ARC 232 discussion board: TOPIC 03

TOPIC 03: Iron Architecture (or lack thereof)

The Coalbrookdale Bridge (1779) is widely recognized as the first structure of any kind to put metallic construction on full public view. Yet it did not immediately usher in an era of architects’ adopting iron in vast quantity and as an exposed material in construction and design. Even 100 years later, when Chicago was building its first skyscrapers (and when steel was soon to supplant iron as favored metal), iron was adopted into the framing of tall buildings but not exposed to view. Nor was it on display in other kinds of buildings outside of train sheds and bridges.

What do you think is the most compelling explanation for this lag in the adoption of metallic structure at great scale?

Your response comments on at least two colleagues’ posts due by the Thursday following spring break.

66 Comments

  1. Reply
    Maxwell Starcevich February 27, 2018

    The continuation of revival movements of any architectural character prevented iron from being widely used. The focus on various revivals (Gothic, Classical) did not allow for outward displays of iron. This makes sense, but it is more difficult to answer why iron was not even adopted into most buildings in their internal structure. Iron had been used for centuries prior in Italian cathedrals as thrust-counter tension rods. And there it was visible! If the Renaissance architects used visible iron, how much more should 18th and 19th century architects have used iron at least as invisible structure? Perhaps the architects of the time were not well acquainted with the engineering qualities of iron. Being a new material to many architects, it required time to learn its applications that architects may have felt was better used elsewhere.

    • Reply
      Aaron Foster February 27, 2018

      Classicism and Neo-classicism visually could not handle a iron structure like we saw in the Coalbrookdale bridge. Along with the points you made about it being a new and unknown material, I think architects could not see it as visually appealing with the neo-classical structures being built at the time.

      • Reply
        John Ashworth March 9, 2018

        It seems as if the Renaissance architects only used iron in the most desperate of cases (as tension rods for example), when no other ‘beautiful’ material could fit the job description. I agree with your comment on their inexperience with such a revolutionary material; I don’t think they even bothered to look into it much further because of how different its properties are from what they were used to designing with. It simply wasn’t in their ‘color palette’.

        • Reply
          JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

          Don’t you think that’s a little dismissive? What about iron, do you think, made it desirable?

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      And what’s not “allowed” when iron can take on any form, shape, color, etc.?

  2. Reply
    Aaron Foster February 27, 2018

    The outward display of iron structural components were not in the norm for architecture in the time period. This is the age of different forms of neo-classicism. Elegance and beauty are seen in the classical precedence, which although glorifies the complexity of structure through vaulting in barrel vaults or domes, only shows structure in facade in columns and buttress. With the complexities of Gothic architecture and the formal and refined nature of classicism, the use of exposed iron and structure falls awkwardly in the middle. Strict precedence did not easily allow the use of this modern innovation to appear in design. In the book “Contrasts” by Pugin, it shows the beauty of formal work in the classical era compared to the ugly visuals of the industrial revolution. The population was not ready for the industrial revolution to become the new standard of beauty. The Coalbrookdale bridge was a small step into the beauty that eventually came out of the industrial revolution.

    • Reply
      Andrew Rogers March 2, 2018

      I am curious why so many people rushed to Coalbrookdale to see the bridge and were fascinated by its design, but no one picked up this new technique. it slowly started to become what it is today, but o feel that an accomplishment like the bridge would have kick-started that process.

      • Reply
        John Ashworth March 9, 2018

        I wonder if it was the people’s opinions of the material which influenced architects’ decision to experiment with it. As you point out, having precedents of Classical and Gothic architecture, such a dark (in contrast with common, lighter materials) and malleable material must have been seen as ugly and associated with the nasty factory life. Not the best time for iron to appear.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      The exposure of structure, especially in an ornamental form, is a long-standing given in architecture. Remember that all Classical ornament ultimately derives from a constructive origin. Why doesn’t that approach carry over to a new material?

