecture of modern buildings can greatly change the effects of any thereat. Transparency is a key architectonic feature of modern defense, the ability to see everything takes away from a threat’s ability to go unseen. But before you can identify a threat, you must differentiate it from the non-threats. To do this you must use control via architecture and technology. Controlling the way people move, where they sit, where they stop, where they work offers the ability to use technology to locate these threats fairly easily. For example, having a controlled main entrance offers the chance for security to scan every person who passes through. It is though the principals of medieval defense once again apply to modern day threats. It should not be about keeping out everyone because of a possible attack, the principle should be based on allowing people to move in and out a controlled environment and using the control the pick out threats. By taking all of the fragments and specifying each piece, it makes the system stronger. Using architectural form as a controlling agent is the most-subtle way of preventing threats. The architecture must also be versatile, so it may be able to change as the threats around it do. It world is changing rapidly , as do the people who live in it, also the threats of people and as should the architecture that defends the people.












“Representing Blends of Ideologies Through Architecture”


Jacqueline Morin

Project 3

“Representing Blends of Ideologies Through Architecture”


History is defined and archived by the changes and crosses of cultures.  One country takes over another, an event sparks a revolution, and these moments of change call for a way to acknowledge the present ideas of the time and respond to the ideas of the past.  Evolving ideas of culture, religion, politics, and economics yearn a means of documentation for these evolving ideas that stem from the old and strive to create an improve version of the old by taking the best of the two times and blending them together. Architecture represents the blend these pre-existing ideals and beliefs with the present ideals and beliefs of the new age in order to respond to the evolving ideals of the present time that stemmed from the existing.


The Protestant Reformation marks one of biggest religious controversies of the 16th century.  People of the time had an issue with the hypocrisy of its Catholic Church in Europe a place where all people under God were supposed to be cared for and treated equally in the eyes of God.   Problems with the people and the Church were always there but the real contentions began when Marten Luther posted his “95 Theseus” to the door of a Roman Catholic Church, a list of complaints and reforms that the Catholic Church needed to undergo because of its boundless corruption.  One complaint of the 95 Theseus was the ability of a person being able to repent their sins by means of giving the church money, this meant that one must pay God in order to be sorry for their sins and be forgiven.  This is one of many step out of bounds that the Church took at the time and this made people unhappy because means of economic class separated those who would be forgiven for their sins because they could pay for it.  The majority of middle class people could not pay to repent their sins even if they were sorry so this of many other inequalities and immoral practices of the Roman Catholic Church sparked the reformation.  The people still loved their God and so sought

Latin Cross Plan Roman Catholic Church Plan Example
Latin Cross Plan
Roman Catholic Church Plan Example

to improve its pre-existing ideals and beliefs reform in order to build on the pre-existing religious beliefs but end the corruption of their Church.  This strive to blend the traditional, core beliefs of their faith with the present idea of the time to end the rule of the corrupt Roman Catholic Church formed what is the Protestant Church and many others.  These changes called for a medium to represent these blending of the existing and the new to show the reform. These people called for a new Church that would house the old beliefs but also change of the immoral practices of their old church.  The new Protestant Church design demands a higher focus on the Pulpit rather than on the altar because the Churches goal is to educate on Christ rather than to show the presence of Christ like the Roman Catholic Church.  This change in focus demonstrated the hierarchy of the

Protestant Centralized Plan
Protestant Centralized Plan

new religion’s goals communicated in the new “centralized plan” where the pulpit is at the heart of the Church.  The pulpit where the priest speaks and educates the people on Christ rather than in the “Latin Cross Plan” of the Roman Catholic Church where the altar is at the heart to demonstrate the absolute importance of Christ.  These differences in plan are a documentation of a present ideas of the time shifting the old beliefs of part of the Christian people to respond to their old beliefs short comings to evolve their religion to pure form.  The Protestant’s though unhappy with the corruptness of the Roman Catholic Church remained faithful and believing in their God.  The solution found was to keep the old beliefs in God and stripe away the corrupt practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Protestants then blended their old beliefs and their new belief of a “pure” Church where the sole practices were to educate and worship God and birthed an extension of Christianity as well as a new kind of church.  This great reform of religion is just one mark of the blending of ideas and believes and one reason people seek Architecture as a means of representation of this new stem of religion. 


Another is when one country literally takes control of another.  It is one thing to take over a country and another thing to seek to improve a “lesser” country by showing ones ways of life comparative to another. For an oppressed country to want to grow to be as strong as the current controlling country does not cancel out the oppressed country but blends both

Plan of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Plan of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

cultures in all aspects whether it be political, economical, social, or spiritual.  All these aspects of life are impacted by the colonization of one country by another.  The British Colonization of India is a very current example of the blending of cultures.  The colonization of India began due to the Industrial Revolution and Britain as an avid competitor in the Industrial Revolution and wanted to extend its influence. When British officers began controlling law in India a major step Britain made in establishing British rule over its new colony was building government buildings. Britain wanted to show its power over its colony but didn’t seek to destroy the pre-existing culture of India just to show the change in rule. Similar to the

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Exterior
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Exterior

change in beliefs in religion the Protestants sought to be represented in their Church design, the British sought the representation of their culture after they colonized India.  Like the Protestants the British sought to blend their culture with the rich traditional Indian culture. To represent this change in rule the new government but the British’s intention to preserve Indian culture new buildings that went up were built in a blending of the grand European styles of the time and

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

traditional Indian styles to show the blending of the cultures.  Not a destruction of the Indian culture but Britain’s colonization of India, which may mean British control but not Indian traditional ideals destruction. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India is a major example of the blending of the two architectural styles of Britain and India blending together as a means of communicating colonization but the relation of the two cultures existing and adding to one another.  Specifically the architectural styles used in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are Victorian Gothic Architecture and Indian Palace Architecture. Both styles existing on their own have similar attributes that really allowed for the blending of two radically different cultures to blend their architectures beautifully, both styles are extremely ornamental and colorful. 


The Metropolitan Cathedral though the building itself is a historical documentation of three centuries of Architectural typology when first built called for the stripping of an entire culture to represent its submission to the new standing Spaniard’s that conquered the land.  After the Spaniard’s conquered the Aztec people the Spanish desired to establish their absolute rule and control over the ancient Aztec civilization.  First Templo Mayor, a sacred area in the Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire was destroyed.  To amplify the degree of Spanish conquer over the Aztec’s Templo Mayor was destroyed with the notion to build a Cathedral on the site in its place.  The destruction of the sacred site not only symbolized the Spaniard’s claim of the Aztec’s land but also demonstrated the complete destruction of the Aztec culture.  The Cathedral was then set out to build out of the ruins of the Aztec Temple that was on sacred site prior to destruction.  The stones reused from the Aztec Temple were mostly basalt and grey sandstone and even though the original intention of the Spaniard’s was to destroy the Aztec culture the reused Aztec stones are part of the Metropolitan Cathedral that stands strongly on the site today.  These remnants physically hold up the Cathedral that the Spaniard’s ordered to be built as a symbol of conquest of the Aztec but these stones show that there is a remnants and presences preserved by the actual Cathedral that was meant to strip away the Aztec culture on the site.  The Metropolitan Cathedral was built over three centuries and therefore is a

Metropolitan Cathedral Baroque and Renaissance Inspired Façade.
Metropolitan Cathedral
Baroque and Renaissance Inspired Façade.

physical documentation of the changing architectural styles of those centuries which include Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical.  Though they are three completely different stylistic and tectonic systems they complement each other in the architecture of the Cathedral rather than compete with one another.  After the conquest of the Aztec culture by the Spaniard’s unintentional blending of the old Aztec culture with its Spanish conquerors and this blending made the foundation for Mexican culture.  The different building styles are layered in order from the ground up marking the beginning and ending of each architectural style and tectonic system of each century.  The facade has very extreme volutes and twisted columns and these are distinct aesthetic as well as tectonic characteristics of Baroque Architecture.  The open towers suggest Neo- Classical but the varied sizes are something entirely of their own and may be a result of the blending of all of these different architectural styles evolving over the construction time.  Unlike the British the Spaniard’s intention when taking control of the Aztec’s was to destroy the root of their culture and build Spanish culture atop it.  The Spaniard’s goal was to strip the land of all remnants of the Aztecs by exterminating the roots of their culture at Templo Mayor and

Metropolitan Cathedral Mexico, Mexico City
Metropolitan Cathedral Mexico, Mexico City

replacing it with the Metropolitan Cathedral. Though the Spaniard’s never wanted to blend in their culture with the Aztecs it was inevitable when they built their monument out of the ruins of the Aztec’s monument.  The blending occurred not only with the Aztec’s but across three more centuries because of the long construction of the Cathedral which now demonstrates three centuries of evolving architecture with not only its tectonics but its aesthetics.   The Metropolitan Cathedral demonstrates all the goals of the Spaniards from where it was built to how it was built. The Cathedral represents the unintentional results of the Spaniard’s which was the blending of the old Aztec culture with the Spanish culture and then the evolving architectural ideas of the three centuries of construction.


     New ideas are usually built upon a foundation of several old ideas and architecture is responsible for symbolically representing these new ideas.  Architecture provides a medium that not only represents these ideas but creates a new “house” or space for them.  When these crosses of cultures, religions, and people occur architecture is repeatedly used to establish these blends in a monumental way.  Revolution of ideas is just the spark and architecture acts as the flame that lights up the new idea and provides a space to blends these ideas whether cultural, spiritual, economical, and political architecture expand and evolve itself to create a place to house and represent ideas over space and time.



Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 3: The Protestant Reformation.” Lecture 3: The Protestant Reformation. The History Guide, 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

Virtual Museum of French Protestantism. “Erreur.” Erreur. Virtual Museum of French Protestantism, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

Mumbai Guide. “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.” Mumbai. Mumbai Guide, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

NESCO World Heritage Centre. “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus).” – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. NESCO World Heritage Centre, 1992. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

Viator Inc. “Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana).” Mexico City Attractions. N.p., 1997. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

Hodge, Mary G. “: The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec World . Johanna Broda, David Carrasco, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. ; The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 8th and 9th October 1983 . Elizabeth Hill Boone.” American Anthropologist 90.4 (1988): 1033-034. Print.

Frank Gehry – Cities Responce to Architecture

Architectural TRI-umph


Having completed over sixty projects, Frank Gehry has truly stood the test of time as a renowned architect. His post-structuralist style is defined by his ability to “go beyond current modalities of structural definition.” Gehry’s ‘increasingly eccentric shapes’ and ‘sweeping irregular curves’ are the antithesis of the primarily rectilinear style that makes up the current standard. As a result of this divergence from usual style, many of his projects see periods of initial criticism, but with time they find a place in their cities’ context and often play a large role in cities significance and success. Gehry’s consistent aberration is the source of his sought-after architectural style and his celebrated name. As we take a further look into some of his major projects we are able to examine and critique the effects his structures are having on their architectural, economical and cultural environments. Gehry’s distinct architectural structures have had notably positive effects on the cities they occupy regardless of early criticism, however the means by which they achieve this favorable outcome is drastically different in his various buildings across the globe. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is known for its unusual materials and daring forms; Gehry creates a piece of architectural sculpture which smoothly integrates with its environment. On the contrary, Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California, responds to a lonely urbanism with its shimmering curves and intricate structural patterns, where the contrast in architectural styles actually serve to help the building adapt to its context. The Dancing House in Prague, Czech Republic successfully adapts to the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings while simultaneously introducing a “dancing” postmodern architectural shift.


Debatably Gehry’s most famous building, the Guggenheim Museum literally transformed the city of Bilbao. The building brought a unique style to the city that set a new standard for architectural development and paved the way for a rich culture that would be defined by the new and old of Bilbao. “It was one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.” It’s outcome, like many of his buildings, was very positive for the cities’ culture and economy. Like the Disney Concert Hall and the Dancing House, the Guggenheim drove a large influx of tourism, but it was its’ unique architectural relationship with the city that set it apart from the others. Bilbao was transformed from a gritty steel town, to a happening cultural center like no other Spanish city. Entire sections of the industrial cities long depressed port have been cleared away to allow for new construction inspired by the Guggenheim. Not only that, but Bilbao’s old town has found its true glory through the influx in tourism, a strong sense of old and new is created by the modern architectural culture of the Guggenheim Museum. While its contemporary art collection is impressive, its the building that has created a stir in the world of architecture and put Bilbao on the map. Gehry’s groundbreaking design help set a new standard for architecture, using cutting edge technologies, unique forms and bold materials, he created a structure of architectural prestige which incorporates effortlessly into Bilbao’s urban landscape. “Making a tangible physical connection with the city, the building circulates and extrudes around the Salve Bridge, creates a curved riverside promenade, and forms a generous new public plaza on the south side of the site where the city grid ends.” It’s limestone and titanium clad exterior alludes to surrounding landscapes, and “more closely resembles a boat, evoking the past industrial life of the port of Bilbao.” Aside from its strong ties to contextual meaning, the museum has monumental elements such as the rippling and reflective surface that gives a stunning iridescence to the overall composition. The Guggenheim museum exemplifies one of the many approaches Gehry has taken in creating architecture that supports a cities socio-economic integrity. By harmonizing with its environment, the museum proves to be one of the most successful works in modern architecture. Given Gehry’s multitudes of experience, he has had similar success with alternate approaches, such as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which drastically stands out from its environment but still proves to be effective.

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Halfway across the globe from Bilbao, in Los Angeles, California, Frank Gehry presents yet another example of his mastery. The Disney Concert Hall, opened in 2003, “may rank as the most effective answer to doubters, naysayers and grumbling critics a major American architect has ever produced.” Since opening it has become one of the most recognized symbols in Los Angeles, not to mention one of the best known concert halls in the world. Although a very similar style to the Guggenheim museum, the Disney concert hall presents itself through the iconic shimmering silver sails that contradicts the linear style of the urban Los Angeles landscape. Disney’s monument to music serves as a contrast that manages to find the balance between imposing and inviting. With its shiny steel clad exterior, and warm expansive interior the design reflects Gehry’s vision of being built from the inside out. The first thing visitors notice upon arriving at the hall is its breathtaking exterior, sheathed in stainless steel, they have said the lines and curves reminds them of ships, sails, and whatever else the imagination can conjure. Gehry’s primary concern was creating a flawless interior, as he designed from the inside out, but one would not guess this looking at the exterior. “The exterior is a composition of undulating and angled forms, symbolizing musical movement and the motion of Los Angeles.” It adapts to its surroundings in a very figurative unlike the stylistic fluidity in Bilbao. The stainless steel veneer engages light as an architectural medium through its reflectivity. “The facade’s individual panels and curves are articulated in daylight and colored by city lights after dark.” The downtown Los Angeles area used to be a no-go after dark type of place, but Disney Concert Hall was able to turn things around. The hall has had “a catalytic effect” on artistic and cultural life in Los Angeles. “When it was first shown the public weren’t ready for it, but now everyone loves the building.” Previously the downtown had no focal point, it was a bland district and “a bit of a wasteland.” Rather than creating something monumental that matched the current style, Gehry created a sculptural form that opposed surrounding styles, but by breaking the metal curvature into sections it did not overwhelm the surrounding buildings or take away from their existing architectural style. After a major success of collaborating with the urban industrial landscape in Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum, Gehry was able to create success again, this time not focused on a collaboration of style but rather something that would enhance a musical culture. “People come from all over the world just to see this building. It gave a lift to the Philharmonic and provided a venue we didn’t have before. People feel good looking at it. They feel great being inside it… It’s had a tremendous effect on kids who are able to go there and hear and see for themselves, what music can do for your soul and how it enriches you as a person.” As a major project that began with many mixed reviews, the Disney Concert Hall has been given a very warm welcome like many of Gehry’s buildings prove to do. The “Dancing House” in Prague found an even harder time of gaining acceptance, due to its abnormality in what is a classic celebrated district.




Prague is known for its glorious Gothic, Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings. On a prominent corner by the river in downtown Prague, Frank Gehry designed the Dancing House, a whimsical structure which not only stood out stylistically but also brought an asymmetrical element to the classic industrial style that dominate the area. This strategic and very bold move was extremely controversial at its inception, critics claimed “the building fought with its environment and demonstrated disdain for its context.” Not unlike many of Gehry’s projects, initial criticism was overwhelmingly dismissed with eventual acceptance and even celebration. This building and its design tools were actually the test runs for both the Guggenheim Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. “Though Gehry’s buildings often appear to have a random quality, there is a method or intrinsic logic to everything he does.” The sweeping curved glass “female figure” is attached to its male counterpart as a means to tie it in place with the surrounding structural style. The name Dancing House comes from the metaphorical style of the two primary structures existing as a male and female dancing. The top floor of the building is home to Celeste Restaurant which is considered one of the best in the city and provides a magnificent view of the river and the Prague Castle. There were very few contemporary buildings in the central city of Prague at the time and those that did exist were often disharmonious with their surroundings. Unfortunately this created a pre-established notion of modern buildings which set a negative tone for the Dancing House’s initial reactions. Contrary to popular belief, this “building reflects and actually underscores its neighborhood setting. Gehry must have spent time studying the surrounding large and quite beautiful 19th Century structures.” Yes, his building makes a distinct and even radical statement, “but oddly pays homage visually to the broad streets-cape.” In Gehry’s pursuit to designing in sculptural form, the Dancing House is easily one of his most aesthetically complete structures. Frank Gehry makes it clear that no matter where his structures are built, whether its Prague, Spain, or America, his unique sculptural style is like none other in its ability to captivate an audience and enhance architectural culture.

