Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

The with cast iron beams and wrought iron

The first artificial building material to ever be used in the history of architecture was iron.The rate of development of this material rapidly increased within the course of a century.The arrival of affordable iron had quite an impact on structures and the built form, first with cast iron and then shortly after with the more tension-resistant wrought iron, structural elements in the form of bars, rods, and angles became available.Initially, iron had an essential decorative role in buildings and was not used as a structural element in construction until the late 18th century when Abraham Darby designed a bridge assembled entirely from pre-cast iron. (fig 1)(fig 1) Image of the iron bridge opened in 1781, ShropshireAlthough iron possesses remarkable architectural abilities, not many architects employed the use of iron as their main building material, as transportation and erection of large cast iron sections proved far too expensive and laborious. In the early 19th century the use of iron beams and columns in textile mills allowed for more of an accessible, useful floor area, as opposed to when heavy load-bearing internal walls or masonry piers were used which took up a lot of the internal floor space.Although brick and stone masonry were still more of a popular material to be used for external walls, the use on non-combustible iron in the interior made the buildings safer against the threat of fires.These factors made iron a popular building material and introduced a wide variety of new buildings in the 19th century.Iron was predominantly used in the construction of larger structures such as bridges, arcades, exhibition halls, railway stations, and buildings which served transitory purposes, however avoided in the construction of dwelling-houses.The first large scale building to be erected without the use of supporting masonry was The Crystal Palace in 1851.The Crystal Palace was constructed with cast iron beams and wrought iron trusses, the difference between using iron beams as a construction material rather than masonry was that it allowed for buildings with wider spans and large internal spaces to be constructed. (fig 2)  (fig 2) The Crystal Palace, Hyde park, 1851Another benefit of using pre-cast iron in this case was the speed, The Crystal Palace was erected in only 9 months which was revolutionary compared to the amount of time it took to construct buildings using older masonry techniques. Unfortunately, the structure didn’t last long as the iron frame was not sufficiently stiff against horizontal wind loads.8 years later Colonel GT Green (1807-1896) who was a military engineer, took the idea of a skeletal frame forward, solving the issues The Crystal palace had against wind loads.The Sheerness boat store, built in 1859, was a revolutionary architectural achievement as the external envelope was non-loadbearing, with strip glazing and cladding panels.This technology is what has allowed the building to be strong enough to be utilized to this day.The modern skeletal structure highlighted the ability of iron to provide a minimal but strong primary structure that allowed for the internal floors to be uninterrupted by loadbearing walls creating spacious interiors, and unrestricted external glazing patterns. (fig 3)(Fig 3) The Sheerness boat store, Kent , built in 1859With the use of this constructing technique, buildings were manufactured more economically as less construction materials were used for sustaining structural stability yet more floor area was created allowing the building to be utilized more efficiently.By mid-century, the standard technique for the rapid pre-fabrication and construction of urban distribution centers, market halls, exchanges and arcades was the use of cast-iron columns and wrought-iron rails, used in conjunction with modular glazing.With the increased use of iron in construction, the architectonic areas in which glass could be utilized were extended as well, glass was now being considered by architects not only for windows but as a key building material, both in the design and construction.    Meanwhile across the globe in the rapidly industrializing United states of America a new building form was on the rise – the skyscraper–The first sky scraper was designed by William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907) who designed the Home Insurance Company Building built in 1884-85. It stands at 11 stories’ high which was considered a gargantuan at that time, these days a building of such height is considered quite average. (fig 4)                                                                                                                                                                            (fig 4) The Home Insurance Company showing the skeletal  forms as well, bui                                                                     lt  in 1884-85                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         These Chicago buildings were constructed using the same techniques just at a much larger scale of for instance the pioneering Sheerness Boat store, with iron or steel frames and external elevations clad with a wide range of materials.This new building form was the turning point in the architectural style of cities like Chicago which are now famous for their skyscrapers.    