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Good point about “Contrasts” highlighting the “ugliness” of industry, but Pugin also says that Gothic architecture is a history of invention, welcoming industrial innovations of a certain character. What do you think he might consider as the guidelines for doing so?

  3. Reply
    Elizabeth Van Bruggen February 27, 2018

    I think that iron was not widely used for the same reason that thousands of people flocked to see the first iron bridge, they were shocked and skeptical that it would even work. I think the same can be said about some advancements today because we do not use a material that we have not tested a hundred times for failure and learned all of its properties first. Iron was this grand new material that people knew little about the actual properties of it and what they had seen of it before had been weak and was susceptible to failure. Later when iron was more widely trusted and used people were afraid of the world that might be if we continue to revolutionize things such as a factory skyline instead of a church steeple skyline. This caused the desire to continue to look to ancient precedence for building styles and techniques instead of embracing the new and stark contrasting to delicate beauty, iron. I think that in order to accept this new building material and style an entire mindset would need to take place.

    • Reply
      Andrew Rogers March 1, 2018

      I agree completely, the testing of the material is a huge part. Even today we see companies trying to invent materials that are stronger, lighter, and better for the environment, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of tests before we see new construction techniques and materials being used.

    • Reply
      Maxwell Starcevich March 3, 2018

      I think there is truth behind the reluctance to use new materials. If plastic was demonstrated to be an amazing structural material when configured properly, it would probably take a long time to catch on because we think plastic is pliable and bendy (and it kind of is, but the analogy breaks down). In the same way iron was a material of industry, a brutish metal for war and factories. The thought of bringing such a material into a public building, or worse, a house, may have been disgraceful.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      What’s the source of this “fear” that you suggest, Elizabeth? Is there a more nuanced way you might consider this hesitancy–and are you talking about the public, or profession? both?

  4. Reply
    Andrew Rogers March 1, 2018

    I believe that metallic structure at great scale had a hard time spreading because many people were skeptical. Even today we see this happening. If a new building material is introduced many people are not going to jump on it and build large buildings with it without a significant amount of testing. Larger buildings hold more responsibility, because they have to hold more people. With this being said they need to be sturdier to not only hold the dead load of the building, but also the live load from all of the people. It would make more sense to start with smaller structures to build people’s trust in the idea. The metallic structures were also seen as not as aesthetically pleasing as the previous architecture. With this being said, many people were probably not wanting to build their buildings out of this. I feel that in architecture that we see today, architects and engineers find a way to blend beauty within the structure, but at the time that the metallic structure was new this was not seen and not heard of. Due to these two reasons, this type of structure took a long time to spread.I believe that metallic structure at great scale had a hard time spreading because many people were skeptical. Even today we see this happening. If a new building material is introduced many people are not going to jump on it and build large buildings with it without a significant amount of testing. Larger buildings hold more responsibility, because they have to hold more people. With this being said they need to be sturdier to not only hold the dead load of the building, but also the live load from all of the people. It would make more sense to start with smaller structures to build people’s trust in the idea. The metallic structures were also seen as not as aesthetically pleasing as the previous architecture. With this being said, many people were probably not wanting to build their buildings out of this. I feel that in architecture that we see today, architects and engineers find a way to blend beauty within the structure, but at the time that the metallic structure was new this was not seen and not heard of. Due to these two reasons, this type of structure took a long time to spread.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      What do you think is the role of (changing) aesthetic judgement in this story?

  5. Reply
    Andrew Rogers March 1, 2018

    I believe that metallic structure at great scale had a hard time spreading because many people were skeptical. Even today we see this happening. If a new building material is introduced many people are not going to jump on it and build large buildings with it without a significant amount of testing. Larger buildings hold more responsibility, because they have to hold more people. With this being said they need to be sturdier to not only hold the dead load of the building, but also the live load from all of the people. It would make more sense to start with smaller structures to build people’s trust in the idea. The metallic structures were also seen as not as aesthetically pleasing as the previous architecture. With this being said, many people were probably not wanting to build their buildings out of this. I feel that in architecture that we see today, architects and engineers find a way to blend beauty within the structure, but at the time that the metallic structure was new this was not seen and not heard of. Due to these two reasons, this type of structure took a long time to spread.

