Mapping Paris

Glass, Iron, and Steel Technology

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"By the later decades of the nineteenth century the new technologies in iron and glass had developed their own iconographical capacity to express notions of progress or national ascendancy in science..." (Curtis 22)
The above image is a photograph of the Crystal Palace in London, which was built in 1851. Although it is not in France, the building employs identical architectural techniques in its construction as buildings in Paris of this time period. The coupling of glass and iron (sometimes steel) is remarkable; they are two opposing construction materials (one delicate, one sturdy) and their union is breathtaking.

The architectural style of Paris grew with the ideals of the people living within the city. The Renaissance tradition of architecture had lost its appeal and the Parisians needed something to symbolize their "new beginning." Cue: glass and iron architecture. What better way to signify a new era than the combination of two new technologies: glass and iron, and railways? The modernity of railroads required a new style, and the innovations in glass and iron filled that void. (For an image of this architectural technique used in railway construction, click here) At the end of the nineteenth century, the combination of glass and steel was introduced.

"Where the patronage of architecture in eighteenth-century Europe had relied principally on the Church, the state, and the aristocracy, it became increasingly to rely on the wealth and purposes of the new middle classes." (Curtis 22)

Joseph Paxton, Crystal Palace, London, 1850-51
The above image is of the Crystal Palace in London, showing the bourgeoisie interact with the new glass and iron technology. The dome creates not only an illusion of space, but also the feeling that one is shopping out of doors. The glass lets natural light in, minimizing the need for artificial lighting during the day. The power of the steel frames allowed the panes of glass to dominate the architecture.(Curtis 36)
Joseph Paxton, Crystal Palace, London, 1851, under construction
During the nineteenth century, the divisions between the bourgeoisie and lower class became more apparent as the use of new technology increased. The bourgeoisie were more affected by the technology because they had the time and money to enjoy it. The lower classes struggled to survive and could not afford to develop a comfortable relationship with the new technology. Their time spent interacting with it was mainly in unsanitary and dangerous factories. The bourgeois "monuments to consumption and cultural display (Curtis 23)" were created by the lower classes. Above is an image of the construction of a building using this new technology.



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