Nearing the end of the 19th century a new structural material—reinforced concrete—came into use by architects.The idea of reinforcing concrete was not a new one as Fairbairn mentions it in his book ‘On the Application of Cast and Wrought Iron to Building Purposes’ (1853). In his book he introduces the idea of stabilizing a structure by casting wrought-iron tie rods into a concrete floor, this proposal brought Fairbairn unexpectedly close to the principles of reinforced concrete.However, it was not until 1892 where French engineer François Hennebique patented a complete building system.The system he created had practically all the qualities of reinforced concrete structures that we use today.The early version of this new system had some similarities to the iron ones in that they were both skeletal, with beams and columns supporting concrete slabs. Reinforced concrete had a few advantages over steel or iron structures, one of them being that these structures are fire-proof whereas with structural steel or iron some sort of fire-proofing was essential. Another advantage was a financial one as it was cheaper than any material available before.Concrete and reinforced concrete have many beneficial qualities which can complement a building both from a design and structural aspect, these include better acoustical properties, fire proofing, thermal mass and operational energy efficiency, durability, and longevity.Unfortunately, with the conversion of manual production to machinery production a few problems occurred with design, this transition occupied humanity in such a way that instead of attempting to tackle the new problems of design following this transformation, they remained satisfied with borrowing architectural styles from the past instead of creating new styles to better adapt.This brought about a new movement within architects and designers,—the modern movement—The modern movement (1925-1950) originally initiated in Europe, it represents a drastic change in architecture and design moving on from the traditional construction techniques of the past towards a new epoch of design.European architects such as Eliel Saarinen, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropious and Mies van der Rohe discarded traditional building techniques and started experimenting with new materials and exploring new technology in their work, creating radical designs in the early 20th century.”That state of affairs is over at last. a new conception of building, based on realities, has emerged; and with it has come a new conception of space”The use of new synthetic substances such as steel, glass and concrete had a great impact on architecture, where their molecular density allowed for wide-spanned structures to be erected without a waste in structural volume. This saving of volume was a magnificent architectural transformation, where slender piers were used as opposed to the more traditional, volume consuming, masonry construction.The space saving type nature of this construction type was an architectural revolution in itself.One of the remarkable changes this new construction technique had was, with the utilization of these new materials, architects were able to transform the main load of the structure to a steel or concrete framework, instead of using the walls as supporting elements of a building.This changed the functions of walls, from more traditional brick walls supporting the structure, to merely partitioning walls.The construction materials of these walls were changed from brick masonry to more light weight, pumice-concrete, breeze or other synthetic materials.By saving space architects were able to design rooms with enhanced lighting by creating bold openings in wall surfaces.Having greater openings in the facades, which were subdivided merely by thin steel mullions was one of the characteristics of the New Architecture.”And as a direct result of the growing preponderance of voids over solids. Glass is assuming an even greater structural importance. Its sparkling insubstantiality, and the way it seems to float between wall and wall imponderably as the air, adds a note of gaiety to our modern homes.”Another impact the use of new synthetic materials had on the architecture was, in the fabrication and manufacturing side of things.For instance, buildings were formally manual trades, but they were being transformed into industrial trades.The work that was previously undertaken directly on building sites, and on scaffolding was moved to factory conditions and not directly on-site.Conditions that would delay constructions in the past such as seasonal factors were no longer an issue and work could be done continuously throughout the year, thus speeding up the building process even further.”And just as fabricated materials have been evolved which are superior to natural ones in accuracy and uniformity, so modern practice in house construction is increasingly approximating to the successive stages of a manufacturing process.”Architects were heading towards a new era of design, one with a high technical proficiency.The idea was that by rationalizing and mass-producing buildings in factories, in the form of dividing the structural elements into component parts, like Lego parts, builders would be able to assemble the components on site with ease and efficiency regardless of the weather.Almost like ready-made houses which could be delivered from factories, to order, made from solid fire-proof constructions ready to be assembled on site.The nature of this construction technique meant that building elements such as wall-slabs, floor beams, doors and windows etc. had to be standardized.”The repetition of standardized parts, and the use of identical materials in different buildings, will have the same sort of coordinating and sobering effect on the aspect of our towns as uniformity of type in modern attire has in social life. But that will in no sense restrict the architect’s freedom of design.”Another important discovery was that with the use of reliable modern materials, the stability and insulation of a building could be increased and the weight and bulk of it decreased.”The New Architecture throws open its walls like curtains to admit a plentitude of fresh air, daylight and sunshine. Instead of anchoring buildings ponderously into the ground with massive foundations, it poises them lightly, yet firmly, upon the face of the earth”To conclude, the introduction of new materials such as iron in the early 1800’s and steal after the 1860’s allowed for bigger, wider spans to be built higher than before, with very flexible ground plans. Glass used together with iron and steel allowed for architects and engineers to design buildings using glass as a main feature, in full transparent roofs and walls.Then with the discovery of concrete came the construction of strong, more affordable buildings with less wasted space allocated to supporting walls.These materials revolutionized architecture in the 19th century.With the modern movement in the 20th century, architects swayed towards the use of synthetic materials, but not only to build a building, but to design a building.To design aesthetically pleasing buildings with a lighter footprint on the face of the earth, much like the goal of many architects today.