    • Reply
      Maxwell Starcevich March 3, 2018

      I think that this is spot on. We are reluctant to try new things, let alone put our trust in an unseen architect. People had been used to seeing massive masonry buildings all their lives, so visible steel frames were out of the question. It does make me wonder why the architects did not hide iron inside of masonry faced buildings, as that would likely allay any concerns of the public. Perhaps the architects themselves were reluctant to try new construction techniques?

  6. Reply
    Adam Wise March 5, 2018

    The primary reason for iron’s slow adoption as an aesthetic element is the rift in the architectural profession with the introduction of civil engineering. Never before was there a profession that dealt entirely with structural design and load calculation; structure had simply existed as a minor aspect of the architect’s professional scope. In this, iron saw its primary application as a structural element. The architectural profession with more conventional projects, in general, stuck with what was familiar (traditional materials). However, with the onset of skyscrapers, more extreme structures, a new collaboration between these professions was now required, a collaboration that was slow to develop and reluctant to express itself, thus resulting in concealed iron structural elements.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      You sure “minor” is the right word?
      How/why do you suppose that architects ceded this responsibility to another “profession”?

  7. Reply
    John Ashworth March 9, 2018

    I believe there was a mixture of reasons for the slow adaptation of metal/iron structure at a large scale. Though some of it probably was due to skepticism of the newly discovered material being structurally safe, I believe most of the hesitancy to include it in exteriors was due to contemporary views on appropriate elegance and beauty.

    With the rise of factories came places away from your house where you’d go to work. I think people didn’t want to associate a certain type of building, e.g. their home, with the terribly dirty, unhealthy work environment of the machine-driven factory.
    Aside from the division between work vs. home, I believe a perception of ‘appropriate’ beauty influenced whether or not to use exposed iron. Places that exemplified and housed iron at work in newly-invented machines, such as train stations, would have an abundance of exposed iron for it would’ve been beneficial to help represent that revolutionary, dynamic material. But for a structure that wasn’t as involved in mechanical motion, I believe people still perceived metal as being ugly in the exterior usage.

    Even today, people don’t still don’t seem to like the aesthetic appeal the metal of a container wall provides, no matter how strong it is. On the flip-side, an obvious example of its abundant usage is the Eiffel Tower, constructed 100 years after the Coalbrookdale bridge, which people first hated, and slowly got used to the idea of its beauty. In the end, people apparently didn’t care for it being exposed, but rather appreciate its functionality in keeping structures standing.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      The Eiffel tower is an interesting case in point. Is this more a matter of public perception, or professional bias, do you suppose?

  8. Reply
    Ian Burns March 9, 2018

    I think the most compelling explanation for this lack of outwardly displayed iron in buildings is due to its connotation of being a structural material. In the case of train sheds, bridges, and other predominantly structural constructions, it makes the most sense of the iron being displayed, because the iron is the structure. For other buildings, however, such as an office or commercial building where the structure of the building is generally hidden, the iron is also hidden. Architects such as Mies van der Rohe have designed [ugly] buildings where the structure is displayed on the exterior facade, though many centuries later. With this being said, though, I feel like the question should be more like such: why was iron, in its day of introduction as a probable construction material, only considered in designs for its structural uses and, furthermore, lack of display on exterior facades? And for this, I have no answer.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      But structure itself has long been “displayed”–the oldest traditions by their very nature are all about exposed structure, tho it’s not metallic. So what’s the difference with this new stuff?

