ARCHITECTURE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Edward D. Levinson / Gilon Levinson
DEMONSTRATION COPY CONTENTS
Chapters 1 through 10
History of Western Architecture
the Straits of Gibraltar to the shores of the Black Sea, from the
banks of the Danube in Germany to the Rhone river in France, welcome
to Architectural History One. We are going to be discussing,
investigating, and analyzing Western Architectural History from
Primitive times through the Gothic Period. But I must warn you -
nothing in academia is held sacred by me; my thoughts and words are
often iconoclastic. I question a lot, and hope you will, too. I
believe that in academic circles that is called "critical
thinking." Sometimes it is just plain curiosity. And we will
often wander off our path in order to clarify a point, but we should
come back together, so stay with me.
The Introduction to
Architecture "Why Man Builds," deals with the basics
of the course: "What is Architecture?" "Why
do we study Architecture?" and, lastly, "Why do
people build things?" We shall discuss these topics
philosophically, and develop a definition of Architecture, and its
elements: function, structure, and aesthetics. We shall begin
with a discussion of Primitive Architecture, describing the basic
forms of construction, which include Post and Lintel, and Corbel
development. We will also discuss arches and vaults, trusses,
and cantilevers all more advanced than basic primitive, but
never-the-less necessary in our understanding of Architecture. The
geographical areas to be discussed in this Session include Spain,
Italy, and England. In Spain we shall look at Neolithic
construction in Antequera, specifically the Dolmens of Viera,
Romeral, and Menga. Italy gives us the Trulli in Alberobello.
In England, of course, Stonehenge, located on the Plains of
And to put it all in perspective -
Architecture, Past Present Future and where did it all really begin,
where have we been, and where does it all lead?
Well, once upon a time a farmer
plowed a piece of land, a shepherd built a fence, and land use, land
design, and architecture began. People banded together for protection
from the elements, from other people. They banded together for
collective hunting, for farming, for trading. First in caves, then in
These people and their buildings
became cities, and cities developed – along trade routes, at
crossroads of those routes, at ports. Cities like Jerusalem, Avignon,
Constantinople, Venice, Toledo, Florence, Cologne, New York, San
Cities were pools of skill, centers
of culture and administration, of protection, of religion, of
commerce. They were concentrations of people huddled together in the
safety of enclosing walls. Cities required water, food, supplies, and
power sources. The growth of tightly-knit masses of peoples, of
cities, was a major part of the civilizing influence. And
Architecture, of course, played more than a key role.
People became cities, and cities
piled up inside of protective walls. Sometimes the walls were
rebuilt, new rings of walls added. More often, cities became
vertical. Buildings became skyscrapers in recent times, and
skyscrapers piled up. Paths became streets which in turn became
expressways, and expressways piled up into ribbons of “spaghetti.”
Rivers, which once hosted barges, became sewers, and sewers and their
pollution piled up.
There was a time when the city and
its buildings was a world; now the world has become a city. But a
city in trouble. The future of our cities lies in the solving of the
following global issues:
1. Population explosions – either
natural or through immigration.
2. Change from an agricultural to
an urban society.
3. Free time and surplus created by
automation and computerization.
4. Struggles for equal rights and
5. Attempts to eliminate poverty.
6. Giant industrial, military, and
7. Speed of transmission of ideas,
and transportation of goods.
8. Nuclear threats / terrorism.
all this got to do with Architecture? Architects today and in the
future should be involved in not only design of single buildings, but
land planning, civic design, possibly even politics. We need to
create order out
And ordinary citizens – you, taking this course – SHOULD become
aware of all that surrounds you. And perhaps get back to downtown,
create a Master Plan. Philadelphia created the first such Plan in the
Post-World War II era, with a Master Plan in 1949. But then
industries pulled out and the city almost went bankrupt. Best laid
plans of mice and men? Paris, first under President Francois
Mitterand, then Parisian Mayor and later President Jacques Chirac,
formulated and developed the “Grands Projets,” which saved the
view of the Eiffel Tower from being obliterated by surrounding
skyscrapers. They brought a halt to indiscriminate skyscraper
development, creating instead La Défense,
which clustered high rises together in a planned environment. Then in
2005 Clichy-sous-Blois, a Parisian suburb, and home of St. Denis,
which we shall study extensively, blew up in a riotous conflagration.
Just as had Detroit in 1965, where
two years before they had received the first American Institute of
Architecture Citation for “Excellence in Community Architecture for
their vision in implementing a comprehensive plan for the central
thirty square miles, which will transform and revitalize this
metropolitan region.” Army tanks rolled into the city in 1968,
accompanied by the staccato of machine-gun fire. City officials
continued to delude themselves, running the following ad in a
national travel magazine in 1970:
“When god asked Detroit what it
wanted to be...Detroit replied..A city of people. All kinds.
Businessmen and assemblyline workers. Tree trimmers and secretaries.
A city of places. Nightclubs and restaurants. Symphonies and outdoor
markets. Department stores and churches. And a city with country
around it. With farms and lakes and parks. god answered Detroit (with
his face breaking into a smile): “Why not?””
Now the definition of “city” is
good, but whose god could have looked down and uttered such thoughts
– about Detroit – a city which had not even cleaned up its mess,
both physical and emotional. Was this god perhaps General Motors, or
Ford, or...God only knows whose “god” this was.
2011, Detroit is cutting the number of their public schools in half,
placing sixty students in high school classrooms. The city has gone
bankrupt, and lost more than one half million citizens since 1970.
Fifty percent of its citizens are functionally illiterate. Estimates
have put unemployment at twenty-eight (28) percent as of this
writing. Forbes Magazine listed Detroit as the fifteenth most
miserable city in the United States.
in 1968 and again in 1980 (albeit without planning of any kind to
blame), hosted riots, which brought death (eighteen murdered) and
destruction ($200 million) in 1980. In 2011, Forbes Magazine ranked
Miami as the second most miserable city in the United States. Only
its weather and lack of a State Income tax kept it from being number
One. Political corruption, long commutes, violent crime,
precipitously falling housing values, have taken Miami from the
number six position to number two. Still no planning. There is not
even a Master Plan for the downtown Central Business District. But
then again, of what value are plans? We'll get into “plans”
later, see “Rod McKuen.”
One answer, however, is an
Architecturally educated populace. A short note: the city of Ottawa,
Canada, decided to keep its population at one half million, so the
government achieved control over a sixty-five (65) square mile area
surrounding the city. The land will remain farmland, containing a few
governmental buildings, and will provide the closeness of the country
to the city. The city will achieve a balance with nature. In fact, it
offers “Primers” on land-use decisions and the planning process.
aspect of future planning, some of which has already begun, is
designing for flexibility in the event of total change of the
function of a building. Some Architects are assuming this
responsibility. We can take this concept a step further. We could say
that if the “father” of Architectural design is planning,
then the “mother” of design is form,
and the “union” of their relationship is function.
The amount of care, of nurturing of the Architectural design, of
thinking of future problems and
for those problems with contingencies for special growth, for change,
for adaptation – all of this care and concern for not just today,
or opening day, but for
and future populations, will determine the success or failure of the
To end this introduction on a more
pleasant note, think of your favorite city – what makes it that?
The buildings, the public squares, plazas, piazzas? The intimate
little nooks and crannies – the side-streets and cafes with their
sense of human scale, making you comfortable? What, after all, are
these, if not bits and pieces of architecture?