Definitive Architecture and its Effect on Societies

Haniya Orloff and Olivia Flores- Siller

Definitive Architecture and Its Effect on Societies from Olivia Siller on Vimeo.

When the construction and/or program of certain buildings and cities can be modified it will help promote the success of the city. However when buildings and cities are constructed without the abilities to grow they can hinder the development of the societies or cities in various ways. Suburbia prevents the development of more dense living spaces and promotes more private areas of residence.  The American Industrial Revolution was a time when buildings were built rapidly and permanently which doesn’t allow for non-invasive practical modification. Lastly, the castles and palaces that were built many years ago and have now become historic sites don’t allow for cities to develop in a logical way but force them to develop around these places. These historic buildings are not small and ignorable but often are large compounds that create a great obstacle for growth.


Suburbia In America

USA, 1900-Present

Many years ago there were large communities of people living in the cities and large communities in the countryside. There were positive and negative qualities to both and for a long time the people did not believe that it would be possible to combine the two.  The cities were messy and crowded and filled with trash however they also were major hubs of culture and allowed for vast social interaction as well as increased mental activity. The countryside allowed for picturesque views and farming your own food however they did create a strong feeling of isolation and a more “simple” life.  So people started to develop the idea of an area of combined cultural and busy but beautiful and calm. There were many early attempts at creating this combination such as Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey and Glendale, Ohio.

One of the factors that made the beginnings of the suburbs possible was the development of easy transportation. This allowed for the beautiful, picturesque suburbs to be only a train ride or car ride away from the bustling culture of the city. Eventually America became known for its suburbs. Around each major city soon developed suburbs, which spanned across the United States. Suburbia in America became this utopia of spaces that were private, natural and secluded but not isolated from neighbors and community centers, as well as only a quick trip away from the cities.

So why did these American utopias fail? Years ago when the  ‘thirty-somethings’ of today were growing up, the price of living in a three-bedroom suburban home was a much more manageable cost, today that cost has skyrocketed preventing most young adults today from living outside of more modest dwellings or other types of dense city living.

In addition, today most houses have two sources of income rather than the postwar suburban ideal of a male breadwinner and a female homemaker causing a house to be not only expensive but also essentially empty between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. These largely empty houses render the idea of a large home and property relatively wasteful.

Today those who live in the suburbs often drive into the city to go to work. This results in the construction of expansive highway systems and the release of major amounts of exhaust and pollution. Environmental scientists suggest that the vehicular exhaust released today is responsible for approximately 50% of the air pollution problems in America today. Americans also use twice as much oil per person, than any other industrialized nation today, and two thirds of the oil consumed in the US is from the nation’s trucks and cars.

Ultimately the creation of the suburbs, though it may have seemed like a successful and efficient use of space many years ago, has developed over so much space that it has become disproportionate to the number of people that actually use the land provided. In addition to the over use of space, when trying to modify these houses they still do not create buildings that use the space as efficiently as an apartment building in a city would. The houses and community centers are built very independently; with a whole plan in mind, not made to expand on.

The expansive highways, the large yards and architectural footprints of houses that are barely used by families at school or at work as well as vast spaces of community spaces, that are virtually useless for many hours of the day, have lead to many of the people in the United States to begin to denounce this outdated idea of utopia and opt for a more efficient use of space and money and choose to live in more dense environments.


Fig. 1 Source: University of Michigan. Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 25, 2013)


Fig. 2 Source: xfinity, Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 19, 2013)


Fig. 3 Source: Bedford International. Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 25, 2013)

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American Industrial Revolution

USA, 1870-1900


In the time span between 1870 and 1900 The American Industrial Revolution brought about rapid construction of factories to accommodate the mass production of manufactured goods. These buildings housed heavy equipment and machinery and were typically constructed in a durable manor with the intention that they would only be used for manufacturing purposes. Within the century following the Industrial Revolution, the United States made a gradual transition from being a manufacturing economy to a service economy. During this time the U.S. also made huge technological advances, rendering these factories outdated and unnecessary. These events led to an economic decline in Northeastern industrial cities, also known as “Rust Belt” cities. “To call a city ‘industrial’ today in the United States is to associate it with a set of negative images: declining economic base, pollution, a city on the downward slide.” As a result, industrial cities are now facing the challenge of “deindustrializing” in order to survive since they need to make the city more appealing to prevent people from leaving to find jobs in places that are less industrial, with more opportunities and healthier living environments. Because of the permanence of the construction of the factories, deindustrializing proves to be costly and time consuming, which holds back the growth of these societies.