Often cited as being the most influential and important architect of our time, Frank Gehry’s talent is made evident by examining three of his most popular works and how they interact with their environments. It is clear that although Gehry’s work is highly regarded to, he was not exempt from adversity along his journey. The building that started it all as the “test run” for new technologies that would define his future success was the Dancing House, which received vast amounts of criticism in its earlier years. This spectacle in Prague was followed by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain which completely turned around the dull industrial city and became internationally renowned as one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century. Following the breathtaking style of the Guggenheim was the Disney Concert Hall in LA which “accomplishes all the things Gehry has become famous for and all the things he was supposed to be incapable of doing.” Three separate buildings, three different functions and in three different places all with a common purpose found their way to architectural and cultural significance by different means of interaction with their environment. We can only guess what Frank Gehry’s future projects have in store for us, for it is know that his legacy will leave a mark in contemporary architecture forever.






Restoration Through Architecture:

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain

The Evolution of Aesthetics and Its Impacts on the Construction in Architecture:

Disney Concert Hall

The architecture of controversy within its economical context:

The Dancing House





Works Cited


“Architecture of Frank Gehry | Gehry Technologies.” Architecture of Frank Gehry | Gehry Technologies. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. < architecture/recent-work>.


Favermann, Mark. “Frank Gehry’s Dancing House in Prague.” – Berkshire Fine Arts. N.p., 6 Aug 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. < dancing-house-in-prague.htm>. “Guggenheim.” The Museum Bilbao in Spain., 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.< “Guggenheim.” The Museum Bilbao in Spain., 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2013>.


Harris, Patricia, and David Lyon. “Living with Art.” N.p., 7 Aug. 2011. Web. 18Oct. 2013. ying_the_guggenheim_effect_in_a_transformed_bilbao/.


Hawthorne, Christopher. “Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall Is Inextricably of L.A.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <http://, 0,4655702.htmlstory>.


Horton, Guy. “The Indicator: Ten Years Later, Has the Disney Concert Hall Made a Difference?” ArchDaily. N.p., 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. < the-indicator-ten-years-later-has-the-disney-concert-hall-made-a-difference/>.


Pagnotta, Brian. “AD Classics: The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao / Frank Gehry.” ArchDaily. N.p., 01 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. <` the-guggenheim-museum-bilbao-frank-gehry/>.


Staaf, Danna. “Facebook and Frank Gehry: Will the New Building Be A Marriage of Sustainability?” QUEST. N.p., 04 Sept. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. <http:// a-marriage-of-sustainability/>.


Various. “ARCHITECTURE.” Architecture. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. <http://>.



Culture Through Architecture

Michael Montalvo                    ARC 134                        Project 3               12/7/13


Culture Through Architecture


Through out the course of history we see a clear distinct culture through architecture that has been developed in all great empires and cities. The Romans set up and empire on the belief that their way of life was the best and they spread their empire all over Europe. Now in the modern day we see cities establishing their own culture. Such as New York City, even over the years New York is still finding new and innovative ways to bring unique experiences to its very ethnically diverse citizens. Sometimes it may even be just one building that effects an entire cities ‘soul’ — just as The Guggenheim Museum did in Bilbao, Spain. It seems over the years that this ‘culture through architecture’ is still alive but has evolved and is now different than we see it back in history. Within architecture there are creative, challenging, and innovative actions over history that has affected the culture in its surrounding environment.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao provides as a perfect example for ‘that one building.’ Bilbao was a city just oozing with culture. The museum is arguably the most innovative and revolutionary piece of architecture in the 20th century. “Instantly hailed as the most important structure of its time, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has celebrated more than a decade of extraordinary success. With over a hundred exhibitions and more than ten million visitors to its credit, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has changed the way people think about museums, and it continues to challenge assumptions about the connections between art, architecture, and collecting.” The way this effected the city was incredible.  The city is situated in the area of Bizkaia. Bizkaia is a gorgeous landscape. It is surrounded forests, mountains, beaches and steep coasts. All this makes Bilbao a privileged destination for a deep rooted culture. The Guggenheim has acted as a catalyst for the city to not just re-define itself, but to also bring to light that old culture and new modern innovation can harmonize with each other and begin to beautify the city culture. Really Bilbao, Spain is a very relaxed, laid back,  “but the museum did more than alter Bilbao’s skyline and bring in tourists – it changed the city’s soul.” In the 1980s Bilbao was left with the remnants of collapsed steel and shipbuilding industries, leaving uncanny unemployment rates, decaying docks and pollution everywhere. The city was desperate for change. Although Bilbao made efforts to clean up transportation infrastructure and abandoned industrial sites, they knew that it was culture that the city was lacking. As a result “they spent more than $100 million to partner with New York’s Guggenheim Museum,” and on the banks of the Río Nervión their own museum was erected in four years’ time. The Museum showcased contemporary and modern art from some of the most renowned artists of the time, but its magnificence did not stop there. “Looking more like a gigantic sculptural installation than a building, the Guggenheim also brought art out of the galleries, onto the streets, and into the everyday life of the city.” The Guggenheim brought an entire ‘new life’ to the city, and almost equally as important it brought light to the wonderful culture of the city that had already existed. For example, in no way did the Guggenheim bring great food to Bilbao, they had always presented a rich and cultural dining scene,

banner“but the flair of the Guggenheim did create a psychic shift by putting a premium on creativity and wit” which enhanced its preexisting glory. With the popularity that such a unique architectural style attracted, architects from around the world now desired to design within the city of Bilbao. This influx of higher standards and creativity went on to enrich the architectural integrity of the city as well. Today, the Guggenheim is “seamlessly integrated into the urban context,” its interconnecting shapes of stone, glass and titanium unfold into the old industrial heart of the city. This obscure design style actually created “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.” The Guggenheim brought unity to the city, making connections with old architectural styles, while welcoming all contemporary design. Bilbao had been revitalized from the ground up, and the massive influx on tourism skyrocketed revenues on hotels, transportation, local shops, restaurants and attractions. It is safe to say that the Guggenheim grabbed Bilbao’s culture and raised the standard. This one building brought excitement, movement, new experiences, new people, and a new culture to the city of Bilbao, it has forever affected the course of many lives and has brought a sense of completeness to Spain.

Just as the Guggenheim re-defined the culture and uniquely complemented the essence of the small city in Spain. The New York High-line has brought back to life a very intrinsic part of New York. Around the time of 1847 New York allowed the construction of street level railroad tracks along the West Side of Manhattan. This was a problem because New Yorks base root culture is fast paced and very busy there were countless accidents between 1847 and 1930’s and this clearly needed a change. The Highline terminal was fully operational around the time 1934 and solved any ‘traffic’ problem and costed around $150 million or $2 billion (current value) to get up and running. From then on the railway was shut down and the last fully operational line was in 1980 so for decades this High-line was stagnant and just a place for local residents to just do whatever they wanted. In 1999 the high line was ‘repurposed’. April 10, 2006 marked the date that began construction to what is now a cultural hub of New Yorkers and tourist. New Yorks culture is so different and really plays a huge role into why this park was created. This park allows for people to come together and explore the West Side of Manhattan in such a way that it encourages people to get out and move. The concrete jungle waits for no one and the High-line in New York, like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, represents a spirit of reimagining and rethinking how these areas (in Bilbao’s case the city) that may not be in the best condition and now because of one architectural innovation this area is filled with cultural attractions and provides a very unique experience.

02HIGHLINE_SPAN-articleLarge “New York believes that the presence of artists and cultural organizations attracts other businesses who are looking for creative workers; students who want to experience the unique opportunities New York offers; and tourists from around the world.” The Highline brings New York to another level. This one strip of property that once was a ruin is now a beaming route for people from all over the world and all over the city to walk together on this strip and experience New York and its culture on a new height, “New York’s uniqueness lies in its extraordinary amalgam of different cultures: it is a city quite literally built by immigrants as much as built by tycoons and high rollers. It is therefore difficult to pinpoint one overarching culture shared by all of its citizens. While New Yorkers are famous for their distinctive accent, a walk amongst the city’s multilingual population will expose you to a wide variety of accents and speech patterns.” The New York High line establishes this statement and reaffirms the cities diversity.



Theres not much diversity in Italy however there is an incredible consistency throughout the culture. Physically, religiously, aesthetically, architecturally, and all around Italy there is a strong presence of ‘bella figura’, which simply means a beautiful appearance. Italy has long been a very very strong united group. Their trends have played a major role in the culture of the world. “Italy has been at the forefront of western civilization since before the birth of Christ, and since then has had a profound influence on the development of Europe and the rest of the world in almost every aspect of art and culture: The Romans gave the world the rule of law and a pattern of government still in evidence today; The establishment of the Christian faith in Europe was sponsored by the roman emperor, Constantine the great.” There is quite the cooperation in the Italians culture. The country works together out of respect for one another. Architecturally it is necessary. Due to the age of most of the buildings the way the country operates is impacted. “Because of the architecture and design of Italian buildings (marble and ceramic surfaces, pipes that pass through the whole building, no wall to wall carpeting, no forced central air creating white noise), noise passes easily between walls and floors, most especially during late night. It is no coincidence that Italian laws set ‘quiet hours’.” This is just one example of how architecture effects the day in and day out in Italy. Notice in Italy the consistency in the design elements of all the architecture throughout the country. Walking around the city it is obvious to spot jaw dropping neoclassical architecture. How detailed and consistent the entire country is structured. Venice_Italy Now relate this to their culture — Italy is known for being very aesthetic and having a presentable appearance to say the least and the amount of detail that is engraved in their everyday life is a call towards a friendly and well mannered environment. The architecture in Italy even goes so far as to open up their restaurants to have no windows, because when walking around people say hi and draw attention to their business. “Consider the ruins of the Roman Forum near Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline hills which were once densely filled with monasteries, basilicas, markets, and court houses, arcs of triumph, fountains, columns, all surrounded by the sacred road called Via Sacra. The Grand Coliseum – the symbol of Rome’s mightiness and power…” Italy is a beautiful country and the cities are beautiful and the culture is beautiful and there is a strong correlation between the strong architectural foundation that has lived on through the ages and the Italian way of life. Both detailed. Both very aesthetic. Both have lasted generations. Italy is a phenomenal example of culture through architecture.


Different types of people bring different values and beliefs with them wherever they go. Traveling around the world would be worth it just because of the cultures experience and people experience. Experiences change cultures. Architecture and culture display themselves simultaneously through out all of history. Recently it is more evident, because of a certain beliefs or a certain way of life — small groups of people that come together to bring about change, cause a ripple effect throughout architecture and culture. In the case of The Guggenheim Museum, one building had a major role in the rebirth of a cities soul. The Highline in New York City, stretched along side West Manhattan changed the way tourist and New Yorkers alike literally walk and interact with each other in a diversely cultural city. Lastly, Italy has been creating and maintaing a certain style of living throughout history and it is truly evident that the architecture all around the country correlates beautifully with the people and the culture. Architecture in any scale should be taken seriously (not to say that it is not) because actions taken on a space or a landscape may affect the lives of millions of people. The ripple of architects cannot be counted. Culture is shaped by its surrounding environment.


Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

Gery, Frank. “Guggenheim.” The Museum Bilbao in Spain. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.


Gery, Frank. “Guggenheim.” Museum Bilbao. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.


Phaidon. “Buildings That Changed the World – The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.” Phaidon. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.



High-line, New York City, NY

City, New York, NY. “The High Line.” : NYC Parks. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.


Michaels, Darik L. “World Cities Culture Report.” New York –. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.


Advisor, Trip. “New York City: Culture.” TripAdvisor. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <>.



Levingston, Joseph. “Italy – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette.” The Translation Agency for a Complete Professional Translation Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <>.


Italy, American University. “Italian Culture.” The American University of Rome. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.<>.


“Culture of Italy.” , Ancient Rome and Architectural Monuments. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. <>.

Connections Of Colonization

There are so many things that have happened throughout history that have influenced the world and it’s development. Whether it is trade, exploration, war, immigration, all of these factors play into the history of an area, it’s culture, and it’s society. One of the major influences that has played a major role in the development of the world is colonization. Colonization has been studied and approached in many different ways. It’s has been analyzed for it’s effects on a country in terms of who it benefits most and how it can be hybridized into the existing culture of a country.  In looking at these two approaches one places some of the architecture that comes from colonization as an aide in social segregation and can be compared to architecture that also has this influence.

In our article “ The Effects of Colonization” we studied the phenomenon that we described at the colonizer vs. the colonized and who colonization benefits. It looked at how resources, technology, and economic status of a country influence whether it can become the colonized or the colonizer. Looking at history countries that had more technology or military power were usually the colonizers of a land and they brought new architectural styles to the land but on the down side of things the native people or the colonized usually lost control of their land and in some cases became commodities and subjects to force change on.  Dealing with the architectural influence of colonization in this article, it is displayed more as a dominant factor where countries such as Spain brought over certain vernaculars to the States and there were no parts where the existing styles of the land were blended. This was explored with the idea of the Spanish plaza and how a lot of buildings that were built in areas where the Spanish had governing rule had this language of a centralized square with rooms and building radiating out and seen with the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain. Another place where the architecture connected with colonization has taken dominance was in Hong Kong. There was a long period of time where the island of Hong Kong was colonized and under rule of the British. Hong Kong became a colony of the British after the first Opium War in 1842 and the Chinese did not resume control over the island until 1997.  Chinese architecture has a very distinct style.  From the pagoda to the temples and the traditional wood construction, Chinese architecture is very rich in it’s culture. Looking at colonial Hong Kong and the structures that were built during this time there was no incorporation of this rich history and already distinct vernacular. the buildings reminisced colonial America , which was also a product of British colonization, and from pictures it was hard to distinguish that it was Hong Kong because the Hong Kong we know now and the colonial era are very different. One of the major differences in the colonial architecture of Hong Kong was that it had columns and the use of arches. In this case there was no hybridization of architectural styles.

Building in Colonial Hong Kong
Building in Colonial Hong Kong
Union Church near Hong Kong Harbor. Colonial Hong Kong Era

This approach to colonization and the architectural styles that arise from it is very different from the article “Colonial Hybridization”. One of the things that both arguments agreed upon is that architecture and it’s spread, influence, and transformation can be directly linked to colonization. Unlike the view of dominance, this article looked at cases opposite to that where the blend that was asked for above actually was made manifest. It’s interesting to see that the styles that we’re blended were often brought over by the same world powers that were constituted as being colonizers in that previous article. It brings up the question why in some cases the colonizers style took control and in these cases it did not. In the article “Colonial Hybridization” it talks about the British colonization of India starting in 1858.  This article argues that the British in making their power present in a physical form, the government buildings were built on a grand scale with a blend of European and Indian styles. It says that the British decided that blending styles would help both the colonized and the colonizer relate to what was happening and make it easier to control them. If this is the mind set, it makes one question why this strategy was not used in places such as Hong Kong and America. The British had to deal with many rebellions in India, which led to the decision to hybridize the two styles, but with this there are two things that America and Hong Kong have with India. Chinese architecture and Indian Architecture both have very distinct characteristics that can easily be identified and blended. With America and India, the British had to deal with rebellions in both places but in places like Boston and the British Townhouse style the architectural dominance still took over.

With the British colonization of India and them only blending to make it easier to control the people it relates to the idea that for the colonized there are usually no benefits and they become in some cases dehumanized and their social status is lowered. In this case the effect are indirect as oppose to the European influence of the plantation and slave castles where the non-blending of styles causes social implications. In the plantation and the slave castles the colonized people were seen as the “other” and were segregated from the society and placed in dungeons and separated living quarters. This idea that colonization can have social implications can be compared to architecture as a whole even in the modern sense.  In society today there is a divide between the inner city and suburbia. Some of this divide develops out of the economic differences that exist between classes. Architecture influences that when it comes to housing and the materials used. Under privileged neighborhoods are torn down in the development of new housing and other programs and the belief of the people that were there is that they will be able to afford to reside back in that place but because of construction costs, materials, and finishes that put up the worth of the building they cannot and are pushed into areas that are not as developed and taken care of. This can be paralleled to colonization and what happens to the colonized. They were pushed into separate living quarters and dungeons that did not have the same architectural language of the “master’s house” and because architecture and the culture of a place is a combination of many layers upon layers of history the current social segregators and that that came with colonization can be related.