  9. Reply
    Desmond Wahlfeld March 9, 2018

    I believe that across time iron developed an ideology as a material of which was to be used as a tool rather than an aesthetic and was believed to be simply used as such. As a nail was to be hidden and forgotten rather than celebrated, iron and other “use as need be” materials weren’t commonly seen as what was “architectural” but rather structural and to be used to fasten, strengthen, and make those “architectural” materials such as wood, stone, and concrete more structurally sound. In addition to not being a conventional building material, imperfect iron has the ability to corrode, both reducing the structural capabilities of the structure and further reducing its overall appearance. These ideas combined with the conventional architectural design of the time, iron wasn’t as glorified as a design element but more so reserved for structural purposes.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Reconsider what you’ve said there–iron can’t have an “ideology,” only people can. Does that help you reframe your own thoughts? Especially considering how frequently details of construction are the basis for ornament in Classicism, Gothic era, etc.

      • Reply
        Desmond Wahlfeld March 13, 2018

        Improper word choice, my apology. It is true that only people can have an Ideology, I believe a more proper phrasing would have been “Iron developed a conventional use as a tool rather than an aesthetic material”

  10. Reply
    Taylor Wills March 10, 2018

    I feel the obvious answer for this gap in the use of structural metal is our discomfort with change. People were accustomed to the masonry buildings at the time and steel structure has a completely different appearance. That said, after the Coalbrookdale Bridge was built it was marveled over, yet there was still a large period of time for it to be used widely elsewhere. This may be because of a disconnect in architect’s education and the newfound technology. Abraham Darby was an ironworker and his practice and techniques may have taken some time before becoming integrated into the architect’s traditional education and practice.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Why is that the case, do you suppose? Is there a general expected “lag” in adoption, for anything? Why?

    • Reply
      Monica Medina March 14, 2018

      I think you bring up a great point. Its so hard to use something that you are not accustom to, in this case iron especially when what you have been working with has been working so well up to that point. The architects of civic buildings most likely didn’t want to experiment with something they were not comfortable with and take the chance that it would end up poorly.

  11. Reply
    Jacob Collins March 10, 2018

    I think that there are multiple reasons that metal was not adopted as rapidly as some would think, but the most likely reason, could simply be is that they did not know about it when it was in its early stages and then as time went on architects wanted to stay with the methods of construction that they knew, because most architects are stubborn. Most architects may have not known how to construct buildings that were made from steel.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Go a little deeper there. We see tremendous stylistic change from the Industrial Revolution onward ;that argues against “stubbornness” as a reason.

    • Reply
      Abacuc Rodriguez March 14, 2018

      I agree with your statement on architects being stubborn at times. Architects wanted to stick with what they know and iron was new. Don’t you think that the social hierarchy could have also had an affect on the use of iron? We see iron in many middle class buildings, but there is a possibility that iron in high class buildings was viewed negatively at the time.

  12. Reply
    Monica Medina March 10, 2018

    I think the best explanation as to why it took so long to adopt metallic structure was because people were skeptical of the whole system. In one of the videos that we watched from the syllabus, it explained that when the bridge that was designed by Abraham Darby was first finished, it became such a tourist attraction because it was the first time that they have seen an incredible feature made from cast iron. I think that the designers and builders were all waiting for more people to experiment with this type of material at a larger scale to see if it was actually reliable and flexible. Another reason why they most likely took a while to use this material is because this represented more of the modern era. During the 19th century, the modern era was viewed with ugliness and greed. So I’m assuming that a lot of designers and builders steered away from the modern type of building and design work. They wanted to stay with more medieval which was more in tune with the classical features and faith related aspects. Because of these factors, this was probably why it took longer for the adoption of the metallic structures.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Yet it takes off pretty quickly in many applications, like factories and train sheds. Why not more prominent civic buildings?

      • Reply
        Monica Medina March 14, 2018

        Maybe the architects that worked on civic buildings and more industrial, factory buildings worked separately. Maybe these architects didn’t work off each other or with each other therefore not keeping in communication the efficiency of certain material, in this case iron, that they have discovered. Therefore, leaving the architects that work on civic buildings skeptical of metallic structure.

