Regional Influence of Architecture
In order to be beneficial, architectural projects should embody a strong social concern. Apparently, every human creation just like architecture is for the benefits of the human beings. Architecture is a physical expression on how the government, various institutions or business sectors respond to the needs of its citizens. From hospitals, courthouses and parks, from town halls to health centers, each articulates an important aspect of human life. Without this social dimension, human beings are reduced to an assortment of individual private pursuits and selfishness, with no notion of community or the greater good or purpose. Architecture, which people always incorporate with the establishment of buildings, has a critical role in the expression of providing the society with structure and construction that mirrors, regulates and defines the society.
In contemporary world however, the world of architecture is slowly retreating from social responsiveness since others embrace this as a commodity and form of entertainment for personal gain and consumption. In urban setting especially from the West, whose lifestyle is dominated by industrialization and technology, architecture is already a common component thus often approach in commercialization projecting a saleable and extravagant image. However those societies who are still attach in their national identity, tradition and culture, their architecture often illustrates community, unity and simplicity. These kinds of communities respond in a perceptive way to traditional patterns of life complementing contemporary trends and needs. Nonetheless, each society, whether it is in the midst of urbanization or traditional lifestyle, has a great influence in architecture as it adjusts to people’s routines and standard of living. In this paper, the issue of architectural meaning is studied by which it will be explored how the some region’s tradition and lifestyle greatly influence their architectural designs.
Regional influence inevitably affects architecture. Regional influence, which in geography is basically a medium-scale area of land or water, includes physical characteristics, human characteristics and functional characteristics of the land. In Eastern civilization, tradition and culture are very much apparent in their architecture. Though a new regional architecture emerges in the form of trade, financial and political arrangements, in Asia continent specifically in East Asian countries like China, Korea and Japan, weather, religion and lifestyle motivates their construction and design. Their architecture specifically houses, temples and public resting areas are known for its wooden structure, stone walls and white plastered walls. Moreover, their main religion Buddhism and tea ceremonies are a great part of their history that apparently dominated the designs. Those that have been created in the past that illustrate this kind of culture are still well preserved over the years.
In Japan, architects greatly consider climate and season changes. Since Japan has long hot summers, “wood is a popular choice for material because it adjusts well to earthquakes and works well with season changes (cool in summer, warm in winter)” (Young & Yew 6). However in the development of Japanese sense of competitiveness and commercialism, they seek ways on how to build earthquake resistant structures. One of the biggest architectural struggles in Japan is the frequency of the earthquakes. The use of wood can not be totally logical and reliable. In late 1960s however, Japan used the latest earthquake technology from the West to build their first skyscraper, the Kasumegaseki Building (Young & Yew). Short after the success of the establishment, other skyscrapers followed. Meanwhile, watchtowers are also one of the main architectural attractions in Japan as it reflects rich history. In 16th century castles were built due to the penetration of “feudal lords into Japanese society as the lords’ sought to enhance their prestige with them as well as for military defense” (Young & Yew 6). However, after the Meiji period or Enlightened Rule in the early 20th century as the Western and European market dominated Asia and as Japan is starting to become competitive, many kinds of stone and bricks were brought in from Western architectural influences. In contemporary, “Japan is blending traditional Japanese architecture with modern technology and new materials in the construction of new buildings” (Young & Yew 8). In some of the rural areas, “Japanese houses didn’t have screens to separate rooms; they were just open rooms with little or no privacy” (Young & Yew 6). Moreover their traditional designs perceive the inside and outside of a house as continuous elements, that is two inseparable environments. This can be seen in the “Japanese veranda (engawa) which is essentially a transitional space for going in or out of the house and the doors, windows and alcoves are situated for the most advantageous viewing of the gardens or artwork, in a seated position”.