The effect of colonization where it is dominance or hybridization is what connects many different places in architectural style and how in many cases the result is different. It can be indirect or direct as seen with the issue of segregation but as these styles spread throughout the world it add to the culture and history.

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Comparison on the role of Architecture in Enclaves: San Fransico Chinatown, the Venetian Ghetto and Shimabara Pleasure District

Ran Mei

Throughout history, people has always being searching for being in a community in which one belongs. According to race, religion, language, or social status or backgrounds, people tend to coalesce with whoever has something in common, while excluding whoever is different. Therefore, it’s easy to find enclaves in many cities in the world. The more obvious enclaves are ethnical which usually associated with religion, like Chinatowns and Jewish Ghettos.The more concealed ones are enclaves serving for people with specific needs that are either not widely acceptable in the bigger society or simply easier to meet in smaller and more enclosed areas, for an example, the Shimabara Pleasure Districts in Kyoto in the 16th century. The purpose of this essay is to examine three enclaves within each of their urban context: San Francisco Chinatown in 1900s, Venetian Ghetto in the early 16th and late 17th century, and the Shimabara Pleasure District in 16th century, to detail their sociological and economic aspects, and, in so doing, establish the parallels and divergences of the role of architecture in the enclaves as reflections of interactions between people living in the enclaves and the ones living outside.
The Oxford Dictionaries defined “enclave” as “a part

enclaves diagram

of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct”. All of the three enclaves that this essay is going to discuss fit into the definition. They are defined as enclaves because of their “distinction” from the larger context.  San Francisco’s Chinatown and Jewish Ghetto in Venice are both ethnic enclaves because of their high concentrations of foreign population.

Shimabara Pleasure District is, however, an economic and social enclave that specialize in the pleasure industry which were meant to be concealed and segregated according to the rigorous social code of the 16th-century Japan under the rule of Tokugawa bakufu.

Urban space was a reflection of political power. The creation of the enclosed pleasure district in the 17th-century Kyoto arose from a determination to control the population and its social grouping. The ultimate goal of urbanization was to establish a juxtaposition of different single-purpose spaces (based on one single activity for one single class of people). Under the Tokugawa, this was accomplished by allocating a specific zone according to established institutional social status.  As such the location of entertainment and prostitution districts became a subject of social planning and political decision-making. Based on the 17th-century Japanese social codes, people involved in entertainment were often classified as ronin, misfits who did not correspond exactly enough within the system of social status. Among those people, women prostitutes suffered particular discrimination. They were separated from people involved in different entertainment activities and were shut away in Shimabara.The official institutionalization of the brothels and their consequent segregation within the world of entertainment and pleasure activities was decided by the authorities in 1640. The governor of Kyoto ordered the establishment of a district that located in the southwest corner of the city far from its core, to be enclosed by its own wall and completed with a moat, in order to, not to prevent anyone from coming in, but to keep the prostitutes from leaving.enclaves diagram 3

Similar to the creation of the enclosed district in 17th-century Kyoto, the establishment of the Venetian Ghetto was a reflection of political and social status of Jews in Venice between early 16th and late 17th century. Many Jews initially fled to Venice in response to the relentless religious persecutions and expulsions in Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. Been seen as foreign and heretical refugees, however, the jews occupied the upper strata of the economic hierarchy in Venice through their extensive network of international trade and their valuable loan pledges from Christians. At the beginning of the 16th century, several effort were made to isolate the jews- or deport them entirely. On 1516, a decree finally forced all jews to move into the Ghetto Novo which locates at the periperhy of Venice and isolated from the city by walls. Additionally, all water gates had to be bricked up, and two gates, opened only from sunrise to sunset, were built.

The initial establishment of San Francisco Chinatown in 1850s shares the similar political and social disadvantages as those of Shimabara district and the Venetian Ghetto. The location of San Francisco’s Chinatown, as the port of entry for early Chinese immigrants from 1850s to the 1900s, was passively determined. The original plan of Chinatown was formed because it was the only one geographical region deeded by the city government and private property owners which allowed the Chinese to inherit and inhabit dwellings within the city. Although it was involuntarily chosen like the site of Shimabara and Venetian Ghetto, the location of San Francisco Chinatown occupies the center business district of the city. After the Civil War, labor unrest and hostility to Chinese workers built up. Anti-Chinese legislations such as the Exclusion Acts were passed on to restrict Chinese businesses, even a ghetto ordinance was once briefly in effect in San Francisco. Facing the threat of permanent relocation, Chinatown’s residents fought fiercely to preserve and their enclave. Unlike the other two enclaves which were forced to be enclosed by walls and gates, San Francisco Chinatown was marked by a gloriously decorated gate and separates itself from the surrounding urban context through its exaggerated features of traditional Chinese architecture.

If we compare the Venetian Ghetto with the Shimabara Pleasure District, we find that the two structures have something fundamental in common, namely, the segregation of the population into distinct classes, vocational groups and political status. However , San Francisco’s Chinatown was, more or less, a voluntary enclave. The architectures in the three enclaves played different roles for their local residents in responses to their corresponding larger context.

The beauty of architecture in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice is deceptive. Scuolas, in its various communities, mostly defined this unique character; its exterior facade, generally plain and utilitarian, often conceal the extraordinarily ornate interior. “Scuola” translates as “school” and indicated the specialized function of the synagogue. Not only are the cuolas a place for public prayer, they also are study houses, where members of the congregation gather to study the Torah and the Talmud. What is of particular interest is the manner in which each community within the Ghetto established its own unique identity through its architecture. The scuola was a tangible symbol of qehilah (community).. a spirit determined to maintain distinct customs by an appropriate administrative organization, which could only take  shape within the synagogue. Its structures are resonantly symbolic— representing a community’s resolute will to survive and prosper in what was an exceedingly hostile social environment.

Also because of its politically and socially sensitive position as an exclusion from the urban society, the Shimabara Pleasure District was built with the same level of careful deliberation as that of jewish scuola.  At the beginning of the Tokugawa Period, just at the very moment that the Shimabra district was being built, the use of predefined architectural models was conditioned by etiquette and social norms. Each social class was expected to respect the form of architecture which gave visible expression to their standing and position in society. It would be utterly unthinkable to use upper-class architectural styles in building a pleasure district. So in Shimabara, it is no surprise to find that the brothel-keepers and the other proprietors within the district use ordinary machiya-style town-houses as their architectural model. However, at the same time, the buildings have to be appropriate to the high status of the the clientele. The double standard was managed by making the exterior simple, but creating individual spaces in the interior that were modeled on the residences of the upper classes. The Sumiya– the biggest and most elegant of the ageya’s block — still survives and stands as a valuable witness to this block’s former architectural style. From the streets its facade is plain but cleverly designed. With the wooden screens cover half of the outer walls of both the ground and upper story, it ensured no one could look in, but allowed the guest to look out. The interior were willfully decorative and colored with variety and exaggeration.

The architecture of San Francisco Chinatown were also built with double standards. But, in contrary with the Scuola’s and the Sumiya’s self-effacing approaches for deception, the architecture of San Francisco were self-promoting on the outside. Emphasizing their “foreignness”, the original builders of Chinatown created an architectural fantasy of chinoiserie. At the same time, the appropriation of architectural specificities that were reserved for high-ranking buildings in traditional China spoke to a collective cultural pride. Marked by tiered roofs, flying eaves, elaborated bracketing and dragon-embellished columns, the pagoda-styled architecture presented memories and imaginations of the remote land for both the inhabitants and the local residents.

The distinctive identities of the three enclaves were embedded and revealed in the architecture. However, in each of them, architecture is playing different roles for the local residents to ensure the preservation and survival of their little world in the foreign land. Hence, architecture in each of the areas show different attitudes of their residents towards themselves and the surrounding environment. San Francisco Chinatown was a space of tension and contradiction in which the visual culture of difference is packaged for consumption. On the contrary, the architecture of the Venetian Ghetto and Shimabara Pleasure District was deceptive by covering the luxurious interior with plain and simple facade. Unlike involuntary enclosure by walls and gates of the ghetto and pleasure district which was intended to imprison, the symbolic gate of Chinatown was self-promoting and intended to attract the outsiders in.  The three enclaves were reflections of political power which were further illustrated in the architecture of the unique urban spaces.

enclave diagram 2

Destruction from Construction

Jason So

Destruction of Construction
Religious buildings such as churches, temples, monasteries, and others are considered to be a place of peace and practice. It is common that these kinds of structure act as a place of safe haven, where many can go to be protected while practicing their belief. These buildings are erected because of the desire of many to have similar belief and practice, they have symbolic values to everyone around it whether positive or negative. It acts as a reinforcement that a considerable amount of people within the area support this belief, that it is treated with respect and the value this building symbolizes is prominent in the area. While religious buildings can be used as a tool to mark society’s pride for their faith, the removal of this iconic structure can prove to act against society. This purpose is to send a message, to send an attack on society as a whole without attacking the individuals, to remove a mark created by this symbolic structure. This allows buildings to not only be a tool of emphasis towards a faith, but also a tool to control the faith. Acts of terrorism towards these buildings show the iconoclasm of religious structures and how they influence society.
The Philadelphia Nativist Riots
The Philadelphia Nativist Riots were to emphasize the rise of anti-Catholic movements by destroying Catholic churches. These were a series of riots that occurred in 1844 in order to act against the Pope due to fear of being taken over. “Nativists and evangelicals characterized Catholicism as an authoritative religion incompatible with republicanism. Viewed as submissive and unquestioning followers, those of Catholic faith were seen as lacking the individuality and free thinking required of democratic citizens. Moreover, the Catholic immigrant, whose allegiance was to a foreign ruler, was seen as disloyal to America” (Charlton). This fear towards the uprising of Catholic power caused the people to attacks Catholic churches, and people if they interfered. The removal of these churches is equivalent to the removal of their faiths in that area.
During the riots, the Nativists viewed Catholicism as a threat towards the people. This foreign authority that was growing brought anger into the people, reasons to act weren’t yet justified. “The American Nativist Party allied itself with the American Protestant Association in propagating a conspiracy theory: the Pope was planning to take over America” (Fitzgerald). This initial rumor was enough to cause the people to riot against the Catholics. This idea caused the Nativists to become violent towards the catholic people, but direct violence towards the people was not the best way is to try to remove every essence of Catholic from their territory. Not only the people felt threatened by the idea of being taken over, but the physical presence of the churches emphasized the feeling of being taken. “Declaring that it was better to let all churches burn than shed one drop of blood, he counseled Catholics to take no action and offer no resistance” (Fitzgerald). These churches add a sense of security for its followers, along with a long history of culture and religion. These prideful buildings marked the land with what the people believed in therefore the removal of these buildings imminent. The destruction of the churches and religious icons is to destroy its history and importance. Due to these churches having such a strong symbolic attribute, the act of iconoclasm satisfied the people’s desire for the removal of this foreign culture.
Destruction of Buddhist Temples
Bai Chongxi, the Chinese General of Muslim faith went against Buddhism by leading his troops to destroy all Buddhist temples and idols. This occurred during the Northern Expedition in 1926 when he converted these “temples into schools and Kuomintang party headquarters” (Bai). He believed the practice of Buddhism was superstitious since the worshipping of an idol was not in his religion, causing his wave of anti-foreignism in Guangxi to attack American, European, and other foreigners and missionaries which rendered the province an unsafe environment for foreigners. “Bai and other Guangxi clique members allowed the Communists to continue attacking foreigners and idols, since they shared the goal of expelling the foreign powers from China” (Bai). The straight forward removal of these Buddhist temples allowed the suppression of foreign power and culture, further removing the culture completely from the region. This changed the northern’s society from being multicultural to becoming a Muslim dominated faith.
“The three goals of his movement were anti-foreignism, anti-imperialism, and anti-religion” (Bai). All of these factors tied to the physical architecture of these Buddhist temples which marked the existence of foreignism, imperialism, and religion. General Bai Chongxi was convinced that China was suffering under the ‘oppression’ of foreign society, that if this continued to happen China would lose itself to the foreigners “such as the Tibetians under the British, the Manchus under the Japanese, the Mongols under the Outer Mongolian People’s Republic, and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang under the Soviet Union” (Bai). To be controlled by foreign power was a growing problem seen by General Bai Chongxi; therefore, he decided to take the possible fear of this happening towards China and act upon it. This incited fear was the driving motive for his actions in the iconoclasm of these Buddhist temples which ‘controlled’ the faith of the foreigners, or the removal of the faith.
Dresden Frauenkirche
On February 13, 1945 during World War II, the bombing of Dresden by the Anglo American allied forces occurred. The large dome was strong enough to hold against the 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city in order to evacuate 300 people who held shelter during the attacks. This church was an iconic symbol of Germany that represented the not only the hope of the people, but also the unity of Germany. “From a military point of view the bombing of Dresden was completely useless. The plan of splitting Germany had been finished long ago” (DW). The destruction of this church was supposed to be the catalyst of the separation of Germany among itself, instead it acts as the long lasting emphasis of the separation of Germany. Although the removal of this church during World War II was not completely necessary in creating the split amongst Germany, it was still effective in striking fear into the public to see such an iconic structure fall while allowing this division among Germany to remain.
The iconoclasm of the Dresden Frauenkirche influenced society to forever remember what happened during World War II. “Unlike many other churches in the German Democratic Republic which were demolished during the 40 years of communist rule, the thirteen-meter high skeleton of the Frauenkirche was preserved as a reminder of war’s destruction” (DW). Not only the physical action of destruction affected society, but also the preservation of this destruction haunts society for the remainder of time. Although this act of terrorism did not manipulate the religious faith of the people, it did manipulate the people’s way of life. It controls the separation of people with different beliefs, as represented by the split of Germany. It kept these people in fear of stepping over the boundaries to reunite.
While symbolic buildings may help promote a certain faith, these buildings can also be used against these faiths. The act of terrorism towards these symbolic structures is iconoclasm of religious structures and its lasting manipulation towards society. To destroy these buildings that stamps its environment with its faith is much more effective and humane than trying to wipe out individuals with this faith. These buildings house religious relics important to its history and culture along with housing the people who follows this religion, so the removal or conversion of these buildings directly translates to the removal of the faith.



“Bai Chongxi” Priv, accessed December 6, 2013,

“The Destruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche” DW, accessed December 6, 2013,

Charlton, Faith, “Anti-Catholicism in Jacksonian Philadelphia” PAHRC, accessed December 6, 2013,

“Chinese Muslim General Bai Chongxi of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China,” YouTube video, 1:34, posted by “1912zhonghuaminguo,” January 31, 2011, accessed December 6, 2013,
Collins, Brian. “From Ruins to Reality-The Dresden Frauenkirche.” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications 13, no. 6 (1993): 13-15.

Vees-Gulani, Susanne. “From Frankfurt’s Goethehaus to Dresden’s Frauenkirche: Architecture, German Identity, and Historical Memory after 1945.” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 80, no. 2 (2005): 143-163.

The Short Life of Political and Religious Architecture

Fasanenstraße-Synagogue in a High Dense Population
Fasanenstraße-Synagogue in a High Dense Population


Architecture in all cases is built with a purpose. Architecture does not only stand, but it stands for the belief of its creator, designer, owner or its occupants. Architecture can sometimes even be seen as a representation of humanity itself and everything that entails its existence. Specifically in terms of politics, a great deal of architecture was built to symbolize the significance of individual political views; in term religion, architecture can symbolize different religious beliefs. However, Architecture that stands for a strong political or religious belief, most of the time, are not given the opportunity to live a long life; which is due to either a change in those political and religious views over time or because it is an easy target for people that oppose those beliefs. The demolition of the political or religious architecture can be based on the location of the structure itself; where more dense locations are more likely to result in destruction.

Throughout history politics and religion had become a great subject of dispute between large groups of people, some disputes got as bad as becoming a world war. Everyone had their own strong beliefs and had to prove their devotion toward those views. This can be done in many ways; one of which is through architecture.

World War II came about when the Nazi’s tried dominate surrounding countries; their goal was power and control. They destroyed every, and anything that stood against them. So the Nazi’s opposition to Judaism resulted in the kristallnatcht – a series of attacks against the Jews.
The Fasanenstraße Synagogue was a liberal Jewish synagogue that was built in Berlin, Germany in 1912 by the architect Ehrenfried Hessel. The Synagogue’s design was inspired by German medieval architectural traditions as a symbol of the Jewish community in Germany and its location in the midst’s of West Berlin also symbolized the Jewish pride in being Germans in that time. But when the Nazi’s took power and gave rise to the Kristallnatcht. But when the Nazi’s gained power Fasanenstraße Synagogue’s location and symbolic representation, made it an easy target for the Nazi’s. On November 9, 1938 the Synagogue was burned down by the riots after being built for only 26 years.
Moving from the World War II in the Cold War the main political battle was against the communist power. During this period of time a magnitude of architecture such as the Monument to the revolution and the Berlin Wall was built as an outcome of communism.