  13. Reply
    Jenny Iverson March 10, 2018

    The main reason why it took so long for iron to be accepted structurally and aesthetically is because it was outside of people’s comfort zones. Throughout this course, we have seen a common call-back to precedents and past architectural eras, namely through the ‘neo-’ and ‘revival’ movements. This was done, for the most part, because architects enjoyed these eras and found it progressive to look back to what has been done and pick and choose the successes to be used in new architecture. And, while this is a completely valid way of designing, it indicates a sense of comfort in not having to create an original design. Regarding the usage of iron, it not only took a while for architects to be comfortable with the new material structurally, but also aesthetically, and for this very reason. People are often fearful of what is new and not comfortable with change from what they know. Iron was a change and a step towards the future and in a generation of architects looking to the past for inspiration, it was a risk they were not immediately willing to take.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      I think you need to go deeper there. Remember that in their time frames, the Baroque and Neo-Classical architects (and others) were designing some radical stuff. Borromini & Soane, in particular, were especially innovative. So for their audiences, “comfort” and “fear” are not part of the equation.

  14. Reply
    Abacuc Rodriguez March 11, 2018

    During this time people were skeptical on iron. The Coalbrookdale Bridge was the first ever iron bridge and it spanned a good distance. People came from all over to see if this bridge would hold up because they were skeptical that it could actually work. However this has been seen throughout history and even today. When a new material is introduced, we need to see it succeed multiple times before we use it. Architects during this time were scared to take a risk in using iron especially at a big scale. They decided to go the safe route until iron became the norm. Architects stayed with the familiar not only structurally but also aesthetically. At this time metallic structures were not aesthetically pleasing and Architects went with the familiar. The Coalbrookdale Bridge was only the start of the Industrial Revolution, so architects were still looking at the past. Once the Industrial Revolution started to pick up steam iron became more familiar and it became the norm.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      But it is used, very quickly, in numerous mills, factories, and train sheds. Why not other buildings?

    • Reply
      Jenny Iverson March 13, 2018

      There is a commonality in all of the structures that Dr. Amundson mentions and that is that their purpose was not to have people reside in them, but they were created in response to the Industrial Revolution and used to make money/house things that made money. Iron was not used in more residential and civic buildings, partially due to the associationism of the grit and darkness of the Revolution, but also because iron does not suit the ‘experience’ of these buildings. It is a cheap, strong material that does the job, but does not fit these buildings’ designs as iron lacks the ‘experience’ that architects desired to achieve with these buildings. They were not meant to be simple boxes, but had purposes beyond this and were more thoughtfully designed than the more urban structures characteristic of the Revolution because they had to be. It’s the whole point of there being an architect, otherwise engineers would just design everything. We add a layer to designs that goes deeper into the human experience and interaction with a space. So, perhaps, it is not a matter of comfort in the designing done by the architects, but an underlying intention behind every design to elicit a feeling and allow people to have a level of comfort in the spaces that architects designed.

  15. Reply
    Gabe David March 11, 2018

    During the time in which iron first made its debut architects were far more comfortable in working to bring back past precedents. The Neo-Classical and Revival movements sought to reintroduce ancient designs that were successful, and try to implement them in a modern setting. The introduction of iron gave way to a new type of architecture, in which the structure could be showcased and flaunted. Beforehand this was something unheard of as the structure was always concealed, leaving the ornate furnishings to decorate the building. I imagine there must have been an apprehension for the architects ion that time to dabble in something completely new to them. There was probably a fear of being labeled as strange to use a material that, at the time, was not pleasing to look at. Then there was also the issue of having to learn the strength, integrity, and uses of the material. This would require more study and experimentation that architects would not have wanted to devote time to.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Is it really a matter of “comfort”?
      Consider that the whole history of architecture is a history of structural design.
      Architects spend lots of time innovating in style. Why do you think that wouldn’t carry over to adoption of a new material?

