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History and Theory two - buildings in context - Essay Example

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Buildings in Context Introduction The architect, Sir Robert Smirke had designed the British Museum “in the Greek revival style.”1 The building is reflective of classical Greek architecture with lots of columns.2 It is classified as classical because its design has “its roots in antiquity, in the worlds of Greece and Rome, in the temple architecture of the Greek world and in the religious, military and civil architecture of the Romans.”3 The general historical context in which Smirke adopted this style was that, during the period of 1823-1852, when the museum building was being built, the Western society and its architects had just unraveled the architectural wonders of Greece by makin…
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Download file to see previous pages The connection between the British excavations in Greece in the end of 18th century and in the beginning of 19th century and the architecture of British Museum building is not easy to make out for a contemporary onlooker. But still this connection is a simple instance of contextuality in which a building, any building, is immersed. Contextuality The example given above, of the contextuality of architecture draws attention to the question, how we understand a building. It is difficult to decide to what extent, a building fulfills the functional needs of its users and to what extent it simply represents aesthetics, prevailing architectural norms and possibilities, historical and social perceptions, and the patterns of a visual culture. To be more close to reality, a building has to be viewed as a product of its historical and contemporary contexts. Moore has put this concept as, “buildings have become such an integral part of our cultural existence that it is hard to think of them as something separate from our Self.”7 To describe this phenomenon in a more academic language, Moore has said “the patterns and meanings associated with the built environment reflect fundamental cultural concepts uniquely shaped by particular societies at specific times.”8 Types When a building is classified, under a stylistic type like classical Greek or Gothic or Victorian, it involves a tendency of reductionism- to see a building as a product of design alone. But when an attempt is made to move away from the perception of architecture as purely a visual form, a new mode of classification has to be adopted based on types that derive from the functions or activities that happen in and around a building. This is where actually the historic and contemporary context gains importance. This is to accept that we can understand a building by understanding how its relates to the society around it. For example, there can be types such as domestic buildings, religious buildings, governmental buildings, recreational buildings, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, welfare service buildings, educational buildings, health service buildings, prison buildings, military buildings and so on. Here, architecture is defined and explained based on its functional use. A prison building ought to have a design based on its security needs and an army building requires a style based on the needs of discipline. As the concept about law and order, human rights and crime and punishment change over time, the design of a prison building is bound to change. In a similar way, “with the raising of the school leaving age to 11 in 1893 and 12 in 1899, schools had to accommodate more and more pupils, and the later schools were even larger in scale and designed in a more elaborate manner.”9 This is why it is observed that architecture can be understood as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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