During the Cold war times in 1961 the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) constructed the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin. This concrete, bob wired wall’s official purpose was to keep Western “fascists” from entering the East, it was said to protect the East from the Western Socialist state. But the was really built to keep the Easterners from entering the West to protect the communist government control over the East Berliners. The communistic views were flawed and many disagree with this government that gave rise to Anti-Communists. So as the Cold War proceeded, the eventual fall of the communist government of most of Europe and the USSR finally came to be. The fallen communist government also took away the original purpose of the berlin wall because without communism the wall was protecting nothing. Eventually it was recognized that the wall had obstructed too many people and could no longer stand in this location. This resulted in the destruction of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 after being built for only a short time of 28 years.

The Monument to the Revolution was designed by the sculpture Dusan Dzamoja and built in Podgaric, Berek, Croatia in the year 1967. The communist government at the time funded the construction of this memorial and dedicated it to the people of Moslavina, which gave the monument its original name Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina. At the time, this spectacular structure gave reference to communist pride and attracted a great amount of recognition during the 1980’s. Over time the Communist Government slowly fell apart and was no longer the dominant political view, leaving the monument neglected because in its rural environment no one took initiative to do anything about the sculpture. The Monument to the Revolution stood a short life political statement and instead became a work of art.

Therefore architecture that represents a strong political or religious belief do not tend to live a long life. The Fasanenstraße Synagogue lived a short life as a strong representation of Judaism and its location in the midst of West Berlin make it an easy target for demolition. The Berlin Wall lived a short life of representing the East Berlin Communist party and its location in the center of Berlin leads to the demolition of the wall. The Monument of the revolution lived a short life of being a representation of communist pride and was neglected because of its rural location.The three architectural examples all stood for a strong political and religious purposed and all of them were short lived, some physically and others theoretically. But even after the demolition or neglect of the physical structure of the architecture its still sustains its significance through history. The history of architecture can then in some way represent the development of different political and religious views over time.


Berlin Wall Surroundings Diagram
Berlin Wall Surroundings Diagram


A&E Television Networks. “Berlin Wall.” (accessed December 6, 2013).

“Monument to the Revolution.” Brian D Buckley. (accessed December 9, 2013).

“The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall.” 20th Century History. (accessed December 8, 2013).

“The Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, Berlin, Germany.” Beit Hatfutsot. (accessed December 9, 2013).

Urban Sprawl: Transportation’s Economic Influence

The film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, depicts a man going to great lengths and many forms of transportation to get home to Chicago from NYC for Thanksgiving. In a sense we are all the main character- going to great lengths to get somewhere. Traveling is a part of our everyday vocabulary. We go to schools and take jobs halfway across the world. Traveling is not a new form of appeal. The modes and inventions that allow us to travel have greatly influenced the landscape; specifically of interest is its effect on the urban landscape. The affect of transportation on a city is specific to its location, the time period, and many other factors. Las Vegas, America’s Transcontinental Railroad, and Mexico’s city, Neza Chalco Itza are all affected by the automobile and train. These three precedents illustrate how while the role of transportation may be to take you to a destination, it ultimately leaves the other place you originally inhabited void or may in fact spark a discovery of a whole new location.

Las Vegas was never meant to become one of America’s most visited destinations. The rise of infrastructure across America and the rise of the automobile allowed Las Vegas to flourish dramatically. The Federal Highway Act initiated by President Eisenhower introduced a national highway system across America ( While the primary goal for infrastructural expansion was for military services, the rise of Western cities seemed to overshadow the initial goal making Las Vegas in 1960 America’s road trip destination (Moehring 13). Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, San Diego gained prosperity as well as travelers sought Western promise (Moehring 15). Las Vegas’ population in 1960 became six times greater than in 1940 (Moehring 20). Las Vegas in 1960 emerged as an icon of automobile centric architecture ( The Strip, a dense linear path of casinos, hotels and other entertainment facilities is connected to the interstate and embraces the car’s role in the city. Architects, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown approached the world of Las Vegas through the car windshield- analyzing the experience everyone else had when coming to Las Vegas. Huge towers act as beacons, comprising of unmistakable hotspots along the strip. Flashy neon lights and signs taller than the buildings depicts the program inside (Middlebrook). Las Vegas in 1960 is a city that capitalized on the sprawl of the automobile.

Similar to Las Vegas, transportation greatly affected Neza Chalco Itza in Mexico. However, Nexa Chalco Itza was the place everyone was leaving from for lively places like Las Vegas (in this case Mexico City). The emergence of the railroad initiated the movement of people (Urban Times). As transportation heightened other cities’ wealth, in return it deflated that of Neza Chalco Itza. Neza Chalco Itza today is the largest slum in the world, housing almost four million people (Urban Times). The rise of slums is ultimately the effect of a city left behind. Economically the city cannot support itself any longer and the only people left in the city are people who cannot afford to leave (Urban Times).  A similar situation takes place in America often referred to as the White Flight. The same time period as the rise of the car and the idea of Westward Expansion, upper and middle class white families packed up their bags and left crowded Eastern Cities to suburbs or cities out west like Las Vegas (Chakrabarti 18). The result in many parts of Eastern Cities is ‘slums’ that assuredly evoke images of Neza Chalco Itza. Detroit, sections of Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Gehry are all examples in America of the woes of depressed areas and transportation’s aid in making of their current reality.

The Interstate Highway was not America’s first attempt at travel across the United States. In fact the Transcontinental Railroad did something very similar to that of Las Vegas. A major goal of the Transcontinental Railroad was to get to California for people eager to find their share of wealth in the California Gold Rush. However there was an incredible by-product of this travel. Along the transcontinental railroad cities developed and became major economic hubs in America. ( These cities emerged along the path, so there is a clear relationship between them and the means of transportation. What becomes blurred is the intended final destination. These cities do not become cities like Neza Chalco Itza but instead develop into an entirely new category. Cities along the Transcontinental Railroad are not affected when people leave because the railroad always brings a promise of new incomers. These are cities that grow through an influx of people coming and leaving along an expected path. The railroad initiated other railroad lines to branch out from the main path, conveying north and south settlers coming west to spread out over millions of acres of land. By 1900, a number of routes ran parallel reaching westward from Mississippi to the Pacific ( The Transcontinental Railroad and the lines spread from it guarantee to bring people to various cities and then bring them to a new destination. It is a network of travel that is inherit in all of us.

Trains, automobiles and planes are all inventions that helped introduce some cities, flourish other cities, and damper some cities.  Each of these inventions, I would argue operate on a distinct system largely based on the time period. For example the car affected cities completely different in 1960 then it does today. Las Vegas is no longer intended as an automobile oriented city. In addition, the transcontinental railroad was intended to transport people from the east coast to the west coast. However as modern technology advanced, the use of planes is now used to travel distances that span greater than a couple of states. This affects the system that the Transcontinental Railroad set up: one no longer has to stop in Kansas City to get to Denver. Instead a flight straight to Denver is appropriate, creating an effect comparable to that of Neza Chalco Itza. These stopover cities are no longer are necessary and because of this, multiple once prosperous cities become economically affected. Consequently, transportation will continue to affect cities.


The rise of the automobile in 1960 helped established Las Vegas as a tourist destination- a city that was worth a drive across America, and a city that made driving through it worth it. The rise of the railroad in Mexico did the opposite affect creating an escape for wealthier residents to pack up their bags and start new, while leaving the less fortunate to suffer through the aftermath of urban blight. The continental railroad did something in that of the middle, creating cities along the path of the railroad where travelers were not attached to any one city like Las Vegas or Neza Chicla Itza but instead jumped from city to city, subject for a city’s status and prosperity to be constantly in flux.

Today the rise of a new invention is in the works: the driverless car. This invention has stirred questions of how it will affect the 21st century city. Like the other inventions based on transportation it is expected to operate and affect the city in a completely different manner. Looking at case studies from Las Vegas, the Transcontinental Railroad or Neza Chicla Itza, one can hypothesize the effects of this new method of transportation. The driverless car may leave some cities void- no longer having to take breaks in cities on trips of long travel. Perhaps the driverless car will bring us to new destinations one would not imagine driving him or herself.  Or even better- perhaps this new invention will become our home, a means where one can constantly in a new destination. Isn’t that what we want after all?


Works Cited

Moehring, Eugene P. and Michael S. Green. Las Vegas: A Centennial History. Reno: University of Nevada, 2005.


Middlebrook, James. Vegas Flytrap: The Beacon and the Labyrinth. February 22, 2012. Date Accessed: October 23rd, 2013.


National Atlas. Federal Highway Act of 1956: Creating the Interstate System. Date Accessed: December 3rd,2013.


Chakrabarti, Vishaan. A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America. Metropolis Books. 2013.


Urban Times. Sustainable Cities Collective. The Emergence of Urban Slums. February 5th, 2013. Date Accessed: December 1st, 2013.


PBS. The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad. Date Accessed: December 5, 2013.

















Changing Aesthetics: An Emergence of a New Architecture

by Maxwell K. Baum
Changing Aesthetics Prezi

            Architecture today is constantly striving to achieve truly “modern” architecture through construction and design. The norms of design have been established and engrained within public perception, and have been established upon the existing limits of construction: what was thought to be possible by standard construction methods. Modern architects have been inventing and implementing new methods of construction to make their innovative designs a possibility. Now, what the architect is able to conceptualize is what can be made into reality. What can be drawn on paper is what can be erected. Design is no longer limited by construction; new construction technologies and methods have made the limits of design next to none. This has given birth to a new era of truly contemporary architects who’s architecture achieves a complete balance and linking of construction and design that neither hinder one nor the other: form and function are truly linked. They are progress in a field that has been relatively static for the past century. It is the challenging of the established norms by means of not only design, but construction methods as well, that allow architect’s works to achieve the title of truly “modern” architecture.


Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect very confident in his work, designs, and what he wanted. He was known to dispute building inspectors and engineers who would doubt his designs and design calculations. On multiple occasions inspectors required Wright’s designs to be tested and proved. One such occasion was Wright’s dendriform column featured in his Johnson Wax Headquarters Building. The Johnson Wax Headquarters building is located in Racine, Wisconsin and was constructed in 1936. The room called the Great Workroom within the Johnson Wax Building was to feature a columnar construction and is the focal point of Wright’s innovative design. Wright sought to design a column that looked nothing like a standard column, He took inspiration and influence from nature and sought to capture the effect of a tree canopy and the way the light breaks through the leaves. Wrights column was an inverted column that utilized new technologies to make it structurally rigid and actually more efficient than the standard column all while achieving the intended effect. Building inspectors did not trust Wright’s confidence in his design and its calculated strength and required a demonstration of its abilities. The dendriform column held up to the load test and surpassed it by five times. Wright was able to redefine what an enclosed open space could feel like. The Great Workroom in the Johnson Wax has no structural walls within the space and is supported solely by Wright’s new column. In his challenging of the normal, basic, and mundane column Frank Lloyd Wright brought new life to it and ultimately redefined what it could do and repurposed it within building construction.


The use, adaptation, and improvement of commonplace building materials has allowed for new design opportunities to emerge. The process of redefining structural possibilities and deriving designs from them has produced a series of phenomenal architecture that is both innovative and modern. Dutch architecture firm OMA has produced a multitude of genius projects that deal with interesting structural components allowing them to produce unique, modern designs. OMA’s Bordeaux house uses the repurposing of structural members and counterbalances to achieve an architectural balancing act that seems to defy the possibilities of architecture. Using trusses where joists would not suffice, their architects devised a series of cantilevered planes that were only made possible by the added strength and rigidity of the trusses as well as a large concrete counterweight. OMA had a design in mind: a three-story project of differing volumes that were to be cantilevered and balanced upon one another in a manner that would achieve a structural ambiguity. They had to adapt the construction to enable their design to work and to do so had to make the structural system the actual design not just work to support it. They combined the two and ultimately created a house dubbed as a “machine for living.”


In terms of purity of design and transference from paper to manifestation, Frank Gehry is nearly unrivaled. Gehry’s designs are incredibly sculptural and are direct interpretations of his preliminary sketches. During his design process he draws gestural line sketches to which he then strictly adheres throughout his building process. His designs often have little to no contextual relevance as his focus is on solely the design. This can raise issues of context and a feeling of out-of-place-ness that can create negative remarks about the projects. Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California was constructed in 2003 and features Gehry’s signature sculptural style and suffers from his, again, signature contextual issues. Frank Gehry’s gestural, sculptural forms are made possible not by his genius but mainly by his team of engineers. Essentially, Gehry composes the idea and then hands it off to a team within his firm to make his lines and vision a possibility. They then have to conceive the structural necessities and cladding methods to capture Gehry’s vision. While the process may not be as pure as the final product, Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall is true to its conceiving and is in this way pure design.


As important as context and the idea of “fit” is in the architectural world, some architects have begun a trend of designing architecture that has no fit or any acknowledgment of site and context. Today, as what can be drawn can be made, architects have the freedom to produce a building with any aesthetic they please. Many large-scale building projects seem to be conceived from pure design for the sake of design. But some do this for reason. The buildings and architects are attempting to make a statement and be a point of the public eye. One such instance is the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. The Heydar Aliyev Center is to be the primary building to host the nation’s cultural programs and in this way it is to be a statement of the people and the design is one that should reflect this. Zaha Hadid Architects designed a building that would deviate from the standard architecture that surrounds it in the effort of establishing a building that would be a symbol of the ushering in of a new era. The buildings in the surrounding area are primarily in the soviet modernist style that used to consume Azerbaijan. But now as a somewhat recently independent state from the Soviet Union, they are seeking to establish themselves as an optimistic nation and one that is looking towards the future. The fact that it differs so greatly from the buildings around it and that it is such a sculptural iconic form works in favor for the point of the building and ultimately justifies its lack of contextual relevance.

Amsterdam 21.8.2006 (13)

The architect’s imagination is not limited to merely design in terms of aesthetics alone but to concepts as well. The concept of reclaiming land and erecting structure where it is not initially applicable is one that is commonly being tackled today in order to combat spacing issues and unfavorable land conditions. Their ideas break free from their site constraints and require the designers to problem solve in order to make concepts a reality. Holland’s Floating Houses are one such case. They came as a solution to lack and shortage of land space as well as a chance to turn a disadvantage into a design opportunity. The ability to create land out of unusable land makes any site a possibility and any design a possibility as well. A series of neighborhoods featuring small slot-slot building apartments were erected that took a renewed look at a classic canal neighborhood common to the Netherlands. The houses are all flush together and all have waterfront access and are all uniquely designed. Due to architectures newfound flexibility and ease of manifestation, it can now be used to render what once were disadvantages into opportunities and produce any desired project in any desired location. If it can be designed it can be constructed, by one means or another.


In the city of Dubai, extravagance and design excel before all else. The architecture there is a perfect representation of this: It is pure extravagance and design forward. The designs have no limitations and the result is a collection of unique structures. One such structure that follows the idea of a concept manifesting in totality is the Burj Al Arab. When imagining the Burj Al Arab, designers wanted to create the most luxurious hotel in the entire world. They sought to design a tower to replicate the shape of the sail of a ship that would stand over 1000 feet high. This was then to be placed off shore on a man-made island that would then have a private bridge to connect it to the shore some 1000 feet away. The form of the building was made for the aesthetic not for the functionality and actually suffers from 39 percent of the building being non-occupiable space. A critic of the building and Dubai itself said, “both the hotel and city, after all, are monuments to the triumph of money over practicality. Both elevate style over substance.” This is to say that it was designed purely for the desired aesthetic and through sheer money alone was successful in establishing the most luxurious hotel in the world. Yet it is a testament to what architecture is possible of doing today.

Architectures advancements today have rendered nearly anything a possibility. The rise of new building technologies, new designers and designs, and an abundance of clients desiring a unique building icon have ushered in a period of design purity. Architectural designs have begun to break free from the restrictions that have limited the scope of what architectural from was capable of being. Design is now free; limitations removed: what can be drawn can now be built.




“Heydar Aliyev Center / Zaha Hadid Architects” 14 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 08 Dec 2013. <>


James Taylor-Foster. “Vanity Height: How Much of a Skyscraper is Usable Space?” 06 Sep 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 08 Dec 2013. <>


Jones, Rennie. “AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry” 23 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 08 Dec 2013. <>


Kroll, Andrew. “AD Classics: Maison Bordeaux / OMA” 25 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 09 Dec 2013. <>


“Floating Homes.” Floating Homes. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.


