Technics and Architecture
The Development of Materials and Systems for Building
477 pp., 8 x 11 in,
- Published: August 26, 1994
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: July 1, 1992
- Publisher: The MIT Press
In this richly illustrated history Cecil Elliott focuses on a neglected aspect of architecture, the tecnics of building form. Concentrating on developments in Europe and North America from the Industrial Revolution to the present, he surveys the ways in which new materials, methods, and systems were discovered and tested, and the ways in which they succeeded or failed. Elliott tells the story in two parts, first covering materials - in chapters on wood, masonry, terracotta, iron and steel, glass, cement, and reinforced concrete - and then systems - including lightning protection, sanitation, lighting, heating, air conditioning, elevators and escalators, fire protection, structural engineering, and acoustics. Each chapter begins with a review of the relevant classical and medieval technology, then focuses on developments over the past two centuries, including related business, political, scientific, or social events where these impinge on development or usage.Technics and Architecture brings together information on a broad range of building materials and systems not found in any existing publication. It identifies the principles underlying technical advances in the building arts, pointing out that significant innovations have depended largely on the discovery of new approaches to the problems rather than the polishing of old mechanisms or handcraft methods; that in most cases advances were more rapid when the urgency of development was imposed by uses outside the application of a material or system in buildings; and that the extent of improvements has been extremely uneven. Throughout, Elliott observes that at any specific time a variety of solutions are used simultaneously, according to industrial conditions and economic factors. This being a human activity, he notes, failures, equivocation, misjudgment, and vainglorious acts also play a part.
Technics and Architecture contains a wealth of valuable information and has the promise of becoming an important book for both architectural history and the history of technology. As a chronicle of the materials, systems, and equipment characteristic of modern buildings, it is a tour de force.
Jeffrey K. Stine, Curator of civil Engineering, Smithsonian Institution
Technics and Architecture presents a straightforward account of the development of different materials, systems and techniques that have influenced building practices and, consequently, architecture. It is the type of book that will be welcomes by all those concerned with the sources of building form. The coverage includes a social and economic perspective on technological issues and a selection of extremely interesting illustrations.
Daniel Schodek, Professor, Hardvard University
Funding provided by: Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.