A popular method of deindustrializing cities includes changing these spaces into lofts or other residential areas. These renovations require intrusive and expensive modifications to be made to accommodate people rather than machines. The city and its occupants, both struggling with the adjusting economy, lack the funding necessary to make these improvements. As a result, many buildings are not modified in the best way or are simply left abandoned. These modifications are also time consuming. The amount of time that it can take to remodel these buildings just makes the project more costly. If the reconstruction of industrial buildings were quick and easy the monetary turnover would be more rewarding but because the time it takes greatly maximizes the cost, it results in less appealing projects.

Syracuse, for example, produced chemicals and salt and manufactured various products. As a result of the changed economy, Syracuse was left with many abandoned factories and an unpleasantly damaged environment. Today, the city of Syracuse is taking steps to deindustrialize by undoing the environmental damage that took place during the industrial period and modifying the architecture to make the city seem more postindustrial. One step taken was to improve the image of the city since it’s industrial roots resulted in a negative image. These improvements were attempted by refashioning the architecture and revamping previously desolate industrial buildings. Projects include a new convention center (Onondaga Convention Center), a huge regional mall (Destiny USA), and two historic residential and retail districts (Armory and Franklin Squares) as well as a new museum of science and technology. Another step was to clean Onondaga Lake, which was severely polluted by industries such as steel and machinery, which dumped waste directly into the river. Over $500 million will be spent on the clean up which is only one aspect of “deindustrialization.” Syracuse is one example of many cities that have had to deal with the struggle of spending decades to undo the damage environmentally and economically caused by industrial construction, instead of simply moving forward with a flexible architecture to build upon.

Fig. 5 Source: WordPress. Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 26, 2013)

Fig. 6 Source: NCPedia. Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 25, 2013)


Intrusion of Historic Castles & Palaces

Kensington Palace, London, UK, 1605, Christopher Wren


Hundreds of years ago when the construction and development of castles and palaces were common throughout Europe they were constructed with no thought of future function or spatial needs. Today there are many palaces and castles that have been restored and kept in good shape to allow tourist visits or remodeling but they are still not ideal to develop around. Palaces were constructed with many different spaces than are required today. The rolling hills covered in beautiful gardens and pathways for the wealthy to take time to walk through as well as oversized living quarters and entertaining spaces were common and necessary among the wealthy, hundreds of years ago. Today these palaces have done nothing but intrude on the development of new buildings and urban planning.

An example of these lavish homes that have hindered the development of cities is the Kensington Palace and Kensington Garden, which used to be the private gardens of Kensington Palace. The palace is made up of at least 9 apartments for the royal family to live in, as well as other entertaining and service quarters. The Kensington gardens were carved out from Hyde Park and together they cover approximately 620 acres. These spaces that are used today as housing for the royal family, as well as a major tourist attraction for London, is not using the space as efficiently as some may think.

The oversized palace is an outdated idea. Today there are many oversized homes but they are growing less and less common. The vast footprint of the palace as well as the massive footprint of the parks prevented London to be built in a cohesive manor. The Kensington palace and garden are located in the heart of London and as London has developed over the years it has had to grow around this awkward shape that these major pieces of history have created.

The Kensington palace though used minimally today for the royal family is a waste of space in todays world. If it had been built today it would not have been built at this size but because it is a piece of history, a landmark, and a central point of tourism for London it will never be torn down. If Kensington palace and gardens had been demolished years ago London would have been able to grow in a structured manner without a major obstacle. This is just one of many situations that large oversized palaces and castles has caused. These places are helpful to the society by bringing in revenue and attracting tourism to the area but in terms of organization and consistent development, they have become harmful to the cities.

Fig. 7 Source: Grace Elliot: Fall in Love with History, Digital Image. Available from:  (accessed October 19, 2013).

Fig. 8 Source: British History Online. Digital Image. Available From: (Accessed October 25, 2013)

Fig. 9 Source: Magnet Magazine, Digital Image. Available from: (accessed October 19, 2013)



Throughout history there have been examples of architecture that caused more harm in the future than intended when created. These examples were all constructed in a way that with little regard to what the societies of the future might require. They did not account for development of technology, population growth, environmental affects or the evolution of domestic and social life.



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