Architecture can be used as a tool for social discrimination and acts against social mobility


Modern society is shifting faster than ever towards a stratified system since the financial crisis that hit the world in the early 2008.  Led by the subprime mortgage crisis, it resulted in bankruptcy of many big institutions and is still resulting in lawsuits against the ones that are still standing and who are going back to the same ways of expansion and remuneration that led to the crisis. On the other side, the lower class population was hit the hardest with job losses and defaulted debt resulting in the widening of the gaps between the richer top 1% whose real income grew by 86.1% over the past 10 years and the other 99% that just had a 6.6% growth. Through the study of different events that took place during the relatively same timeframe, it is going to be possible to affirm that the characteristics of a stratified system are met even though the fourteenth and fifteenth Amendment were signed more than 150 years ago.

These gaps are even more widened with architecture that represent the built environment made up of designed places affecting the activities of people occupying those spaces. The cultural sociology of architecture says that it is the visual shape of a society or its ‘Gestalt’ (the whole is other than the sum of the parts), therefore expressing the structure and even principles of a given society.


Architecture as a tool of expression, often seen as oppression and isolation of different societies can be seen as a segregationist. In San Francisco the local Chinese community gone during the gold rush gets more and more enclosed as hatred against them from the local rises and gets at a point where the Chinese Exclusion Act is adopted in 1882 making it illegal to any person “of the Chinese or Mongolian races” to enter the state.  The same isolation can be seen in Detroit, especially with 8 miles as a clear separation between different communities with the usage of a highway by the local authorities to deliberately divide and isolate black neighborhood from the white ones that started moving from racially mixed cities to more racially homogeneous suburban regions during the White flight period. The same could be observed in Birmingham, Alabama where the local authorities constructed highways through the black community to break them, reduce their population or even block the poorest in.

South Africa took that segregation onto an entire other level being an apartheid state, under the support of the United States. From the 60s to the 80s millions of people were forced to relocate, most of them black or colored. One of the most famous forced removals took place in Johannesburg where more than 60,000 people were moved to Soweto. Nowadays with 98.5% of black Africans, Soweto is still an untreated wound from the apartheid’s days. Even though South Africa was officially the last country to have an apartheid regime, Israel’s settlements ideology, forced evacuation of Palestinians and apartheid like laws make it very comparable to the ex South African regime. Noam Chomsky, A professor at MIT said that “if you look at the land laws, and decode it all, what it amounts to is that about ninety percent of the land inside Israel is reserved to what’s called people of Jewish race, religion and origin… that’s the contract between the state of Israel and the Jewish National Fund, which is a non Israeli organization, which, however, by various bureaucratic arrangements, administers administer the land…. All of this is covered up enough so that nobody can say, ‘look, here’s an apartheid law.”

In its annual report for 2010, Amnesty International denounce the restriction in the West Bank namely its 700km fence/wall separating Palestinians from their land, jobs… coupled with around 600 checkpoints, curfews new settlements and separation of infrastructure mainly roads usable just by Israelis made in a way to divide Palestinians territories in an attempt to do what 8 miles did in Detroit and what the South African apartheid government did for the population.


Architecture reveals itself as a major actor against social, racial or ethnic mobility by confining each social group together and isolating it, though lowering the social mobility.

Urban planner Kevin Lynch’s work touches on the concept that geographic boundaries, whether visible or invisible creates distinct districts that have some specific character; these creates a means of building individual identity that is shaped by those who live and work inside them, and felt by those who must cross edges for various reasons.

To add on to that theory, isolated lower class district would have a low exposure to technologies, and thus would result in a low technological determinism and low innovation.


Architecture has always been one of the main segregator between people, by confining or isolating them, whether united by nationality, color or ethnic group. Illustrated by the use of the main industrial countries and supposedly the leaders in democracy as case studies.

The technological advances and breakthrough in architecture are mainly available for a small part of the population, qualified as the upper class, and sometimes to a part of the active middle class who although not poor struggle to make ends meet and thus to live a confortable life.

Segregation and apartheid like governments can’t be tolerated. More than a decade passed since the new millennium and we still have regimes that discriminate depending on religion, race or color. Speaking against the apartheid in 1985, Pope John Paul II said “No system of apartheid or separate development will ever be acceptable as a model for the relations between people or races.”

Real progress isn’t about social housing, imposed to developers by authorities for quotas means or affordable health care for everyone that almost caused a historic shutdown of the federal government and is still very disputed, it is about believing in it and shaping it for future generations. Khalil Gibran once said that “progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing towards what will be”




.Center for American Progress: Understanding Mobility in America


 .OECD Social Mobility Report


.Krugman, Paul : “The Conscience of a Liberal”, The New York Times – The Opinion Pages


. Centre for Economic Performance, Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America


. Alan S. Berger, The City: Urban Communities and their Problems


. Sociology of Architecture


. Allen R. Barlow, Gestalt Therapy and Gestalt Psychology


. Tom Clark, “Is social mobility dead?” The Guardian, Society, Social mobility


. Yossi Paritzky, “Our apartheid state” Opinion,7340,L-3429070,00.html


. Amnesty International, Annual Report: Israel 2010


. Technology Determinism, Wikipedia


The Architecture of the Spectacle

Breaking the Fourth Wall from Jessica Hauffe on Vimeo.

 Chris Ceravolo



In architecture, the spectacle is a spatial apparatus through which the knowledge/state of being encouraged by the institution is transformed into an “objective force” (Debord #5).  In other words, the institution exerts itself through architecture by leveraging spectacular/theatrical spatial arrangements.  We often discuss framing in architecture—framing views, framing important moments within the building, etc.  Here we will explore how architecture frames authority figures and spectacularizes them specifically by use of the fourth wall (though there are many ways to create a spectacle), thereby encouraging a certain power dynamic between individual and institution.  I will discuss the implications of Louis XIV rising and retiring for an audience every day in his bedroom, the Pope offering his blessing to the hoi polloi from his window, and the less powerful though nonetheless authoritative professor lecturing students in an auditorium (a ritual our history class has sought to dissolve).


Explaining the Fourth Wall


typical diorama.jpgWhen either side of a frame encourages a watcher/watched relationship, it suggests an invisible plane known in the theatre and the cinema as the “fourth wall”—a term that literally references the fourth surface removed from a typical diorama to allow viewing (see diagram).  It is the boundary between reality and fiction.  More specifically, it is the boundary between voyeur and spectacle—individual and institution.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the fourth wall as “an imaginary wall (as at the opening of a modern stage proscenium) that keeps performers from recognizing or directly addressing their audience.”  When put on display, we must understand that an authority figure becomes something like a performer who embodies larger institutional values.  Our relationship with him/her ceases to function on a direct, personal level, as indicated in Louis XIV’s famous assertion: “I am the state.”  The video accompanying this essay (which also accompanied Project 2) exhibits various media in which actors “violate” the fourth wall by directly addressing the viewer, thereby confusing the power dynamic between watcher and watched.  I hope that this video helps to reify the abstract concept of the fourth wall by allowing the reader to experience what would happen if it were taken away.


St. Peter’s Square


My thesis regarding the power dynamic between individual and institution is covalent with pope25n-3-webthat of City Square: Public or Private: “In monumental city squares, architecture and urban design give spatial and visual form to distinctive relationships between rulers and publics.”  They explore some urban spaces situated in front of large institutional buildings, and how they form the stage for the covenant or contention of institutional values.

The square was designed to produce the “effects of a lively theatrical spectacle” (Square).  In fact, the authors of City Square specifically explain how the space was arranged “so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the facade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace, [causing] a stage effect in the square.”  Thus we see how our discussion of the fourth wall may fit into an analysis Square-aer-b.jpgof the Pope’s blessing.  St. Peter’s Basilica is framed by an opening in the ellipse, very much like a diorama, literally putting the institution on display.  Great distance and height mediates the viewer’s relationship with the Pope, but most importantly it is the window of St. Peter’s that encourages separation and forms that fourth wall (see image).

St. Peter’s Square is said to epitomize the ideas of Christianity, serving as its “epicenter” (Square).  Historically, Catholics have been masters of the spectacle: from the Pope in his window, to the Priest on stage (this of course depends on the church, but usually the Priest is on some sort of platform, detached from the congregation like a performer in order to embody the objective word of God), to the visually arresting beauty of congregation space (like cathedrals).  I am less interested here in forming an argument about Catholicism than I am in analyzing how the Church has functioned as an institution that influenced other regimes like the Monarchy and the educational system.


Palace of Versailles

Louis XIV epitomizes the conflation of church and state, when it was considered the king’s “divine right” to rule.  He took on a “quasi-spiritual role, symbolized by his consecration with holy oil at his coronation, which obliged him to govern justly in accordance with the laws of God and Christian morality” (Britannica).  So we understand the church’s influence on certain rituals at Versailles—such as the use of the spectacle.

King XIV's Bedroom DiagramThe Palace of Versailles is a perfect example of how “the ruling order discourses endlessly upon itself in an uninterrupted monologue of self-praise” (Debord #24) by means of the spectacle.  The king’s bedroom served as a theatre for passively observing the extravagance of the monarchy.  The balustrade separating the king’s bed from the spectators formed a fourth wall that encouraged a voyeuristic gaze, disengaging onlookers from the ethics of the extravagant display.  It is this very disengagement that allows the “monologue of self-praise” to continue uninterrupted.

The progression through all the grandes appartements served as a kind of cinematic montage, a barrage of magnificent images and grandeur that led you to the king’s chamber—contextualizing it as the acme of all sumptuousness.  The emphasis on this room as the center of the palace (and therefore the entire city) further blurred the ethics of the monarchy: it was a titillating honor to enter le chambre du roi to watch the king rise and retire, like gazing upon a sunrise and sunset prepared especially for you.  Visitors were blinded by all this anticipation.  We can see how the lavish lifestyle epitomized at Versailles was codified in the monarchy by means of the spectacle; all the precious ornament and luscious textures and burnished golden intricacies of palaces were almost seen as functional signifiers of power—objectively necessary—and it was only sensible to exhibit them in such tantalizing ways.


Lecture Halls


The notion of disengagement is inherent in the concept of the spectacle and the fourth wall.  To clarify: Roger Stahl, in his book Militainment, Inc. (pub. 2009), uses the spectacle to explain the ways in which the media successfully encourages viewers to sit back and enjoy a nightly display of international violence without questioning their role in its occurrence—not asking them to question why we fight but to accept the fact that we fight (31).  He explains how the spectacle “dazzles the citizen subject into a submissive, politically disconnected, complacent, and deactivated audience member” (22) and renders war as a commodity televised for easy consumption.  I draw reference to Stahl’s text because this political disconnection characterizes the relationship between individual andinstitution in all the works discussed here.

It is ironic that the lecture hall, which is considered to be a place of learning, uses these same principles of disengagement.  The authors of Evolution of Educational Facilities mention that, for a long time, “the majority of [young children’s] learning took place in one-room basic schools that demonstrated the power relationship between teacher and student.”  So we see a similarity to my interest in power dynamics between individual and institution.  Learning environments have significantly evolved since the one-room, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-style school—like the increase of circular plans that facilitate collective discussion.  But what has remained unchanged is the lecture hall that facilitates only linear, one-way knowledge flow.  It only recently seems to be undergoing some reconsideration (exemplified by the structure of our class).

The lecture hall promotes, rather than the stimulation of curious minds, the institutional indoctrination of passive students.  Its formation is not without roots in the time when education was, as the authors of Evolution of Educational Facilities indicate, primarily based on “the absorption and interpretation of God’s word.”  It is a space predicated on outdated notions of “universal, compulsory education” forwarded by figures such as lildiagramyeahMartin Luther, who promoted public education under the belief that “the Scriptures represent absolute truths and that salvation depends on understanding those truths” (Gray).  It is by no coincidence that the layout of the church so closely resembles the layout of the lecture hall, and frames authority figures in such similar ways (see images).  The seats are always arranged in rows facing the single professor on stage behind that fourth wall preaching his ideas (and therefore the ideas of the institution that he represents).




It is my hope that you feel uncomfortable while watching the video that accompanies this essay because it helps us to understand how strange it is when a direct relationship is forged with the performer—suddenly the invisible viewing plane that protects our voyeuristic gaze is dissolved and we are left unprepared for confrontation.  It viscerally reveals to us the viewer disengagement that is inherent in spectacular relationships.  Though there are many ways to create a spectacle, the unifying architectural element in each of these works is the fourth wall.  It helps us to understand the theatricality of institutional space—how authority figures cease to have a direct relationship with their audience, become something like performers and acting as surrogates for the values of the institution.




Research Resources


Britannica Encycolpedia


Debord, Guy.  The Society of the Spectacle.  Pub. 1967.


Gray, Peter.  A Brief History of Education,, published on August 20, 2008.


Merriam-Webster online dictionary


Stahl, Roger. Militainment, Inc.: war, media, and popular culture. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.


The Square—Piazza San Pietro.



Student Work Referenced


City Square: Public or Private


Evolution of Educational Facilities

Class Zoning Following Destruction – English


Architectural planning of cities is used to program zones into different programmatic functions so that the city is a functional, relatively safe place for people to occupy in certain areas and industrial functions are designated to be placed in other areas. This aspect of planning is generally beneficial to those that are placed in the determined zones in the most desirable locations; however, not all residents can be located in the most premium locations and the division of people is often determined by the class of the people. I am looking at the distribution of people following a major destruction of an area that is occupied or occupiable. The three cities that have sites I am examining are Paris, Chicago, and Cairo; each of which has seen a distribution of different classes of people due to architectural interventions or lack there of at the scale of the city following a destruction.


The first city that I am examining is Paris, France and specifically the effect of the Tuileries Palace and the redistribution of upper and lower class persons in relation to the palace at the time period of revolutionary France.  During the French Revolution the Tuileries Palace was stormed and set ablaze.  The building was heavily damaged internally, but it survived structurally.  It was demolished by revolutionaries after debate so as to not keep a symbol of the other aristocratic, upper class rulers.  At the time of the revolution the lower class and upper class were very distinctly separated.  Following the destruction of the palace and the rise of the middle class changes arose architecturally.  The palace was reestablished as a garden on the entire complex.  The zone in the center of the city that had previously been only available for upper class use was now established as a public zone that could draw the newly emerging middle class from the outer edges of the city into its center.   Paris greatly developed around this garden with a series of cafes and shops catering to the middle class that was able to access this new public zone that had not previously existed in the city prior to the destruction of the palace. Additionally the Louvre Museum sits at the far end of the public zone which createds even more of an attraction to the area for the middle class.


Prior to the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 the residential districts of the middle class that bordered the waterfront business district were a mix of both upper middle and lower middle class citizens.  The neighborhoods were not defined by classes strictly but were a mix of different professions and levels of social stature living in residential buildings mixed together. The fire destroyed the entire business district bordering Lake Michigan and over one quarter of the residential area of the city.  Following the fire laws were enacted that required buildings to be constructed from fireproof materials such as brick and stone.  Prior to the legislation following Chicago’s destruction residences and other buildings were built predominantly from wood, which is much lower in cost than fire proof building materials with labor costs of masonry being considerably more costly too.  This rebuilding on a localized individual scale did lead to a housing cost increase which began to divide the middle class neighborhoods into zones.  Besides the new fire codes that were implemented as a necessity to health and human safety the city also took this opportunity to refresh the city plan and reorganize the zones destroyed by the inferno.  The city implemented a new plan characterized generally by wide boulevards and development along Lake Michigan’s shore that had previously been used.  IN addition to the new street planning a series of parks were established in the area including Lincoln Park along the shores of the lake.  The redevelopment of the city and replanning led to a separation of the upper and lower middle class most significantly.  Prior to the fire the lower class had been on the fringe of the city, but both divisions of the middle class were able to occupy the more desirable zone of the city along with the upper class.  Following the fire the newly planned area of the city became a zone that was only occupiable by the upper and upper middle class.  The Lower middle class that had previously been able to occupy the neighborhoods around the business zone was forced to the fringes of the city which had been previously been occupied by the lowest class.  This then, over time, forced the lowest class even further to the fringe of the city in certain instances which contributed to the massive expansion of Chicago after the fire and the individual zones that were created.

Major streets and parks made the formerly mixed area more desirable and established more defined zones by class.
Major streets and parks made the formerly mixed area more desirable and established more defined zones by class.
Before the fire
Without a clear layout establishing more v. less desirable areas zones of residence were not defined.