In China since tea ceremonies is popular then, many tea cottages are built to reflect this lifestyle. “Slender wood elements, simplicity with no distracting ornaments, and harmony between the cottage and the landscape garden are indicative of sukiya-zukui” (Fu & Steinhardt). The architecture for the purpose of Chinese’ social life is often associated with nature since communion with it is considered sacred and significant for their spirituality. In Korea, China and Japan, Shinto architecture is one of their identities. Shintoism is the belief that every natural object (seas, mountains, volcanoes etc.) lives a deity. Shinto shrines are built in those cultures where people can freely worship. “Two major styles for the main hall consist of a temporary main hall and one that has a simple shape derived from the granaries and storehouses of ancient Japan. The temporary main hall is one that was built for special occasions to house the kami” (Fu & Steinhardt). In the continent of Asia overall, tropical climate is the point of departure for most architecture. For this reason, architecture can be entirely stylistic that can resolve environmental comfort problems. More and more architectural establishments are guzzling more energy resources- stylistically open ended air conditioned buildings. There are also architectural styles “that blitherly ignores all aspects of context, climate, even human needs—this is called “emotivism architecture” in technical term” (Bay & Ong 4)
During 19th century, the architecture in Western countries like Germany, France, Spain and America was greatly influence by nationalism and type of governance. “During the French Revolution when Europe was recognize as sovereign for the first time, they immediately express their idea of stone in architecture” (Bergdoll 137). The construction of palaces, cathedrals and churches, which embody the power of nobility and the church, is one of the architectural trends. They also established extravagant buildings not just to impress the whole world but to illustrate their sense of nationalism, which in that time is very significant in the midst of imperialism and colonialism. They created national museums to display artistic treasures and patrimony, national libraries to store the products of their great writers, academies or learning institutions to provide education for those elites, and extravagant parliaments for assemblies and meetings of the representatives. “Apparently historicism and eclecticism became the dominant architectural
Trends. Thus nationalism provided architects with new assignments and profoundly affected stylistic matters” (Bergdoll 140). However, modern architecture now dominated the West, which is the complementary combination of raw materials from different culture all over the world are now artistically applied for architecture. The combination of culture though is most of the time manifested only in the buildings found in major urban centers. But the influence of the nineteenth century nationalism still dominated some domestic architecture. “Primitive vernacular examples, for instance traditional farmhouses, functioned as the main source of inspiration for modest constructions such as suburban villas and country houses” (Bergdoll).
Meanwhile, in Europe art and architecture, form and style often reflect the artist’s desire for freedom of expression, personal art and the effort to imitate the nature’s appearance.
Unlike Europe, the form and style of an African architecture depend primarily on the traditions and beliefs of the designer’s culture. Africa is exceptionally diverse in terms of architecture as it reflects great history. Their isolation in civilization before they were being dominated by the white culture gives them little influence from the architectural designs outside their sphere. In terms of materials used, African people totally depend to the most accessible materials available in their environment. Clay, plant fibers and wood are abundant in most of the continent, though in Southern Africa wood is relatively scarce. On the other hand, good clay deposits are readily available in the river beds just like in the long Niger River of Nigeria thus ceramic sculptures and pottery are truly a big part of the townspeople’s lifestyle and architecture. Meanwhile, soaptones are greatly available in Northern South Africa, where the Shona race resides. Either in history and contemporary, Africans carve a variety of human figures and animals using soapstone. In terms of grave posts, Africans particularly used wood that is especially hard as well as termite proofs to ensure its durability for many years. In rural settlements, the structure of domestic houses may be round, rectangular, or semicircular which are mostly made of sun-dried mud brick and stone. “They arrange their houses in a circular, fenced compound, and they keep their cattle in the middle of the compound to assure its safety” (Elleh). Sahelian architecture, which can be identified by its broader styles, is manifested in the West area of Africa (Briggs, Harvey & Zandbergen 79) as well. But the towns and states have buildings that are larger, closer and more elaborate than the rural areas. These buildings serve the purpose of government, communication, trade and social activities from diverse culture. In the 17th and 18th centuries, “slave trade with the white culture turned this city into a major trading and commercial center” (Elleh). Therefore British and American styles stand next to indigenous mud brick buildings in African urban areas.
