BEFORE STEEL, THE INTRODUCTION OF STRUCTURAL IRON AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

BEFORE STEEL, THE INTRODUCTION OF STRUCTURAL IRON AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.

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The 19th century is generally considered the time frame in which the disciplines of architecture and engineering irrevocably parted ways. Although the development of civil engineering as an independent discipline had already begun before the industrial revolution, it proceeded rapidly during the period of industrialisation in conjunction with several other influences. Among those were processes of social transformation in Europe, the development of specialised fields of activity in all professions as a function of changed conditions of production, fundamental technology euphoria in the widespread belief in progress, as well as the development and application of new materials. Especially the building material iron and the associated new types of constructions and typologies can be characterised as typical for that phase of industrialisation. A period of experimentation and discovery occurred in the quest for appropriate methods and forms of construction - built objects continuously confronted physical and cultural boundaries. At a time when the engineers increasingly oriented to the physical sciences, the new homogenous, formable building material symbolically represented the promise of new, groundbreaking theories and precise computing methods in the comprehensive monitoring and new definition of the bearing structure. The architectural potential represented by a freely formable iron mass opened up a great number of forms which often oriented to classicism or the Romanesque. Within architecture during the second half of the 19th century the stubborn striving towards old styles in the context of the use of the new material from a straightforward, engineering standpoint lead to an often deplored architectural crisis.

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