  16. Reply
    JT (Jeffrey) Perek March 11, 2018

    The most compelling explanation for the hesitancy to use metallic structure at a great scale is what metal structure was associated with. Metal structure was associated with the industrial revolution. The period, at its best was seen as strictly practical; and at its worst, a symbol of capitalism and greed. The avoidance of metal in structures was to pursue symbolism that was more noble and beautiful. An example of this would be the House of Parliament in London. It is built in a medieval gothic style which would have been symbolic of a faith based community as opposed to modern industrialism.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      But the Industrial Revolution was also making a lot of people very rich, expanding the middle class, and increasing luxury for them. Surely they are not concerned about rampant capitalism and greed. And as for your example, Parliament is stuffed with iron (and concrete, even). So what’s really going on here?

    • Reply
      Desmond Wahlfeld March 14, 2018

      You seem to be slightly nudging in the same direction as to what I was attempting to state in my post. I do think that the association of iron and the machine was one of the factors that iron was resisted. Stated in the Kahn Academy video at 1:30 The narrators discuss why the people of the 19th century perceived their Modern era as ugly, marred with factories and engines, the use of iron would only harken to this leading to the people of the 19th century to return to older architectural styles.

    • Reply
      Abacuc Rodriguez March 14, 2018

      I do agree in your statement that metal structures were avoided because they were not seen as beautiful. Metal was used in factories and other middle class buildings, but for the high class architects looked back to what they knew. Architects at the time did not want to shy away from what they knew and explore a new avenue, which in this case is iron. Wouldn’t you agree that some of the hesitation to incorporate iron more came from the stubbornness of the architects?

  17. Reply
    Riselle Iris Leong March 12, 2018

    Although the Industrial Revolution brought many new ideas and wide array of new materials for architects to use, the dominant style and mindset of what beauty still strongly looked back to the past along with new found cultural architectures from different colonies. Iron, though it led to innovative construction methods, looked fragile and tasteless to the public. Its thin structure in comparison to usual massive structures looked unstable, graceless, and rough. The Coalbrookdale Bridge was a pioneer in its use of exposed metal structure as its aesthetic. It was introduced so early on during the Age of Eclecticism and remnants of Neo-Classicism and Romanticism that stray far from polluted outlook of factories and cities in the Industrial Revolution. Their aesthetics turned toward elegance, organic shape, and the picturesque: people with this set idea of modern beauty found this bridge terrible instead and less refined in its use of iron. Architects who on these same ideas and aesthetics also found it safer to stick to the traditional methods of construction and materials lest they take a risk of poor design and safety. Coalbrookdale Bridge was way ahead of its time and contradicted by the dominant idea of beauty nevertheless a glimpse into later uses and and inventions.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      Where did the standards of taste come from?
      And what makes you think architects want to be “safe”?

      • Reply
        Riselle Iris Leong March 15, 2018

        From what I have read and observed, the standards of taste were often led by scholars, patrons, and influential organizations and individuals and how they react to their present surroundings and what beauty, innovation, history, and value meant in these artistic applications and to what extent. With the increased circulation of books and knowledge as well would have even more contribution to their standards of tastes as they start to read about the picturesque, views and design of other countries and well as historic works such as from the Renaissance or Roman Empire. In a domino effect society in response to the dark side of the Industrial Revolution and increasing fervor of nationalism would have leaned more towards standards derived from the past architectural works instead.

        To correct myself, architects would have been willing to experiment with iron in their work, but because they ultimately work for the patron, they would have to follow their tastes and what beauty and value meant in this time period culturally and philosophically. It also was a material very unfamiliar to architectural use that it would have been a more gradual time to work iron into their architecture more.

  18. Reply
    Diana Romero March 12, 2018

    The transition from baroque to the industrial revolution period was an experimentation of materials, and usually iron was only used for ornamental works and hardware. Iron was not used in great scale because there was not a deeper knowledge about how to work with it and how to create an hybrid of the material to create a more efficient structure. Engineers were the ones who started to experiment with different materials, and engineers did not separate much from architects until the industrial revolution. Architects of this period were not sure about using cast iron since it is a brittle material, but once engineers discovered new ways to make this material more useful, architects adopted it for creating aesthetic structures.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      But why does it take so long for them to do so? Engineers are much quicker to apply it in vast public settings; architects, not so much.