Cairo, Egypt has had a great disparity between the people in the upper class and the very lowly poor class.  The poor had been shuttered to low quality high rise housing blocks in great numbers for years because of the rapid growth of the nation in sheer numbers of population. “In 1991, Egypt’s population growth exceeded the combined population growth of all the countries in Western Europe” (Grossfeld) However, the apartment buildings, in addition to much of the rest of the city, were heavily damaged or destroyed in the 1992 earthquake that devastated the city.  The country rebuilt the major business districts and neighborhoods of the city, but the zones where lower class residents lived suffered and were not reinvigorated after disaster.  As a result the localized economies of this classes’ zone suffered leaving the area even more undesirable.  There are some six million persons living in Cairo that is accounted for with census data, but there are also approximately three million that live in extreme poverty on the very far outskirts of the city.  These people were forced out of their zone of the city, lower class, and now reside in massive graveyard complex known as the ‘City of the Dead’.  This movement of the lower class citizen being moved to the fringes of the city in this instance is a result of a lack of architectural intervention to provide adequate housing for the people following destruction of the city.  Cairo in relation to zoning of people at the city scale is best described as a movement of lower class persons from their zone in the city limits to the fringes of the city and creation of a new residential zone.  Within the new residential area in the former graveyard a new zone was created that is purely residential and groups only the lowest class of people in that area.


Each of these cities is related in that all of them have followed destruction with creation of a new zone in the city.  In the case of Paris the purposeful demolition of the upper class zone led to the creation of a public zone which caters to the middle class.  Chicago unintentionally divided the middle class by replanning its city to be more livable, but in the process isolated certain people in formerly mixed neighborhoods that were no longer able to reside in the area and were pushed to the fringe of the city and contributed to the expansion of the city outward and establishment of distinct zones based on class.  Cairo had established an inadequate zone for the lower class that was destroyed, and then did not properly deal with the situation architecturally with the replanning of the city and instead allowed a new, unorganized lower class zone to be created on the outside of the city.  Cairo and Chicago are interesting in that Chicago would have been able to keep the mixed neighborhoods that were livable by both levels of the middle class had it not replanned the city, while Cairo be not replanning the city to recognize and deal with the lower class allowed for a new zone to be unintentionally created.  Paris on the other had created a zone that was inclusive of all people and it served as a focal point for the outlying residential zones and brought them into the city.  All three cities deal with zoning differently and each created a new zone based on different circumstances and architectural approaches to the destruction they faced.  No one plan is better than the other since they each took place at different times and in different environments, but each shows us something about zoning of people on the city scale.



Chober & Carqueville. Plan of Lincoln Park, Chicago. University of Chicago Digital Preservation Collection. 2008.           

MaCaulay, Dendy. 2007. The importance of neighborhood ties: Relocation decisions after the chicago fire of 1871. Ph.D. diss., The University of                 Chicago, (accessed December 10, 2013).

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY,STAN GROSSFELD. 1993. Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext), Jan 31, 1993.           

Sharma, Ruchir. 2013. What’s really behind the ‘middle-class revolt’. News India – Times, Aug 09, 2013.            (accessed December 10, 2013).



Architecture as a means of Isolation


 Architecture is used to shape the environment that surrounds humanity. In doing so it allows for beliefs, customs, culture and emotions to be represented in buildings infrastructure and landscape. Taking into consideration this idea, architecture has promoted social organization and supported hierarchal power. The idea of a hierarchal power has led to social dominance, which can be divided in multiple categories that include politics, religion and wealth. In this fast developing society these social categories that humanity is based on always seclude a group of people of different socio political ideology or economic status. They become isolated and distinguished from the rest of the norm. Taking three examples of different time periods in history of city scale, the architecture of these social isolations will be explored. It is evident that throughout history, groups of people within a city have become isolated due to their cultural beliefs, political standing and economic situation and the architecture that surrounds them has played a key role to support this isolation.


Venetian Ghetto, Venice, Italy 1516

Starting with the earlier example of social isolation is the Venetian Ghetto in Venice, Italy. With the increase of the Jewish population in Venice in 1516 the Jewish communities were forced into the outskirts of the city in the island of Cannaregio. The Jews were allowed to live in the city but they had to do so confined to a ghetto

venice ghetto 01
Aerial photograph of Venice depicting the isolation quality of the waterways

The dominant catholic community argued for the Jewish community to be isolated to promote freedom of faith practice and security through unity. At first the Jewish community favored this “isolation” because the conditions that were offered were advantageous.  The grouping or isolation of this community in a place called the “ghetto” soon began to receive negative connotations of lower class life and inferior society. The increase in the Jewish population sparked a negative outcome against their freedom and security. Crime and other illegal activity became associated with the Jewish people as laws that would stall the process of living became brutal. The living expenses grew as safety decreased. Due to security purposes the city became restricted for the Jewish population living in the Ghetto. Entrance gates became locked and security night boats patrolled through the canals that surrounded the city.

Taking into consideration the city scale that this cultural and religious isolation is set in, different architectural features are used to support the seclusion. Considering the plan of Venice during the 1500’s, the architectural effect is a clear act of segregation towards the Jewish community. Looking at the greater picture, the island of Cannaregio itself is separated by waterways and other man made canals. This location therefore increases the notion of isolation. Even though Cannaregio Island can be considered part of Venice, it is separated by the Canal Grande allowing for these Ghetto communities to become difficultly accessed. Although the island of Cannaregio existed before the Jews, it seems as the perfect set up for this cultural and religious isolation. Not only does it give the impression of the Jews still being part of Venice associating them with the Italian people, but it also argues for the side of protection in case war would break out. Moreover, the consensus that Cannaregio was a location of quietness and shelter, deviates from the fact that the waterways and canals that surrounded it, were used as a means to spy and contain the Jews from entering the main area of Venice. This false notion of security, allowed for the Jewish community to settle in the island, meaning their privacy was disabled.

Diagram of the Island of Cannaregio in Context


City Of The Dead, Cairo Egypt 1750-1900

Continuing the same scale of the city is another example later in history where architecture is used to promote isolation. In this case stands the example of the City of the Dead in Cairo, Egypt.  Transitioning from the idea of political isolation the City of the Dead is associated to economical isolation, as it houses a community where people take what they have to be able to meet the basic living conditions and seek for a better quality of life. Considered one of the biggest squatting communities in Egypt, the city of the Dead, offers shelter and the basic living conditions to up to five million Egyptians.

angel 03
Diagram of the City of the Dead development relationship to the urban context

The location of the current City of the Dead was the first burial site of the family of the Arab commander that established the first Egyptian Arab Capital at Al Fustat as well as his family graveyard. This gravesite soon expanded with additions made by other Arab dynasties. Once the Arab conquest of Egypt was permanent, burial staff and custodians to noble’s graves, started to inhabit the gravesite. It became a location of worship that attracted many people in search for blessing (Wikimedia Foundation). However this gravesite location soon became an escape and site of residence for many during the Ottoman Empire as there was a displacement between the peasants and farmers, who transferred to the city in search for prosperity and opportunity. This displacement increased the population in the gravesite as many created shelter with the preexisting tombs and grave infrastructure. The population of the City of the Dead, however, did not cease to grow as Cairo has increased its population currently from 1 million to 17 million. Many individuals were forced into the city of the Dead due to insufficient housing and high rent.

city of the dead 02
A resident of the City of Dead cooking between the Dead.

The architecture that promotes this isolation is architecture of survival. In this sense, the use of an existing infrastructure creates opportunities for the lower class to be able to meet the five basic needs of survival, which include Water, Food, Shelter, Security and Love. The City provides them with free basic shelter, social interaction and even the possibility to earn enough to eat everyday. Picturing the City of the Dead in the whole context of the city of Cairo, it is apparent that this burial settlement has become a location that symbolizes inferiority. Considering the organizational quality of this squatter community, there are distinct architectural features that promote this isolation. The main architectural feature that depicts isolation is the fact that there is a determined area present in the city that encompasses the largest squatter community. The people living in the City of Dead become secluded from the rest of the city allowing the squatter community to become a location that symbolizes poverty. “ We know what is in the City of the Dead and we don’t go there”, says Cherif Farid a resident of Cairo for the past 20 years when interviewed about the subject. This obvious economic difference serves as the excuse for the general isolation to the rest of the city. Taking into consideration the already settlement-like composure of a burial site, the residents of the City of Dead are in a little world that is difficult to escape. The structure of the Egyptian Tomb is easily formed into a residence where all the standard dwelling features become merged into a single space. Furniture is replaced with existing surfaces, graveyard markers become kitchen tables and wires in between graves become prime locations to hang clothes. These adaptations are clearly not up to the standard of living of the typical Cairo residence, yet they are enough to survive. This in turn isolates the residents of the City of the Dead from the City of Cairo itself because the residents of Cairo of higher economical standing are in a more dominant position and do not want to associate themselves with the lower economic class. This situation of isolation symbolizes a cage where those that have the minimum economic standing are trapped in and cannot escape easily. A resident of the City of Dead claims, “If I could get regular work outside we would have a normal life. Still we are earning a living here, life outside here is beautiful and better… If I get work outside the city of the dead I go and do that” (Irinfilms 2007).

City-of-the-Dead image
A motorcycle parked in front of the a tomb residence representing the urban quality of the City of Dead


The Berlin Wall, Germany 1961

Following the same city scale is another example in history where architecture is used to promote isolation. Succeeding from cultural and economic isolation stands the era of the Cold war and the uplifting of the Berlin Wall, representing architecture as political isolation. August 13, 1961 became the date where the Communist government of East Germany started to construct what would be denoted as an “antifascist wall” between the already divided East and West Berlin. This wall built with barbed wire and concrete, served the purpose of keeping “fascists” from deteriorating the social state of East Germany. However the true purpose was to prevent mass moving form the East side of Germany to the West side. The Soviet Union at the time dominated what was considered the Eastern Bloc and used it to promote their ideology to convince people about their way of living and thinking. They did not want the western mentality to influence their point of view therefore they restricted the access to their portion of the city and constrained the people that were living there already to the wall enclosure that was set up.

berlin image 01
Berlin Wall cutting right through the city

The architecture that evolves around this political isolation truly exemplifies the idea of seclusion. Contrasting to the past event of economical isolation, this political isolation is a literal separation. A wall that limits the access from one side to the other side is constructed allowing for social interaction to be extremely limited. This separation that started as a provisional infrastructure with the use of barbed wire and other temporary dividing structures, soon transitioned to what would end up becoming the “permanent” concrete wall that spanned 43.1 kilometers through the city center separating East berlin from West Berlin. This clear division of space allowed for a rough transition point. As described by many and picture in different media the wall became a social instigator that challenged many peoples minds to cross it to go to the other side. In this case the residents in the Easter portion of the city, the one restricted the access, saw the other side (western side) as the side with the greener grass. This drove insecurities and instabilities in the minds of people that wanted freedom yet were literally stopped by the political influence that was mixed into the concrete that constructed the tall dense wall separated the city.

Diagram showing the separation of Berlin through the Berlin Wall

The isolation of distinct groups of people has been apparent throughout history. Even though we consider ourselves now to be an advanced society that has learned from the past and has greater social equality, the isolation of individuals, cultures and groups of people will continue even if it is in a less active and pacific way. Taking into consideration this hypothesis the architectural features that are introduced into a building will always be influenced by the purpose of the infrastructure and the symbolic relationship between the hierarchal entities that occupy it.








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Forwarding Architecture with the Proliferation of Systems

Elias Varon

Interior of the Dominus Winery, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
Interior of the Dominus Winery, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

Throughout the evolution of the ‘building,’ new systems were adopted that advanced the way we both construct and inhabit them. For instance, the development of the structural system has advanced in such a way that it divorced itself from other functions of the building, such as the weather enclosure, expanding opportunities in both design and construction processes. In addition to structural systems, new systems were amended to the building language, such as material, electrical, heating, and ventilation systems, broadening the building-design arsenal. Over time, architects experimented with each system, with some architects isolating or aggregating a system to accentuate it, or some architects re-appropriating materials in a new, original way; any iteration in fact that ultimately allows for all the systems to coexist. Overall, proliferation of systems within buildings commissioned a variety of opportunities to develop construction methods, programmatic division, and spatial qualities.


Construction Methods

What is perhaps the most notable development in construction methods through systems is the first distinguished departure from monolithic construction to frame construction. Monolithically-constructed buildings operate independently as a whole, having the sole material be flexible enough to undertake structural, thermal, and wind loads, as well as insulate the building.

Diagrammatic wall section of the Home Insurance Building, demonstrating how the masonry veneer is separated by the load-bearing steel frame.

Chicago, IL, for example, was a cluster of monolithically-constructed buildings in the nineteenth century; brick-masonry, to be specific. However, the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 destroyed a large volume of the city’s building density, prompting the departure from monolithic construction. In 1884, the first steel frame-constructed building was the Home Insurance Building, designed and engineered by William Le Baron Jenney. The building is the first to utilize brick masonry as a veneer as opposed to load-bearing purposes, so the masonry worked primarily as a weather enclosure, which was cladded onto the structural system. And what had ultimately operated as that structurally load-bearing material was the steel. The steel frame was ultimately as stronger material, and was fireproofed on both the inside and out, significantly diminishing the chances of the building collapsing in response to a conflagration. The steel frame initially drew the concern of city officials, weighing roughly one third less than a typical brick-masonry building, but was a step forward in utilizing systems in buildings, both reducing construction costs and time. In addition, the innovation of the steel frame allowed for the design and construction of taller buildings, enabling the opportunity to create a higher volume of rentable space. It is this reason the Home Insurance Building is considered to be the father of skyscrapers, and perhaps the father of frame construction.


Programmatic Division

Color-coding system employed on the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.
Color-coding system employed on the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.

Following the innovation of the Home Insurance Building, structural and building systems continued to be developed, being oriented in new and different ways to change how we can program and inhabit a space. A radical example of utilizing structural and building systems is the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France, designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Gianfranco Franchini. Constructed from 1971 to 1977, the Centre Pompidou is a mixed-use multicultural complex. The challenges outlined in the design competition held by the President of France at the time, Georges Pompidou, was to design a building in which different activities and programs would coexist in the same building, allowing for exchanges and relations between them, and to promote encounters with the public.

Abstracted section of the Centre Pompidou, representing how its structural, mechanical, electrical, etc. systems are aggregated to the exterior to maximize interior space for program.
Abstracted section of the Centre Pompidou, representing how its structural, mechanical, electrical, etc. systems are aggregated to the exterior to maximize interior space for program.


To accommodate for the allocation of a multitude of program, including a museum of modern art, a public library, and a center for music, the three designers appropriated the building’s infrastructure on the exterior in their proposal, with each system labeled per color – green for plumbing, blue for heating and cooling, silver for structure, yellow for electrical components, and red for egress and circulation. By allocating the infrastructure on the exterior, large slabs or “trays” are stacked on the inside, allowing for full-flexibility in distributing program and maximizing interior space, with each tray containing a specific program. To address the exchange of spaces, Piano, Rogers, and Franchini implemented a continuous circulation system throughout the building, establishing the Centre Pompidou as a “movement.” The most notable “movement” piece highlighted in the building is the main escalator on the west façade, allowing for people to scale the side of the building to access each program. Even though the Centre Georges Pompidou follows a more unconventional language of building design, it utilizes its infrastructural components to successfully allocate program.


Spatial Quality

As radical as Centre Pompidou might have been in its aggregation of systems, Herzog & de Meuron re-appropriated a system typically used for roads and rivers into the façade of their design for the Dominus Winery in Napa Valley, CA.

Example of dynamic lighting resulting from erosion in rock, or change in time.
Example of dynamic lighting resulting from erosion in rock, or change in time.

The winery, built for Christian Mouiex in 1996, utilizes a unique method for insulation consisting of Gabions, which are typically square, steel cages filled with rocks, concrete, and sometimes sand, and are primarily used in Civil Engineering for road and military applications, such as stabilizing shorelines and military fortifications (respectively). In this case, however, Herzog & de Meuron use the Gabion as a module for the façade surface. Their intentions were to use the inert mass to insulate the interior spaces against the intense heat during the day and cold at night. One of the most beneficial applications of using the Gabions along the wall façade was the ability to manipulate and filter light into the interior spaces. The Gabions are filled more or less densely as needed so some walls allow for the passage of light, while some walls remain impenetrable. In essence, the gabion wall functions more as a skin than it performs as a typical masonry wall.  While the gabions filter the light quality of the spaces on the interior in a 24 hour day and night cycle, it also blends the building to the landscape on the exterior. However, what is perhaps the most unique feature is the Gabion’s ability to make the wall more “dynamic.” The stones in the cages are subject to change and deformation due to weather and atmospheric conditions, changing and varying the light over a larger time frame. By appropriating a foreign material system into the building’s palette, the spatial qualities in the Dominus Estate are resultantly more unique than it would have been, had Herzog & de Meuron used a more static and uniform wall for the façade.

Exterior perspective of the Dominus Estate.
Exterior perspective of the Dominus Estate.



