In the beginning of Chapter 7, it discussed how relieved Mr. Hosokawa was when he moved to a smaller room. How it gave him a sense of comforting tightness a child experiences when bundled into sweaters and a coat. This immediately led me to the thought about how powerful architecture is, how it can express so much emotion within us. How it can describe so much about ourselves and our societies. This reminded me while reading about the Mycenaeans and the Minoans. Both civilizations existed in Ancient Greece around the 3rd millennium BCE (Ingersoll). The Minoans, in particular flourished from about 2600 to 1400 BCE, and they were primarily a female dominated trading society that lived on the island of Crete. When we take a closer look at their architecture, we find a civilization that did not put any effort towards defensive structures. Their buildings are organized in a very open fashion, with many external windows and apertures which would be considered tactical weak points if included in a fortress. A clear example of this is the Palace of Knossos (1700 – 1380 BCE) (a link for a perspective image will be included). Now their architecture is fairly peculiar in that region and time zone, because of the immense strive and military conflict in the region, especially with the Mycenaeans. However, it seems as though, for whatever reason, the Minoan people did not feel threatened nor were ever attacked. Thus constructing a society based that expressed their values and their wealth, as being a trading society brings in many things of value and are used to create lavished palaces. When we compare them to the Mycenaeans, we see a different architectural story. They are a male dominated militaristic society that had many conflicts with other populations. Their architecture reads more like a fortress than a city, as they have similar architectural elements to the Minoans, however the way they arranged their pathways show what their society was like without even having any written account of it. They arranged it in a way that made serious choke points to prevent people from entering the city or fortress. A clear example of this is the city of Mycenaea, named after their people.
When we look throughout architectural history, we notice a pattern with societal ideas that result in major changes in the architectural landscape. Another example I came across in humanities ancient past was the shift in ideologies between the Old and Middle Kingdom in Egypt. The Old Kingdom was predominantly focusing on the worship of the pharaoh, which was a god head. A clear example of their arrogance and power was through the scale of their tombs. A common one people think of are the pyramids of Giza (2560 BCE), which showcase an extremely large arrangement of pyramids encasing the pharaoh and his family with temples that extend far from the site (Ingersoll). It’s important to pay attention to the size of the temples as their society changes. We fast forward a millennium during the creation of the Middle Kingdom, and we look at Mentuhotep’s Funerary complex (15th century BCE). The complex is much smaller, and the temple has grown much larger and consumes most of the complex. The tomb is inset into the earth with no large geometrical massive figure above our around it. In fact, before you can even see the king’s tomb, you have to pay your respects to the sun god, Amon Ra. It’s important to realize that these changes in architecture happened because of the Egyptian societies change in worship. They moved away from worshipping pharaohs to worshipping the Sun god. The kings of Egypt, having similar leadership over the land as pharaohs, were seen as a much lower status compared to deities. They were not gods, but men, and the temples became closer to human scale, almost an architectural modesty.
After going through much of the ancient world and learning about how these cultures reflected their architecture, it made wonder what more recent forms of architecture display such radical changes. This led me to the Nazi’s, funny enough. Their regime is known very well as being a violent and militaristic group, and the architecture the Germans created at the time reflected that exceptionally well. Specifically the Pavilion they erected in the International Exposition in Paris, 1937. The image attached below will show the stature of such power and might. It reads as a building that exerts the image of what Nazi’s want and represent. What better place to showcase it at an international gathering of architectural forms, to show off to the world one’s power. What is really shocking, however, is when you look at their Pavilion over a decade later, after the collapse of the Nazi’s. The pavilion looks more inviting, it’s far more horizontal rather than a vertical tower figure, with walkways that show views across the landscape. If the building could talk, it would seem to ask you to come over for a cup of coffee.
These thoughts then led to other aspects that occurred within the 20th century that reflected ideas of the industrial revolution. When you look at a plan of a majority of the buildings of the 20th century, you won’t notice a north arrow. What does that mean? It means that the architect did not care which way to orient the building, which is a big no-no in the architecture world today when it comes to lighting and passive systems. A lot of those issues were solved with mechanical equipment and lighting fixtures. There was no need to employ architectural strategies that were developed over millennia in our ancient past. The building design of the 20th century is what is currently causing issues within the 21st, because during time there was the idea that there would always enough resources (Lechner). That economic growth was limitless, when it is in fact not the case. Postmodern architecture is beginning to reflect the new idea of sustainability. With designs that a represent a society that realizes we live on finite planet, and that we must take care of what we have.
That shift in ideas is staggering and amazes me as to how architecture reflects our society’s ideologies. It made me wonder about the types of architecture that defines all the different sorts of governmental systems, and how they reflect each. When you think about it, it’s almost as if the architecture reinforces the ideas that are currently held by whatever human culture, like a positive feedback loop. That the way a building looks and its spaces are created can in turn affect how you feel. What immense power lies in those who design our world. It makes me wonder, how my architecture will make people feel, and how I can contribute to the architectural language and represent a society that embraces diversity and exchange of ideas. How can architects use this power to make a better world? These questions relate back into the international style, which some argue will be beneficial for human society, while others argue it destroys cultural heritage and has no consideration of environmental systems distributed across the planet.
Ingersoll, Richard, and Spiro Kostof. “Aegian, Old, Middle, New Kindgom.” In World Architecture, 57-61, 110-117. 1st ed. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Lechner, Norbert. “Sustainable Design and Energy Sources.” In Heating, Cooling, Lighting Design Methods for Architects, 23. 4th ed. New York, New York: J. Wiley, 2015.
Palace of Knossos:
20th century Plan:
21st Century Plan: (north arrow is noted in the bottom left, see how the buildings edge is oriented to get access to the northern/softer light)