It also set up a conflict between labour and capital, a variation of the old conflict between peasants and nobility. Because it was based on a competitive "free" market, capitalism inherently sought labour-saving and time-saving devices by which it might increase efficiency and productivity. In other words, manufacturing and production processes were sped up through specialisation (division), automation, mechanisation, routinisation, and other alienating forms of production in which the human being was less a personality at work and more a replaceable cog in a much larger system. This changed the way construction products were made. The concept of capitalism itself envisioned the mass production system and then made it a reality.
Furthermore, with the rise of the factory and the mechanisation of labour, farming began a decline and people flocked to the cities to find other types of work. Added to this there were advances in medicine which meant that population increased in urban areas, creating congestion and the rise of a new type of city. As a cultural force, urbanisation required new forms of uniform housing that demanded quick and cheap construction. They needed to be able to house numerous people as well. Thus, much of architecture was driven by the changing cultural needs.
The most important cultural factor remained capitalism. This shaped political ideas to allow all the radical changes to occur. Capitalism required the exploration and exploitation of natural resources for energy to fuel its projects and for new products to sell. It also required new transportation networks to get its products and materials moved around quickly and easily. This led to a demand for bridges, such as over the Menai Straits, canals, and railroads. The whole system of capitalism, based on competition between services and products, urbanisation, and the reorganisation of modes of production, was driven to create buildings for its new industries and employees. The new methods could be carried out easily. What was important was that the cultural context of these new socio-economic realities formed the groundwork of the Industrial Revolution and its building programs, expertise applications, and capacities.
Scientifically, it started with power, which was made possible by natural sources of power such as coal and steam (Houston and Snell 473-92). Science and the cultural change went hand in hand and it is hard to say which came first. Nevertheless, the science of the Industrial Revolution and prior to it created the technological skills and thought patterns that made possible new forms of work organisation and the single most important achievement, the steam engine, which received significant advancements due to the efforts of Thomas Newcomen (Brown 60) and James Watt (Hunter and Bryant 42).
Steam engines burnt large quantities of coal or wood rather than relying on human energy. They increased the output of machines to pull, lift, push, and move far in excess of any previous cranes or pulleys. Dirt could be moved by machines without hand shovels. Carts and animals were replaced by steam-powered locomotives that could carry more and move quickly. Human labour became more and more obsolete, except as it was necessary to manipulate machine-driven processes. The labour force was reduced. Productivity rose. The standard of living and expectations typically rose as well, although the way people made money changed. The cost of mass-produced goods went down because of greater efficiency and productivity.
These new forms of technology based on steam power required roads and canals, so the landscape changed. Machines were also used to build roads. Tracks were laid and bridges were built to allow machines to travel. All this meant that materials for building could be easily, cheaply, and quickly shipped from distance to the work site. Speed and ease were the keywords. Within this context of massive cultural, scientific, and technological upheaval, construction was revolutionized in parallel ways, taking advantage of all the new motives and advances.
The new forms of technology directly affected the very nature of construction. An excellent example of this fact is provided in the construction process of the Thames Tunnel, which was largely enabled due to the steam-powered tunnel shield (Landow). This machine enabled laborers to build this tunnel more than 20 meters underwater, which was the first such structure constructed beneath a river for the sake of transportation. The idea for the Thames Tunnel was partly based on an incomplete construction of the Thames Archway (Aaseng 28). The efficacy of the steam engine that powered the tunnel shield would be reprised numerous times in the ensuing years in England, with a number of structures created that utilized machines descended from that used on the Thames Tunnel.
The aforementioned tunnel was just one of several new structures that was built during the Industrial Revolution and which reflected the increasing technology and its applications. Refinements in scientific processes were responsible for the ubiquity of construction with forms of iron -- an innovation that is distinct to this time period. Due to the pliable nature of this substance (Gillespie 4), which was both light as well as durable, it quickly became the construction material of choice as evinced by other structures that the Industrial Revolution engendered, such as the first cast-iron constructed arch bridge, Iron Bridge.
Another boon of the popularity of iron construction erected during this period was the degree of ornamentation designers could degree structures with, since this substance was highly manipulative. Telford's efforts on the Menai Straits Suspension Bridge were renowned for the decorous quality of the ornamentation he finished this project with, which was a direct result of construction with wrought iron and imbued the structure with a certain grace (Kostof 599). Iron imperfections could be fixed with simple welding (Yescas-Gonzalez & Bahadeshia). Menai Straits also reflected the spirit of progress and innovation that characterized most construction during this era due to its incorporation of design principles of suspension. These principles were also readily influenced by the architect's ability to construct with iron (Kovach).
Although the relative novelty of utilizing the wrought-iron variety of this substance was responsible for a number of defects in Iron Bridge, the process with which this material and others that would characterized construction of this era, such as glass and the usage of prefabricated parts, would be refined was evinced midway through the 19th century with the erection of the Crystal Palace. The innovative process of using prefabricated parts allowed for this transportable structure to be assembled with relative ease (Kostoff 594). It was one of the first structures to utilize not only iron, but also an abundance of plate glass, as its construction materials (Hitchcock 184). The structure's usage of wood framed glass sheets (Hobhouse 34) was structured via an iron beams and stanchions made of wood.
Prefabricated parts also assisted in the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which represented yet another new type of edifice that was distinct for its wide spaces, immense height, and elevator. The widespread availability of these parts was largely facilitated by the system of mass production which was created during this era and changed the nature of construction (Kostoff 594). This structure was supported by iron as well, and reflected the employment of other emerging construction technologies, as its foundation was anchored in cement which was more viable following developments pioneered by Joseph Aspidin earlier in the century (Prentice 171). The availability of prefabricated parts was also fuelled in part by the technological increases in transportation such as the burgeoning railway system and the ubiquity of steamships (Hackett) throughout the latter portion of the 19th century. As such, construction materials could be transported a lot quicker than before, particularly due to innovations in communication that included the development of the telegraph and the telephone. Therefore, the management of the design and construction process could be facilitated more readily than at any other point in history.
The innovations in construction materials, the different forms of iron, variations of concrete, and the engendering of steel which the Bessemer process was responsible for, can be traced to scientific developments that proceeded naturally from the Scientific Revolution. With the ideology of the Enlightenment particularly influential during the formative years of the Industrial Revolution, the scientific process was furthered by advancements in the printing press which allowed for the rapid dissemination of scientific journals and popularity of fields such as natural science (Spary 289-293), as well as the furtherance of principles of astronomy and chemistry. Developments in the latter, which peaked with Lavoisier's (Lavoisier) theory of combustion of oxygen, helped to fuel the processes that eventually resulted in the widespread availability of the construction materials of this time.
A look at the progression of the building projects reviewed in this section indicates that throughout this period of history, improvements in science, construction technology and architectural principles allowed for a more rapid erection of structures. It also indicates that the structures were also designed with an increasing degree of ornamentation (McRae) that would eventually result in a counter-movement, the Arts and Craft Movement, that would eventually seek a return to principles of…