    • Reply
      Jenny Iverson March 13, 2018

      To take this further and also try to answer Dr. Amundson’s question, one of the main differences between engineers and architects is the appearance and ‘feeling’ of our designs. Though engineers can make beautiful things, architects are taught to think about the ‘experience’ of what we design and how people will interact with a space. So, a reason why engineers would apply iron more quickly than architects is because of aesthetics. To the engineer, iron is just a strong material. To the architect, it is not as aesthetically refined as marble or stone and does not provide the experience that he was trying to achieve through his building, be it out of preference or that the ‘feeling’ of iron had yet to be further explored and defined. Architects put a lot of thought into designing buildings and iron had not yet fit what they were trying to achieve.

  19. Reply
    Alex Karidas March 12, 2018

    The reason why iron wasn’t adopted quickly as a norm for architectural aesthetic is most likely because we view change as scary. At the time the Coalbrookdale Bridge was a marvel because it tested new material as a primary form for architecture. During the Industrial Revolution the use for iron was vastly expanded for production sakes. This could also be a contributing factor as to why architects did not immediately flock to use iron as formal aesthetic. Iron at the time was linked with industry and manufacturing. This is also a good show as to why architects did not use iron because they did not want their design to be compared to the industry.

    • Reply
      JhenniferAmundson March 12, 2018

      And yet we see an avalanche of change in the 18th c., in particular in theory/style. So if architects do not “fear” change there, how does that explain the material issue?

    • Reply
      Diana Romero March 14, 2018

      I agree with your thought of architects being afraid of using iron because they did not know the aesthetic result they were going to have. In addition to your response about the unknown potential that iron had to create beautiful structures, maybe architects were not only afraid but they simply thought that iron could be only used as part of the structure of a building, or as you said, in the industrial world. Not only they were scared of trying something new, but in comparison with other materials they just couldn’t find it appealing to the eye.

  20. Reply
    Brooke Nickell March 12, 2018

    Personally the most compelling reason that Gothic revival took president over steel structures in style was the cultural associations that were made between medieval and industrial eras. The industrial revolution was modern and efficient. Neither of those were qualities that church or government or any traditional institution wished to imbue. Iron and other metals were symbols of mass production having been developed in during the industrial era and widely used in factories that were known for their, noise, smoke and a haste about which tasks should be complete. The iron was strong and is was cheap. Because of its functionality is was a wise choice for internal structure, but was covered. The government and church especially wished to hark back to a time when care and years of study and work went into creating things of value in the facades of their buildings. There was a stability in the heavily detailed faces of traceried windows. The cultural associations of the Gothic and classical were preferred for institutions of repute.

    • Reply
      Desmond Wahlfeld March 14, 2018

      I found it interesting how you brought up how iron was cheap during this time and things were being mass produced. Maybe these connotations detracted from the beauty of iron to those in the 19th century, leading patrons and designers to view structures that used iron as less valuable buildings?

    • Reply
      Riselle Iris Leong March 15, 2018

      That is an interesting take on the connotations iron usually brought to people during this period. Tradition, symbolism, and face value greatly a people’s outlook of beauty and design. In the midst of innovation, how did it not inspire people to seek innovation in design and beauty and rather go back to the past; had the Industrial Revolution not look so dark, dirty, and depressing would they have preferred to use exposed iron as a detail? Also, would their cultural associations of the past to the present be a way to boast the value and lineage of the nation?

  21. Reply
    Jordan Taylor March 12, 2018

    The reason iron was not widely popular, even following successes like the Coalbrookdale Bridge, was primarily due to ongoing revivals of past architectural movements, like Classicism and Gothic. The vision of a revival is focused on recalling past beauty and iron did not fit that vision. It carried a connotation of industry that paled in comparison to the beauty of classicism through the eyes of establishment patrons.
    In addition, some painted industry as anti-church, with dirty smokestacks designed to taint pristine steeples. This very well could have created tension and forced patrons with their architects to choose a side. Seeing as the revival of Classical and Gothic styles was something much more familiar, understood and favorable to the church, it would make sense that architects backed by wealthy establishment patrons would lean more towards architectural revival over architectural pioneering.