Imperialism, Industrialism and Gentrification

The Character of Colonization: Imperialism, Industrialization and Gentrification

Emmett Walker

Arc 134

Imperialism, Industrialization and Gentrification all under the banner of the character of Colonization
Imperialism, Industrialization and Gentrification all under the banner of Colonization




The 15th century was a time where humanity began to discover the world and itself in mass scale. This time period marked the age of Imperialism where native populations were overthrown and forced to conform to a certain authority ultimately resulting in a loss of culture and a growth of new infrastructure. Historically colonization has been written in a glorified way as though it is the soul reason for our existence and maybe even luxurious life styles (relative). In the colonial era, super powers such as, Spain, Great Britain and France were each separate cultures small enough to keep their unity intact; however through their conquests, the new world began to conform to their certain ways ultimately diluting the diversity of global cultures. Along with the colonial era came the establishment of many architectural systems that developed the new world and allowed certain interconnectedness.


The paper will attempt to bring forth the idea of colonization and how it has taken on many different characters over time. The character of colonization has taken place on a number of levels over the course of human existence. From the colonies that first began to form systems of organization in the new world, to industrialization that connected the United States physically and finally to modern day cities that have become out of touch with their original cultures, Colonization has made its appearance in different ways throughout time. Essentially there is a direct parallel to the colonization of cultures in a historical context to the gentrification of cities currently taking place globally; while culture is important to populations to feel human, the standardization that came with colonization and currently with gentrification generates more opportunities for architecture to happen however at large expense to the subject’s identity.


Spanish Missions of California, California, 1769-1833


During the 17th Century, Spain made expansions at the final frontier of the new world, the Pacific Coast line. Their method of imperialism took shape in the typology of “The Mission” which accounted for the conforming of the indigenous peoples through systems drawn from traditional Spanish build. The Missions housed two main functions, Christian faith and military strongholds the idea being to both spread influence and establish authority to create hierarchy over the indigenous people as well as to defend this valuable land from whatever opposition came into play. Each one of the missions functioned in this isolated way; however was contextually connected to a greater network of missions up and down the coast. Most importantly, each mission was created just a day’s ride away from one another so that although each individual mission was on the smaller side, they were all connected as a whole network. The real tool though was Christianity and how it played a role to conform the indigenous people into the mission system. The Spanish called the act of turning indigenous people into colonial citizens, to “Civilize”. By stripping the natives of their culture, the Spanish could control further reaching parts of the world that otherwise would have taken much longer to establish. By establishing the missions in isolated areas, the indigenous peoples were blind to the fact that they were part of a bigger issue until it was too late. The organization of the missions’ massive infrastructure promoted an easy connection up and down the coast; however at such an immense loss of culture to the new worlds original inhabitance.


“The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past” – Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A story of Race and Inheritance


The National Highway Act and Industrialization, United States, 1865- 1960


The industrial revolution was a time when the world became much more connected through the change from localized economies to an expanding globalized one. Industrialization in many ways paralleled the idea of colonialism in the sense that culture was pushed aside in order to promote products for the masses rather than for the individual. Although the United States had been having an industrial revolution since the late 18th century, it was not until after World War II that the country really shifted into a significant super power. In 1931, James Adams’ publication, “The American Dream” had become public and although relevant towards the industrial age, it did not become as meaningful until after World War II. After the war, there was an emphasis on national pride especially surrounding the idea of the “American Dream”. World War II had abolished the United States’ insecurities of the underdog by proving to the people that they weren’t just a young nation, but actually a well established and rapidly industrializing one. The United States’ Industrial revolution marked a time when previously manual manufactured and packaged products were optimized through technological advancement thus increasing quantity and quality drastically. In result, industrialization increased urbanization, road infrastructure, agriculture and manufactured exports therefore the United States economy skyrocketed. Among the rising economy, the infrastructure of road in the 1950’s helped excel efforts of industrialization excessively. The Highway Act of 1956, implemented by Eisenhower was a project that added 41,000 miles of highway infrastructure over the course of 10 years. This was by far one of the biggest economic motivations to industrialize the United States and grew almost every facet of the economy. The highway act promoted a thriving automobile industry, which was a different system than other super powers that all relied on rails. Highways boosted the automotive market resulting in a booming real-estate market, primarily suburban. The idea that people could have a low-density home while commuting to work in a high density urban economy became exactly the American Dream. With such a large-scale project, standardization was necessary to actually implement the program over such a short period of time. In such a large-scale system many isolated places in the United States became connected to the larger scale of the entire country. By increasing the connection to remote places, the United States economy grew; however the land was accessed much easier creating more development from East to West. Therefore a loss of culture throughout the United States happened in order to implement the condition of city and suburb connected by road.


San Francisco, United States, Currently


In a similar way to how first Imperialism and later Industrialization conformed massive amounts of a population, gentrification does not fall outside of this idea. Current controversies of gentrification plague cities in North America in the modern era. It is upsetting that with all the urban sprawl across the United States, much of the last existing culture comes from metropolitan areas. In these urban environments, culture is key to intertwining different peoples of sometimes conflicting origins or economic means. In many cities what matters most is the pride that comes from living there, whether it’s through ones support towards a sports team or a neighborhood. In essence what becomes important in a city is to stay unique and true to the foundation for which it was built upon. Therefore when economic increase enters a system, culture is lost to make way for “the new”. In San Francisco California, for instance, tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google have brought a whole new economy to the area. Twitter for instance was recently given massive tax breaks from the city if they would build their headquarters in the tenderloin of San Francisco. The tenderloin is one of the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods of the city, however it isn’t the physical headquarters that really have impacted the city, it is where to house all of its employees.  With such a large influx of highly educated and earning professionals, what was once a mixing pot of socioeconomic difference has become a bit of hot bed for the upper class. One can see this primarily in historically cultural districts. Perhaps San Francisco’s most historical district is “The Mission”, which has a big Latin American population dating all the way back to Mission Dolores. People love the fact that there is a neighborhood that one could live their whole life in and never need to know English or the great tradition of taquerias that are said to rival even Mexico’s most authentic meals. This district used to be for anyone who wanted to live in its vibrant community; however with the growth of the cities economy, the Mission’s real estate has become out of reach for the average person. In result, much of the culture has been forced to leave the city and has been replaced with new flashy restaurants and shops. Architecturally the new developments are interesting and even smart; however to the people who have made San Francisco their home, this loss of culture is loss in identity.




The idea of colonization is that it is the conforming of people to fit under the umbrella of a certain authority. Although most commonly referred to as the age of imperialism and or colonialism, traces of its presence can be found throughout history. First, Imperialism conformed indigenous peoples to abroad colonists. Later, industrialization figured out how to standardize almost everything to build a steady economy as efficiently as possible. Last, gentrification capitalizes on standardizing an area to create a stronger economy. All of these ideas promote development and thus architectural framework as a whole; however, often at unthinkable losses of identity.





Wikipedia, “History of Colonialism.” Accessed December 9, 2013.


Wikipedia, “Technological History of the United States.” Accessed December 9, 2013.


Wikipedia, “Interstate and National Highway Act of 1956.” Accessed December 9, 2013.


X Timeline, “The Highway Act of 1956.” Accessed December 9, 2013.


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Wikipedia, ed. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, s.v. “Spanish Missions in California.” (accessed October 7,    2013).

Architecture as a Timeline of Change

Architecture as a Timeline of Change

By Alex Ramirez

The human race is the epitome of change. We are constantly evolving, inventing, and progressing. There are many things that have been used and then dropped – their useful lives having clear starting and stopping points. But a piece of history that has stayed constant in its evolution alongside and in correlation with the human race has been Architecture. With every new tool, advance in technology, change in culture, politics, or ideals, Architecture has adapted. But sometimes traces of previous cultures and time periods find themselves preserved in modern buildings, which can create a very unique and informative typology. Through the addition and deduction of structure from an existing site, Architecture can delineate a timeline of change in a society. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey shows a timeline of religious change, the St. Jacques Tower in Paris, France illustrates a timeline of political change, and the Monadnock Building in San Francisco, California, shows a timeline of technological change.

hagia sophia

The Hagia Sophia went from being a greek orthodox patriarchal basilica, to a roman catholic church, to an imperial mosque, to what it is today – a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537, the building served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral complete with an altar, nave, ciborium, mosaics, iconoclasts, and of course the massive iconic half dome enclosing the main public space. Upon the capture and occupation of Constantinople from Latin Christians, the church became a Roman Catholic Cathedral. Enrico Dandola, the Doge of Venice who commanded the sacking and invasion of the city in 1204 was buried inside the church. There is now a tomb inscription carrying his name which has become a part of the floor decoration and can still be seen today. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered the church converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, mosaics, sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and replaced with Islamic features such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years and then reopened as a museum.















Today, the Hagia Sophia structure incorporates all the phases of religious change into its architecture. Due to the fact that the present building has been made into a museum, certain aspects of the structure have been preserved so as to achieve a true understanding of its history. From the Byzantine era, when the building served as an Eastern Orthodox Church, a traditional feature of church planning was to create a design that successfully separated gender and class during services. In the Hagia Sophia, not only are there 9 doors originally allocated for each class to use as an entrance, but there are two levels, a ground floor and a gallery above, to further indicate the division. In his book, The Byzantine World, Vasileious Marinis stated, “Galleries seem to have been used as a means of segregation of genders and social classes. In Hagia Sophia a part of the gallery was used as an imperial lodge, from which the empress and occasionally the emperor attended the services.” From Hagia Sophia’s time as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, the present building maintains the tomb and inscription of Enrico Dandola, which is now a part of the floor decoration. This addition illustrates the Latin Christian tradition of burying esteemed figures near religious buildings. Lastly, during the Ottoman takeover and the building’s lengthy life as a mosque, four minarets were added, which can still be seen today. Also, the Turkish government allowed the preservation of a room in the museum complex to be used as a prayer room for Muslim museum staff. In summary, tourists of the Hagia Sophia museum can clearly understand each era of religious change in the building’s history. In addition to the changes in structure and decoration, there are countless mosaics from each time period that adorn the walls and further inform visitors of the three era’s of religion. As Robert Nelson said in Hagia Sophia: 1850-1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument, “To its historical significance, the conversion of the Hagia Sophia, a unique architectural monument of art located in Istanbul, into a museum will please the entire Eastern world and cause humanity to gain a new institution of knowledge.”

The Saint Jacques Tower, once located next to the markets of Les Halles, used to be a highly decorated church erected during the 16th century to mark the point of departure for pilgrims marching toward Santiago de Compostela. During the French Revolution, part of the church was pulled down and sold to separate locations while the remaining piece became a bullet factory. It was then re-appropriated by Napolean III during the Second Empire and “re-monumentalised” with a new statue of Blaise Pascal, the French Mathmetician, at its feet. Today, it is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Saint Jacques Tower and its long history of relocation, demolition, and re-appropriation, very clearly shows the progression of political change. Joel White says in Monuments to Resistance that, “At each stage of the tower’s history its meaning has been symbolically and functionally re-appropriated by a new ideological order that has subsequently sought its justification through a form of memorialization.”

la tour st jacques la boucherie

Today the site comprises pieces of each period of its life. From the 16th century, following the French Revolution, the 52 meter gothic tower was all that remained. The tower’s rich decoration reflected the wealth of its patrons, the wholesale butchers of the nearby Les Halles market. During the period in which the building was converted into a bullet factory by the French, the towers bells were removed and replaced with multiple sieves to help direct molten lead, which can still be seen today. But most notable was the addition of a statue of Blaise Pascal, an esteemed mathematician, at the order of Napolean III. This addition reflected the value the new political regime placed on education.

In the Monadnock Building, there is a very visible progression of technological advancement. The building is divided into two segments, the north side – designed by architects Burnham and Root – and the south side, designed by Holabird and Roche. The original building was built with loadbearing masonry – massive brick walls – which can be seen in the plan. Due to the fact that brick is an ineffective means of skyscraper construction compared to today’s standards, the base of each wall needed to be at least 6 feet thick! The spread foundations are so wide that they extend 11 feet beyond the buildings lot under the surrounding streets. In 1893, the building was revisited and a new section was added. This section was built with the revolutionary new steel-framing method of construction with brick veneer used as the skin. Chief architects Holabird and Roche declared that this new method of construction would save them 15% in funds with 15% more floor rental space. They achieved this easily with the steel-frame construction and also went on to make a few other changes. Although Holabird and Roche followed the basic rhythm of the window bays established in the first phase, the architects added classical trimmings. They also created large, open, arched exterior entryways unlike the small, rectangular, heavy block-topped openings of the first building.monadnock

In conclusion, as the Hagia Sophia, St. Jacques Tower, and Monadnock Building illustrate, the addition and deduction of structure from an existing site can delineate a timeline of change. Religion, politics, and technology are only a few examples of the timelines that can be created. There are many buildings that have been converted into museums to help prevent the destruction of historical architecture still present in existing forms. It is our job today to appreciate this information that is being provided to us.

Urban Planning Limiting the Use of the Public


Urban Planning Limiting the Use of the Public


            Spaces in a city have been designed, used, and refabricated throughout history. Although the spaces can be affected by political strife and public gatherings, the city planning and design of public spaces also has a great effect on the people’s freedom. Projects such as the Naqsh-e Jahan Maidan and Haussmann’s Paris may seem very different in form and strategy, because of their placement in different time periods and different cultures, but they both have strategies of controlling the public. Another project, The Berlin wall seems to protect the people, but this project differs from Haussmann’s Paris and the Maidan as it uses a more aggressive strategy by building a large structure that only serves the government’s purpose. The Wall was built by the East German government as a service to the German people by protecting them from the Fascist government and creating a socialist regime in the East.

Comparison: Haussmann’s Parisian plan | The Naqsh-e Jahan Maidan

            In both cases public space was designed as an illusion. It was thought to be created as an amenity to the people and the public, but in reality it was made to serve the nations’ leaderships.

1There is no doubt that Haussmann’s plan made Paris a better city for the public. They widened the streets and connected large boulevards and public parks together. But the investment in the project by Bonaparte III was ultimately to protect him from riots. The wide streets were difficult to barricade and blockade. The symmetry and order made it easier for troops to stop the demonstrations. As many leaders were overthrown during that time period in France, Bonaparte III commissioned Haussmann to redesign Paris. This redesign was an illusion, seen as a public benefit, the project in reality secured Bonaparte III leadership. Haussmann widened the narrow, unhealthy medieval streets, added large public squares connected by boulevards, and used symmetry to organize the city as a whole. The widened streets made it impossible for the people to use their traditional ways of blockading the streets. The symmetrical organization served the leader’s troops as it became easier to find and control the demonstrators during riots.    

2In the Safavid Maidan, the “public” plaza was enclosed by a wall and the Ali Qapu gate. The Maidan was situated between mosques, the standard placement of Maidan, but it was also placed beside a governmental building, the Chehel Situm Palace. The “public” Maidan served the Shah greatly. Like Napoleon III, the Shah also created a public space for his own benefit. He controlled the Maidan through the large gates and used it for personal celebratory events. Having a wall around a public space is a sign of a lack of freedom. Similarly the gate can be closed to reject the public from the space that is initially programmed for their use, but instead enclosed for the control of the Shah. The misuse of the plaza deteriorates its public use.

The Berlin Wall:

            3The government in East Germany erected the project in 1961, the project consisted of a large wall dividing Germany into two parts. The government attempted to secure East Germany from West Germany’s “Fascist” regime. The concrete wall included guard towers for the armed guards to ensure that none of the public could cross over to the other side. The “Iron Wall” separating the Eastern Bloc from the Western Bloc during the Cold War was built as a project to serve the public. Though it had the illusion of serving the public similar to Haussmann’s Plan and the Naqsh-e Maidan, it was different as it was a more literal and aggressive strategy of control. A large number of the German people were against the separation of their country into two blocks and attempted to cross over the wall. The wall had the image of the restriction of freedom of movement of the public and was finally demolished in 1990.



The three examples are formally very different but all have strategies for controlling the people. Napoleon’s plan was the least literal strategy compared to the other projects as there wasn’t a clear obstruction of the public through a structure. The Shah’s Maidan constructed a public space that had a wall on the perimeter of the plaza and it could be privatized through his control. The last project was the most literal strategy of control involving a concrete wall to obstruct freedom of movement. Although these projects all control the public, the strategies are different due to their existence in different time periods, regions and cultures.






A&E Television Networks. “Berlin Wall.”


Jordan, David. Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann. Chicago: University

            of Chicago Press, 1996.

 Kapali Carsi” .

“Ottoman architecture.” history and public space.

Jordan, David. Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann. Chicago: University

            of Chicago Press, 1996.

How architecture can be used as a catalyst to start a revolution

Protest and Authoritarian Architecture : Storming of the Bastille

Public Space = Protest Space : The Boston Tea Party

Architecture is Social Discrimination : Berlin Wall


Architecture is used as a statement in which either the architect or the client add or take away from a community of people.  In their critique of the public, how the public interacts with the architecture is so meticulously thought out before construction; yet the reacting force can be reversed or altered by the public itself in how they want to use the space.  With the ability to see a change in the usage of the present architecture, one can question what this new space can become with architecture as just a tool in a process.  Furthermore when the public not only changes the original intention of a space but also treats architecture as a catalyst, revolution or a new movement can manifest.  Whether it be from an attack on a space, a demonstration in a space, or a demolition of a space, architecture can be a trigger in a series of events which morphs the entire people originally thought to be bystanders into an active role of rebellion for a better cause.


