Rhandi Micall Green and Junia Ryan
Colonization has played a major role in the development of the world. The resources, technology, and economic status of a country and its trade status influence whether or another a country, or group of people, becomes the colonizer or the colonized. Throughout history we see that countries that are more advanced in technology and trade, and have a higher military status are countries that we label as “world powers” a euphemism for the colonizer. Countries such as Britain, Spain, and France have colonized areas in the Americas, India, China, and Africa. Pros and cons of cultures introduce these new architectural styles and vernaculars, creating a new architectural language, thus bringing new knowledge and technologies to the country. The colonized country loses control and power over the land, and their resources are often taken as new trade commodities. In some cases, the native people of that land become the focus of the colonization with forced religious beliefs. We see this happen with various areas of Ghana and the developments of the slave castle during the 1700s. Architecture has been instrumental in both benefitting the colonized area or then reinforce and depiction of social inequalities and issues.
The Introduction of the Patio & Spanish Plaza
Monticello, Albemarle County, VA, 1768, Thomas Jefferson
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca Spain
Colonization is often fueled by the need for religious freedoms or curiosity for discovery and conquest. It was an ideal opportunity to open trade in various parts of the world and increase the land ownership of that country. In 1492, the English and French both landed at various points along the eastern coast of the Americas, setting the stage for the Christian re-conquest. The English arrived and started colonies in what is now known as New England in North America. The French landed in the southern parts of North America, such as St. Augustine. The original landings caused negative impacts on the Native Americans who were indigenous to these areas. These architectural impacts include the Hacienda, which included one or two-story buildings, as well as farm buildings and a chapel, all organized around a patio. This new architectural language can be seen in Jefferson style architecture in Albemarle County, VA, where this same idea of a centralized patio is recognizable. The plan of the Monticello house has rooms and living quarters that radiate out from the center patio. Another architectural style that influenced Mexico and also the southwestern part of the United States is the introduction of the Spanish Plaza.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, he brought many Spanish colonization and lifestyle influences with him. Spanish exploration of the Americas peaked between 1675 and 1800. The current southern part of the United States, states like New Mexico and Arizona, were marked as Mexican territory. The idea of the plaza was traditional Spanish architecture. If one visits Spain, they would see plazas everywhere. The plaza parallels the idea of the patio but takes it up a scale from inside the property to the scale of an entire city. Maps of cities such as Salamanca, Spain, show the Spanish Plaza in various areas of the city. The most central of these would have to be the Plaza Mayor where the major streets of Salamanca intersect through. The governing rule of the Plaza were: the plaza was to be the starting point of the town, marking the center, the plaza should be proportional to the population, the principle streets must begin from the middle of the plaza, and the streets should run from the plaza in a way that is substantial for growth. The plaza parallels the patio in the Castle San Marco in St. Augustine Florida where the plaza is at the center of the castle.
The Plantation & Slave Fort
Another effect of European colonization is the introduction of the plantation and slave fort. Slavery is a prominent social issue that has affected the world. Slaves are another example where the people became the commodity used for trade, helping sustain colonization. The Cape Coast Castle in Ghana was established in 1555 by Portugal, and later built up by the British and Dutch. The Castle is a controversial site because of the segregation that took place in the castle. Slaves were held in dark dungeons in the basement of the Castle. They made a passageway through the famous doors where the name “Gates of No Return” was written. The Castle was known as a site of religious reformation that was often a theme and characteristic of colonization. The ground line divides the segregation that took place in Cape Coast Castle. The slaves were beneath ground, where right above them laid the 1st Anglican Church in Ghana. Here the pros of colonization for the colonized are slim to none. The slave castles in Africa and the idea of this formal separation take form in America, where these people were shipped in the form of the Plantation and separation of the master’s house to the slave dwellings. The social issue, though not as explicit in today’s society, made the colonized people always having to be on the outside of the exterior envelope of the house. This architectural language is still prominent in the idea of the gated community as a form of spatial segregation from people not wanted on the “inside”. Now this can be any group of people, but the gate of the gated community has the same idea of keeping someone out of the exterior envelope.
Influence Becoming a Characteristic
Boston Town House, Boston, MA 1658
Christopher Columbus brought with him other ideas in colonial times. He and his men influenced the Americas to develop certain aspects of their culture including the grid system for urban planning, and their ornate baroque nature. It was in the 1500s that buildings had an extra ornate aspect to them. These buildings found way to American society and only certain aspects stuck. The grid system was used during the industrial revolution to form major cities like New York and Chicago. It can also be seen in small parts of Boston that has British colonial characteristics.
One of the pros of colonization is that the influences are brought to the colonized areas become a staple for that town. They create a part of that town’s characteristics in what is known for and built upon later, keeping that “style” present. A good example of this would be Boston’s colonial style. It is not hard to find a renovated colonial home in Boston with characteristics and detail of the colonial era. This colonial history makes Boston a famous tourist location. The British architectural influence in Boston and many of the buildings that are still standing from colonial Boston has become a landmark. These buildings include the Boston town house (1658) and the old Massachusetts State House (1713) with the British Lion and Unicorn as ornamentation. These buildings are now located at the heart of Boston in downtown. This concept that the influence of colonization becomes iconic for an area can be seen in other places.
Colonization, which has played a major role in the development of the world, and pros and cons that come along with it for both the colonizer and the colonized add to the architectural language and history of the colonized area. The native people often suffer from segregation with this loss of power and sometimes become a trade commodity of the colonizer; thus, lowering their social status in the world from once land owners and rulers to dehumanized objects. It is good to have influences of other parts of the world; however, these influences are beginning to depict the social status. Architecturally socially, and economically, we should work to improve the efforts of blurring these lines of distinction to improve how society moves about today.
Baker, John Milnes. American house styles: a concise guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.
Stanislawski, Dan. “Early Spanish Town Planning in the New World.” Geographical Review 37, no. 1 (1947): 94-105. http://www.jstor.org/stable/211364 (accessed October 10, 2013).
Stanislawski, Dan. “The Origin and Spread of the Grid-Pattern Town.” Geographical Review 37, no. 1 (1947): 105-120. http://www.jstor.org/stable/ 211076 (accessed October 10, 2013).
Massey, Jonathan “Modernizations” ARC 134 Lecture, Blackboard. (accessed October 20, 2013)