  22. Reply
    Jarod Pletcher March 12, 2018

    I believe that this question is best answered by examining the architecture that did use cast iron later on in architectural history. Across the nineteenth century we do see a few examples of iron being shown as an aesthetic feature of buildings, such as the architecture of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Here cast iron is used in buildings which show an appreciation for Gothic architecture. Cast iron yields itself best to spindly and curving forms, since it is brittle and must support its own immense weight. It lacked the ability to be used in long, straight, or thick patterns. The forms it did work well with closely resembled the forms of Gothic architecture. But in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, architects and designers still viewed the Gothic buildings as antiquated and primitive. They saw the Gothic buildings as lacking the perfect harmony and humanism that had informed the work of the Renaissance and Baroque architects they admired. Architects that appreciated Classical design claimed that it was objectively beautiful and therefore the Gothic buildings were not beautiful. As a result, few buildings of the nineteenth century used iron as an aesthetic feature. While it does appear briefly in the architecture lexicon, the structural capability of steel was quickly realized and that became the focus of architectural innovation.

  23. Reply
    Timothy White March 12, 2018

    I think the reason it took so long for metallic building materials to be utilized because metal was not as readily available as other materials, and because the understanding of the material was still developing, though the properties of iron were known. People paying for buildings would have a hard time considering a building material they have never seen before. Since the builders of the day have never used the material before the cost would be higher for the labor. The blast furnace had just arrived in England in the 15th century and the quality and purity of the alloy was variable and inconsistent. Coke furnaces, an innovation from the Coalbrookdale furnace, increased the production capacity of the furnace in the early 18th century leading up to the building of the bridge, but the price of iron would have been far greater than to build with traditional materials, especially if there was not a local smelting furnace. Using metal at a grand scale had such a lag time because time was needed for the material to be developed far enough to be cost effective before people and organizations paying for buildings would pay for it.

    • Reply
      Monica Medina March 14, 2018

      I completely agree with your thoughts on why it took so long for metallic building materials to be utilized. Its very hard to be one of the first to use the material that hasn’t been experimented with and have the potential for it to fail. You bring up a good point about the efficiency of the cost. It didn’t cross my mind that the cost efficiency was something that still had to be developed, and that very well may be one of the reasons for the lag of the material.

    • Reply
      Diana Romero March 14, 2018

      I agree with your thought about why did it take so long. Architects did not take the risk because they did not handle this material as well as engineers did. Engineers started to experiment, and by doing this they discovered better ways to improve the flexibility, and strength of iron. I do agree with the fact that the cost efficiency influences in the lag of the material.

  24. Reply
    Anna Wightman March 12, 2018

    The Coalbrookdale Bridge was a unique development that segued into the Industrial Revolution. I find it most interesting that this bridge originally acted as an advertisement, for iron itself, the new technique of smelting iron, and the Darby’s business. This innovation was rare, and new during this time, so it makes a lot of sense that such a new idea would take persuasion through advertising and a visual example. Almost all of the styles of architecture that we have studied, from the Renaissance to Baroque, have been interpretations of the past. They have been imaginative, and put their own spin on classical ideas, but they have always been somewhat safe and familiar in the way they display them. I think the use of iron was one of the first very risky developments in architecture. It was not widely accepted because it was different that anything that was seen in architecture previously and therefore no one really new much about its strength or integrity. Because of this, it did not catch on as quickly as other classical ideas had. It took a while, but once iron’s strength and efficiency was realized, it became one of the most popular, widely known structural elements of modern day.

    • Reply
      Riselle Iris Leong March 15, 2018

      The unfamiliarity of iron as a building material, especially in its architectonic language, would have definitely kept people more wary about how they use architecture especially in the trends and celebration of historic architecture. I wonder if developers, influential people, and wealthy owners would have daringly celebrated iron as an architectural element, would people have used it more? Would that be enough to convince others or just dashed to the side?

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