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Building like our past


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So far in architecture school, I've learned a great deal about new processes and technologies responsible for more efficient construction of buildings, both complex and simple.

With the dawn of modernism, we saw a lot of "manufactured buildings" Components were mass produced or pre-fabricated in factories and warehouses prior to being delivered to the site. It allowed for quick modular construction of apartment blocks and corporate skyscrapers. However, many traditionalists saw this as the enemy of architecture. They believed that technology was only creating oversimplified, bland, and cold architecture that was a complete detachment of the classical principles of good architecture. In the end, these people were right as modernism died and its idealisms became failures in the architecture history book. But the systems employed to construct buildings did not phase out and continued in the post modern eras. Although post moderism completely rejects the ideas of the modernist era, it does utilize some of the principles of pre-depression architecture and a few classical examples. These include buildings such as 150 W. Jefferson and Comerica Tower. However, post modernism still never reached the degree of complexity and beauty of architecture seen in 1920s-30's. This may be because complexity and detail was not part of the principles of post modernist architecture, or because technology was still behind.

Today, many people ask whether we will build the grand Book Cadillacs, Penobscots, and Guardians. Many people would say no because to build structures this monumental would be a huge expense and require years of construction. Although this is true, I think we've forgotten how far technology has improved. While it was seen as an enemy to classical architecture during the modernist era, it can possibly be one of the things that will save it today. All around the United States there are excellent examples of pre-cast or pre-assembled structures resemebling some of the best pre-depression examples. Not only is it impressive, but it's relatively in-expensive. Most of the on-site labor is eliminated dropping construction costs and time. Machines are now capable of producing the same sculptured brick detail and carvings as artisans did back in the roaring twenties.

Many would argue that some existing examples of prefabicated representations of older buildings appear cheaply done and "Disneylike." While they might be, those buildings do not represent the full capabilites of technology available today. Many of these examples don't even make use of the quality materials that architects and contractors should be using. As more people take pride in the structures they inhabit, it appears the quality of materials is improving. With the aid of technology, I would argue that the grand structures of the past are more possible to build today than ever.

Your thoughts?


This apartment building in Ann Arbor was constructed with pre-cast concrete and brick panels. The panels were machine built in a factory and delivered on site. They are then lifted into place with a crane. Recent innovations in technology have allowed for the construction of more complex non-modular sections.


Just because it looks expensive doesn't mean it is expensive. This future Ann Arbor apartment building will be constructed using prefabrication methods and wll resemble a typical early twentieth century building. The building is set to house affordable rental units for students and people with mid to low incomes

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