On July 14th, 1789 in Paris, France, the public of the nation, being the 97 percent of the population which was in poverty and starving on the streets or dying from malnutrition, decided that the architectural space which needed to be changed was indeed the French prison the Bastille.  The Bastille was known for being a statement of Louis the XVI’s power since it held political prisoners which were deemed unjust.  And before then, the Bastille was a fortress that acted as a gate between Paris and Versailles.  After Louis the XVI and the other members of the upper class finally pushed the rest of the impoverished citizens of Paris to their breaking point, a revolt was bubbling under way to over throw the king.  The key to a revolution being a way the peasants could fight back.  Within the Bastille, around eighty guards meandered through a nearly abandoned prison which housed plenty of knifes, guns, and gun powder to fight all of france.  Eight hundred members of the public revolution stormed the prison and overthrew those standing in the way to the ammunition.  Now the once fortress designed to keep others out of Paris and Versailles was transformed by the Parisian people to keep out King Leo XVI and the others member of the upper crust Parisian Society.  This intentional change of space resulted from an offensive move and attack from the public for a greater good which led to the French Revolution and later the beheading of King Leo XVI.


Similarly, on December 17th, 1773 in Boston, Massachusetts, members of the British colonies reached a breaking point as well from their governing country of England and its taxation policies.  Since England’s main form of income came from outrageous taxation on colonial goods, the citizens of Boston thought the best way to make a statement would be through an exploitation of the goods which plagued the income of their mother country.  The East India Company which shipped and traded goods back in forth from England to the colonies was docked at the main harbor in Boston.  This harbor known as Griffin’s Wharf was not only an extension of some of the most main streets in Boston, but also a testament to the power of the British and their trading capabilities.  Not only trading but mainly the taxes on the goods being traded.  So, one hundred and fifty citizens of Boston with the help of other colonist as well overtook one of the East India Company’s ships docked at the wharf for business.  Using the wharf as not a space to to continually receive the disrespectfully overpriced goods of the British, but however now a place to trash the source of their income.  Tea being one of the most prominent goods which reported back to England with a large sum of colonial tax money.  Three hundred and forty-two boxes were then thrown into the harbor and would never have the opportunity to take more money from the people of Boston.  This demonstration of colonial power brought together a camaraderie which later led to the American Revolution and freedom of the colonies from mother England.  A revolution which was resulted from the domino-effect which the Boston Tea Party demonstration led to in the hearts of the citizens of the colonies.  The demonstration being a simple transformation of a space of market to a place where the market was no longer welcome to come and sell goods and continually rip off the hard working citizens.


Finally, on August 13th, 1961 in Berlin, East (Communist) Germany began to construct a wall which separated East and West Berlin/Germany.  This barrier was thought to divide a country and keep out Western fascists from Eastern socialists.  However the construction of the border was not as significant as the demolition almost thirty years later in September of 1989.  Over the span of the wall’s lifetime, people rebelled on both sides of the wall in trying to figure out alternative ways to cross or surpass such a gnarly barrier.  The public’s distress to move through the barrier naturally increased since families and friends were separated on both sides of the border and left in completely different states of life.  Since East Berlin with the continued communist take over progressed to a lower state of poverty and unjust government, while West Berlin could only stand by and witness the rest of their brothers and sisters be damaged by the turmoil of their descending life style.  However, after years of protest and underground action, the wall was finally lifted and reunited both of the Berlin populations once again.  As the military of East Germany began to bulldoze little by little to the wall, the public of the western side were left to their own means of sledgehammers to take down the wall.  This riot of destruction stemming from the years of build up and separation between an entire city and people resulted through the transformation of a barrier to a door.  Doors that were made by the brutal destruction of the wall and ended in the so long-awaited reunion of the public of Berlin and Germany.

These three examples of such powerful countries (France, America, and Germany) and how their local citizens, the public not the government, started revolutions through the transformation of a piece of architecture are just the beginning in comparing the power of architecture and the public spirit around the globe for so many past centuries.  Skeptically, from the architect’s point of view, such revolutions can also begin with the mere construction of a new piece of architecture or space; but without the public’s acceptance the space cannot thrive.  As architect’s continue to evolve with the public’s interest more and more in mind behind the community, the relationship of change and the betterment of society will continue to surface more and more.  The idea of change and architectural space will hopefully be more and more integrated cross-globally especially in the eyes of those suffering in third-world countries and those who can’t speak for themselves.  This change may be found between the merging of applied anthropological research and architectural problem solving in how spaces affect a site and people.

United Barriers

Elana Sacher



Architecture, in the process of creating a physical barrier, serves to unite people on either side of the divide. Architecture unintentionally acts as a social unifier influencing the way people interact amongst one another within a space. Exploring this hypothesis, it becomes evident that this idea has been interwoven in the framework of history in varying ways.  The fence surrounding the police station during the Sharpeville Massacre, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and 8 mile road that runs through Michigan all evidently portray the idea that architecture aids physical separation, while creating cultural unity.


The fence, Sharpeville Massacre, Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21 1960

The Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa during the 60’s is considered one of the most important moments in the fight against apartheid. On March 21st, 1960 members of the Pan Africanist Congress, a South African liberation group composed to resist the force of apartheid launched a nationwide anti pass campaign. Many joined willingly and the group assembled near the Sharpeville police station and marched toward it. The march was in response to the requirement that all non-white citizens carry a pass book that served as a record of their identification. Upon arrival at the station the group was greeted by a crowd of about 300 policemen.


The building that housed the police station was separated by a fence in a large open square, with the intention to protect the space. An action that is counter to notions of the police whose job it is to serve and protect citizens. The continuity of the opposing relationship between the people and the law was clearly defined by the barrier.  The protest, while a public display of resistance was also meant to symbolize the divide. The police station was an oppressive force in the apartheid atmosphere, imposing laws implemented by a government determined to work in favor of the minority elite.


The fence created a segregated unity setting the authoritative whites, against the black population. The fence served to strengthen the bond between individuals on either side of the divide. While it continued to encourage two opposing forces to be set against one another. As the people approached the station the policemen stood aligned with the pre conceived notion of a forceful protest at hand.  The divide set each side to unite individually and when a policeman was knocked over, they immediately opened fire without orders resulting in the deaths of 69 individuals, and a series of more protests to follow.


The fence was created with chain metal and was around 8 feet high. This height aroused an atmosphere of hostility as the barrier was not one that could easily be crossed. The inability to easily transgress the fence was what lead to the formation of two strong yet separate bonds.


 Berlin Wall, Berlin Germany, August 13, 1961

On August 13, 1961, the German Republic, commonly known as East Germany constructed the Berlin Wall. The wall was erected as a barrier to theoretically keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and disrupting the socialist state. In reality the Wall served to prevent the mass immigration from the East to the West.


The wall evolved through four variations; wire fence, improved wire fence, concrete wall, and grenzmauer (border wall). As time passed additional elements such as a chain fence, minefields, and other obstacles were added.  It was over 140 km long and bordered by a “death strip,” an area covered with sand where footprints were noticeable, making it easy to detect trespassers. To further prevent anyone from crossing the top of the wall was lined with a smooth pipe making it more difficult to scale.

The resulting unification through the construction of the Berlin wall was opposite that of the fence surrounding the police station in South Africa. Rather than creating a unity through segregation the wall resulted in bringing together all of Germany.  Individuals came together to defy the barrier and cross through it.

The creation of the wall split families apart only to strengthen them by finding a way to reunite. In the beginning groups began digging tunnels under the wall, and crossing over in hot air balloons.  Attempts to transgress the barrier became more extreme as the wall continued to remain. At one point a sports car was driven at full speed through the initial fortification. In response to prevent further defection, a metal beam was placed at checkpoints, but this did not stop the people from uniting and trying again. Instead of halting the attempts, four people drove under the bar in a modified sports car. The car was created to allow the roof and windscreen to come away when it made contact with the beam. The people lay flat and kept driving forward.

Not only did the common citizens become closer through the construction of this fortification, international unity evolved. Bruce Springsteen and the e street band played a live concert on the wall and spoke out against its construction in July 1988, and US president John F Kennedy spoke on the wall declaring Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.

The unification of the people resulted in such a great force that they were able to tear down the wall. Protest demonstrations slowly broke out, and after a broadcast Germans began to gather at the wall demanding they open the gates.  The soldiers were outnumbered and eventually the guards yielded opening the checkpoints.


8 mile road, Detroit, Michigain 1920

The 8 mile roadway was first constructed in the late 1920’s as a dirt road, but has come to serve as a physical divide between the wealthier suburbs, and the poor city of Detroit. This perception of the divide continues to persist as the predominantly white suburbs continue to remain more prosperous than the predominantly black city.


The highway begins at an intersection and runs eastward, there is a gap before it continues and widens out into a boulevard setup with each direction divided by a central median, and the road intersects Oakland Community College and the Northland Center Mall.


The boundary line, 8 mile is a barrier, but not with the same force of segregation that was held in the fence in Sharpeville, or the same national and international unity that was brought about by the construction of the Berlin Wall. 8 mile road serves to divide social class, and separate races, but unity happens along the barrier, itself.  More than 70,000 cars traverse 8 mile daily while it remains home to 13 communities and 1,500 businesses. As well Eight mile boulevard association, a non-profit organization was formed to revitalize and promote eight mile road as a transportation, business and residential corridor.



Through constructing barriers, architecture serves to unite the people. Whether it is by uniting two sides separately, bringing the segregated groups together to overcome the barrier, or maintaining separation beyond the barrier but unity along it, architecture serves to influence the lives of society. Architecture through not made with the intention to unite communities is an excellent force in bringing people together.




The Reinterpretation of Program

Kolby Forbes

Architecture is typically erected for a clear determination by a select conglomerate to perform a necessary purpose, but in the event that the structure no longer serves its perceived purpose, the populace must reinterpret its original program as a means to benefit the masses. Multiple instances of this essential evolution of program can be cited throughout history. Architectural program can be defined as the narrative list of the facilities and functions that occur within a given structure. This may also begin to include the unintended purposes and processes that begin to accompany the program originally commissioned. These inadvertent occurrences can be seen as both positive and negative influences upon the adjacent community and for this reason these programmatic changes are able to continue to evolve or must otherwise be eradicated. In the event that they are able to continue their evolution, this may result in a complete change of purpose for a project even possibly allowing that building to become a hub of tourism for the city, permitting it to reach levels of iconicism. Another possible occurrence is the shift from a reasonable consideration of urban growth to that of which can no longer be measured as acceptable and for that reason begins to enter the realm of cancerous. At which point steps towards suppression are essential. The final incidence that is examined is one in which urban growth can be seen as being restorative for a select few, typically the middle class patrons of the community, while the remaining lower income residents are gradually displaced from the area with little input into the steps taken towards the programmatic change. Each of these occurrences has profound overall effects on its surrounding community and for this reason can be utilized as precedents to examine programmatic change at differing scales within varying types of urban landscapes.

empire state building diagram

While building projects are commissioned for specific reasons by their patrons, these original programmatic purposes may not be the same as their contemporary usages and more often than not they are completely different. This is the case in the iconic Empire State Building located in New York City. The building in its conception by John Jakob Raskob was always more concerned with the prestige that would accompany the structure rather than the actual program that would be placed within its framework; a program which was supposed to consist of rentable office space, surrounding a pyramidal service core, as well as a mooring mast for dirigibles. The construction of the Empire State Building was taken as part of the competition for the title of being considered the “world’s tallest building”. This accompanying history behind its conception can now be associated with the program that surrounds the structure today. When the building finally opened its doors on May 1, 1931, the profits gained from the structure were modest at best and were forced to rely solely on office space rented as well as tourism, seeing as the plan for the building to be employed as a mooring mast was never able to be recognized. These building characteristics attributed to the structure being nicknamed the “Empty State Building”. In the years after its opening the vacancy rate of the building was as high as 77 percent at its most unoccupied. The reliance on tourism grew in the following decades allowing the structure to shift its programmatic focus outwardly to add prominence to the building’s surrounding blocks of New York City’s Midtown Manhattan area. Through the addition of various observation decks as well as the occupation of office space by major corporations such as LinkedIn, Shutterstock, and the FDIC. The building was able to remain relevant by incorporating itself into the historical fabric of New York City which allows the structure to reach levels of iconic proportions, insuring its programmatic security for the future.

kowloon walled city diagram

Programmatic changes can also be characterized through the amount of growth that takes place within a given urban landscape, when this development is no longer positively influencing the city’s constituents it becomes necessary for there to be a drastic programmatic shift. This drastic shift was considered especially essential in the area that encompassed the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, China. The history of the Kowloon Walled City demonstrates the decline of quality of life due to an entity that became characterized by its high population density, rampant poverty, lack of authoritative presence, and general disregard for urban growth. Originally the site was commissioned as a military fort, but due to competing countries pursuit of sovereignty over the state it contributed to a lack of programmatic clarity within the city. This lack of clarity can also be cited as one of the reasons the Kowloon Walled City was able to fall into disorder programmatically, tangibly visual through the allocation of space which developed into a labyrinth like system of small business, residential apartments, and black market trade at the epicenter of the dystopian existence. It became necessary for government officials to intervene in the site’s continuing presence as its programmatic functions began to encroach on neighboring communities. Seeing as the urban site largely consisted of living conditions that most would consider deplorable, it was crucial for city officials to begin a programmatic shift that would be able to benefit the city as a whole. The opening stride to this shift would manifest itself in the eradication of the 14 story structure consisting of up to 350 varying building types in the early 1990s. By completely abolishing the program of the project, the city was hereby able to reestablish the site. This was accomplished through the installation of a park in 1995 that would occupy the same area in which the Kowloon Walled City originally encompassed. The park is able to memorialize the existence of the Walled City by naming various paths and pavilions used within after streets and buildings that were originally in the urban structure. Thereby observing the previous program but also allowing the installation of a positive shift manifested in the new park in place.

Program evolution can also be examined on a larger urban scale rather than simply being restricted to a tangible structure. An instance of this can be examined in looking at the proposal for the Atlantic Yards Site development project in Brooklyn, New York. The project consists of the institution of both commercial and residential projects that would encompass some 16 high rise buildings with the recent opening of the Barclays Center sports arena as a key component. The location of the proposed development project is where the shift in programmatic processes becomes especially controversial. This is due in part to the historical origins of the Brooklyn area that could be characterized as middle to lower working class residents. The concern for these programmatic changes have largely been bulldozed with promises of jobs reserved for these residents as well as ensured affordable housing units. However these residents remain skeptical with the looming promise of eminent domain abuse, which would all but force occupants to sell their private land for public usage. Conversely, developers argue that these programmatic changes taking place within the Brooklyn area are necessary in that they will contribute to the urban density of the area. But this raises questions of how the degree of programmatic necessity should be measured within given areas. It was more easily measured within the Kowloon Walled City in that there was a clear decay taking place within the structure, but when an area’s constituents have differing ideas of the direction that the program of the urbanscape should take programmatic discourse develops. It then becomes necessary for this to be mediated within a given community, but more often than not this is resolved through profit margins. For this reason, the progress of the redevelopment project continues to advance, even through the voices of opposition.

Programmatic shifts in urban projects are all but inevitable. Evolutionary alterations are necessary to accommodate the changing communities that occupy these urban schemes. These shifts are essential in maintaining the viability of the project and ensuring its relevance for the future. The Empire State Building was able to capitalize on the crucial integration of tourism into its program, while abandoning that of a mooring mast for dirigibles. Key decisions such as these were able to remain profitable and propel the structure to a status that now affords the building to remain an integral part of New York City. In cases such as the Kowloon Walled City, the programmatic decay of the urban system was so evident that the only way it could truly be rectified was through the complete dissolution of all the associated processes. This allowed the neighboring society to benefit from a program that could end the discourse surrounding the Walled City and provide a park that could be universally utilized by the adjacent area’s constituents. But the evolution of program can also be met with opposition due to differing notions of how the space should thereby be utilized, which is exemplified in the controversy accompanying the Atlantic Yards Site. These instances of programmatic change will continue to occur as fluctuations between want and need are tested within different communities in urbanscapes, which are crucial in ensuring lasting prosperity.


Forbes, and Scipio. “Regaining Individual Agency.” Architectures Global History. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

Hagan, and Wolcott. “Large Scale vs. Larger Context: The Recurring Conflict between Massive Objects and Space.” Architectures Global History. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

Yoon, and Lee. “Circulation: Reevaluated and Reconfigured.” Architectures Global History. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.