Basically in African art before the incorporation of beauty and personal expression, they first consider its function and purpose. Beauty is a significant attribution especially to architectures that acts as an intermediary between the human world and the world of the spirits. Africans significantly believes that external beauty makes an object pleasing to the spirits thus the greater possibility that they will be blessed more. But for them beauty is not only based on physical but “beauty include balance, clarity of form, straightness, exaggeration or distortion, and stylized or symbolic depiction” (Elleh).
Islamic architecture on the other hand is a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam religion and culture. In domestic spheres, the building manifests the wealth and social status that lives in it. The Iranian Muslims for example deeply penetrated their value and respect to their religious leaders. They decorated the interior and external surfaces of religious buildings and mosque minarets with the most beautiful and extravagant tiles in terms of color, design and durability. These buildings nowadays are now considered museums and art work. In Muslim mosques, inscriptions have been written in colored tiles by the most famous calligraphers. There are four known Islamic architectural types: the Mosque or the Muslim’s place of worship, the Tomb or the repository of the dead’s remains, the grand Palace or the royal residence of high ranking dignitaries and the Fort or the military constructions designed for warfare and military bases.
In the history of the Islamic architecture, buildings or structures especially from those from the upper class are protected by high stone walls. Moreover, Muslims used to established high defensive walls to protect their privacy and agricultural land that are often invaded by the neighboring communities. However the arrival of explosive shells and cannons in 19th century in the Middle East countries paved the way for another stage in architecture. Due to the bombardment of explosive shells, “the military engineers evolved the polygonal style and design by which ditch became deeper and vertically sided cut directly into the native rock or soil, laid out as a series of straight lines creating the central fortified area” (Brumfield). The Muslim’s ditches and tunnels that are created in history are primarily for defense against nuclear and explosive attacks. In 20th century however, steel and concrete fortifications and ditches were common because of the advances in the modern warfare after World War 1. Apparently faith, rationality and creativity are the three elements of Islamic architecture. “Islamic architecture has been called the “architecture of the veil” because the beauty lies in the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms) which are not visible from the outside (street view)” (Brumfield). Furthermore, the use of grandiose are intended to convey power and position.
In Russia, one of the architectural identities of Russia is their typical onion shaped dome. Perhaps of all the mentioned architectural styles from different region and continent, Russia has the most advance technology in terms of using the stone as the major element in architecture. Stone was already in use in the Cathedral of St. Sophia (1018-1030) though before that churches were made largely of wood. After the establishment of early churches, another distinctive Russian style emerges—“steeply sloping roofs and high walls, a proliferation of domes, and later a compartmentalization of interior space into many aisles and apses” (Brumfield). Just like other communities, religion deeply influences Russian architecture during its initial constructions. In contemporary, the emergence of different ideas and the coming of the radical and abstract artists like Casimir Malevich, Mikhail Larinov, Marc Chagall, and Alexander Archipenko created great transition as they introduce new materials and styles derived from different cultures. Russia also introduced the theory of geometric abstract art that greatly influence contemporary and modern architecture.
In examining the architectural achievement of diverse cultures, its both vernacular and monumental works, one can see that there are basic commonalities in all human communities. They are often inspired and motivated by their religion, weather and the most accessible materials that are readily available. But modernity and the continuous development of industrialization and invention that makes this world a narrower place to live in; it makes architecture to truly evolve– from wood, stone and mud used of materials from the traditional influence of the traditional style until the emergence of sheet metal, glass and plastic. The main concept though in this paper is that, human standard of living and the evolvement of human ideas greatly affects the activity of designing, constructing and other physical structures. Architecture is the product of human creativity and human’s obsession for survival and comfort.
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