Chapter 8: Architecture We Feel

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.

Images:

Palace of Knossos:

http://www.crete-kreta.com/files/u2/KnossosModel.jpg

Mycenaean:

http://www.shunya.net/Pictures/Greece/Mycenae/Mycenae-citadel-reconstructed.jpg

Giza:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/All_Gizah_Pyramids.jpg

Funerary Complex:

https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/698/flashcards/4033698/jpg/43-141B9AA6F654ECD414A.jpg

Nazi Pavilion:

http://www.oberlin.edu/images/Art265b/345-0116.JPG

German Pavilion:

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/7e/92/2b/7e922b5892e8fedd53300006671c79d5.jpg

20th century Plan:

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/5a/49/a3/5a49a3f44e2e990caf7da595be128a66.jpg

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)

http://ad009cdnb.archdaily.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/553ef010e58ece5029000068_bruce-c-bolling-municipal-building-mecanoo-sasaki-associates_third_floor_plan-530×374.png

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 8: Architecture We Feel

  1. katelynzander says:

    When I read the part about the room being small and how it made Hosokawa feel I was hoping one of the architecture students would write about it! People really don’t stop to think how a space makes the feel or why a particular building is laid out in that way, but everything has a purpose. I took Ancient Roman art history and I recall the floor plans of their homes as well as the layouts of the churches were very particular. Homes in the city had no exterior windows but rather an atrium and peristylium. These rooms were open to let in light, fresh air and rainwater. The homes were built to handle the environment and atmosphere in which they lived. The most sacred part of the Roman church was in the back and the common area for people was in the middle. I find it interesting that architects today still use this idea of creating space that fit into the environment and develop a layout for its main purpose. It would be interesting to see home throughout different cultures and the importance the layout, these layouts could show class, wealth and whether you were in the city or on the outskirts.

    I believe architecture tells us a lot about cultures and societies. It is a shame more and more historic buildings are torn down to put up a new shiny building in it’s place. I saw some examples of architecture, in a previous honors class, that showed how new construction was being integrated with the old. This combining not only created new functioning buildings, but also preserved history while making the old structures once again safe.

    This article shows the idea I am talking about!
    http://www.archiscene.net/firms/office-buildings/rotermann-old-new-flour-storage-hayashi-grossschmidt-arhitektuur/

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  2. slaudeman says:

    I love the way you run with the idea of architecture as a focus! Another topic you could address when analyzing the architecture is the cultural significance of spaces. You mentioned the Minoans and the Egyptians, and the Greeks used space as well. As long as there has been architecture, humanity has been shaping spaces around them. A particularly important instance of this is how I thought about the comment on the larger spaces or the smaller spaces in the novel: compression and expansion. This also begins to delve into the societal and political importance of architecture as well as the psychological aspect. In history, different civilizations used an expansion and compression scheme to convey or achieve a number of different outcomes. In palaces, it was used to create a sense of a space being larger than it really was. By walking from a smaller, darker room into a large, comparatively bright room, the larger room appears to be even bigger than it actually is. This trend goes back as early as the Neolithic era and the passage grave schemes – a long tunnel that leads into a large, round tomb. This compression and then expansion was used to give weight and grandeur to the room, and in many cases, the ruler or noble who inhabited it. The other use of this is as a defensive mechanism as you mentioned. Many ancient cities employed choke points in order to control the flow of possible invaders. In some places, these took the form of arches and enclosed spaces between courtyards, and in others it was simply a drastic narrowing of the walls. Again, this changes both the physical aspect and the psychological aspect of the architecture, making it physically more difficult as well as the open spaces appearing more daunting.

    -Sara Laudeman

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  3. Michael Pedersen says:

    This idea of how the architecture of a place can have such an emotional impact on us is somewhat related to the way that spatial relationships are preserved by the brain. I was particularly interested in how you mentioned how the pathways of ancient civilizations show how the people thought about the structure of their lives. Similar to the way one arranges ones room to reflect their own style of organization it shows that humans are very fond of shaping their environment as an extension of their own modes of thinking.

    Your take on the societal implications of this idea are equally profound. The human construct of death and the level of importance placed upon this state of being is a huge indicator of a society. By linking the monuments built to this idea you reveal an interesting facet of how humans confront their fears. The scale and scope of the buildings these kings and Ra’s created show how consumed these individuals were with power and wealth and how they seem to believe that by constructing these structures they could delay the inevitable. It shows the underlying motivations of the society along with the greatest fears these cultures have to bear.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed the presentation and delivery of your thoughts on architecture. To further your research I’d definitely be interesting in seeing a more in depth cross cultural comparison between the architecture between various countries. The key point that is somewhat nagging me is how your research suggests that the leaders of a society create that country’s ideology. This idea is reflected in the “Great Man Theory” from the 19th century and would provide an interesting avenue for extra research. In culmination, great paper it really flushed out a lot of interesting aspects on your topic.

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  4. hcelemen says:

    I have never known much or had much interest in architecture before until I read your post. It is interesting how certain beliefs and practices in our society can inevitably influence the structural environment that we live in. I love how you go through our history and compare the cultural changes that occur in different nations. I never realized how much thought and expression are being put into these buildings. Structurally, I have always seen these building for their main purpose of sheltering, allowing space for gatherings and protection from the external forces of nature. So it was very enlightening for me to learn how much these building reflect different cultures and societal ideologies.

    I believe that your research is quite in depth and very thorough as you made comparisons to different cultures throughout history and I really enjoyed this. Overall, my understanding from your post is that architecture is influenced by how society changes and in exchange, the people in our society are affected through their experiences in these buildings. Personally, I would be interested to learn if there is a uniting or root influence in architecture that can be found in all cultures. I also believe that you could take all this information even further by exploring how architecture has been adapting to the technological advances and how it is handling the growing populations that are further challenging the capacity of these structures. These questions are just few different avenues I think might be of interest in pursuing when thinking in terms of the changes our societies may need to consider in the future: Is the exponential growth in our population turning into a space issue that you as a future architect will have to consider? What technological advances can be used to change structural issues and further expand the capacity of buildings in our future? Will there come a time where the lack of space will require the building of structures over large bodies of water?

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