Development of Architecture during the Industrial Revolution

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The industrial revolution is one of the Great changes in human history. It starts in the middle of 18 century in Britain and continuing until now.

Before the Revolution, there were no cities only villages. To get from one village to another people used galloping horse, which was the main and fastest transportation of that time. For majority of people the agriculture was dominant. When industrial revolution begins, agriculture and hand-made been stopped.

Things that describes the period of Industrial revolution are inventions of steam engine, coal and iron. Everything is changed when James Watt created a “steam engine” in 1769. Invention of steam engine provided Britain with an industrial power. Factories, fabrics and railroads could be anywhere. (Louis Auguste Blanqui, historical

Invention of iron by Derby Family could not happen without steam engine. Smelting of iron by charcoal was expensive process. Abraham Derby discovered, that instead of using coal, can replace it with coke. The resulted product is cast iron. “Human of the Industrial Revolution”, www,

Besides iron industry, there was a development of textile production, because textile is the basic requirements. Food and cotton products were light and easier to transport to different cities. Location of Britain was good for water transports. We know, that Britain is not from sea from any parts. This was the thing that makes the transportation of goods easier. . There was already existing of networks of canals. “Human of the Industrial Revolution”, www,

During this time changes the production of goods. Now instead of using hand-made products, machines started replacing people. For example in fabrics and manufactures, machine could replace 5-6 people. This is main disadvantage of the Industrial Revolution, when government starts quitting unnecessary workers.

Inventions of Industrial revolution period influenced to the economy growth. It is creation of different machine tools, using of Iron in manufacture.

Industrial revolution changed everything and including architecture as well. Industrial revolution really affected on architecture. There was no need of fancy architecture anymore. People started design more industrial type, which is more useful rather than Gothic buildings. Beautiful Gothic buildings were designed to impress people. In that period some people was already on industrial side, started designing simple structure. At the same time some people went back to the old architectural style and brought them back. Therefore there were movements as Gothic revival and Art Nouveau. When people started designing with industrial mind they had many choice of design their house. (The importance of Industrial Revolution in Archietcture). (

Producing of iron influenced on architecture. One of great examples of architecture of industrial period is Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton (1850-1851). Joseph Paxton studied and experienced iron and glass, about of joining these components together to design a large building.


The movement of Gothic style architecture was not accidently. Those movements were against industrial revolution. They wanted to bring back the traditional style of architecture. The Crystal Palace in compare to Gothic Revival and arts and craft movements in architecture is new mode of design of that time. Gothic revival is architectural movement, which was based in England. It’s been a remaking of traditional building style of “Middle Ages”. Gothic style buildings are very heavy and decorative. Structure made of stone and brick. “Art Nouveau” movement has same features as Gothic movement, such as: symmetrical shapes and forms, use of arches and heavy structural system. (Jackie Craven, Art Noveau Architecture.

The Crystal Palace is on of the Great buildings of Industrial period, which represent new direction in architecture. One of building that represent revolutionized architecture. When architecture moved from traditional mode to the new step. This structure is example of how people started experiencing different types of materials, instead of constructing the buildings by masonry and stone and maximizing the indoor spaces. It is a design of lightweight and low-cost buildings. This was the step when architecture of industrial period marked the beginning of new kind of architecture. It plays a big role in a history of architecture.

The Crystal Palace was a glass and cast iron structure. The structure was built in London, for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1850 the committee were going to choose a design for the structure, which will exhibit the latest technology and innovation from around the world: “ Great Exhibition of the works of industry of all Nations”. The committee requirements was:

  • Economy and maximizing the exhibition space
  • Spaces for circulation
  • Spaces for reception, classification and placement of goods.
  • View from the interior.

In three weeks committee received more 250 works from Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Hanover, Hamburg, France. But the committee rejected all the works. Mostly all the work was brick and masonry structural designs. But there was iron and glass design by Hector Horeau. The committee rejected it as well, because of the cost of the project. (The Crystal palace, p12)

Already known architect and gardener Joseph Paxton presented his idea and concept to the committee. Before Joseph already had an experience with combination of cast iron, glass and laminated wood in his “ Chatsworthhouse” building, which was made of glass. The larges glass house of that period. He experienced the idea “Ridge –and- furrow” roof system in Charsworthhouse, later he apllied this system in Crystal Palace’s design.

Joseph’s design was based on module with the sizes 10inch x 49 inches, which is size of larges glass available that time. The structure consisted of right-angled triangles, which were supported by iron beams and pillars. The length of right-angled triangles was for 564 m. These basic components of the structure were light, strong and easy to build. After Joseph submitted his drawings and calculations, the committee approved the low cost design.

The concept of ridge-and-roof house was lily flowers. Paxton’s reputation as gardener was high, he wanted to lily flower to be grown in England. He takes care of flowers. Later it became a concept for the roof system in Crystal Palace. In construction of the glass house, there was an issue with ridge-and furrow roof. Glass structure required more light, but because of structural members of roof (trusses, purlins) building does not get morning and evening rays. To avoid this problem he created the methods of glass roofing, which calls “ridge and furrow”. The principle and concepts of the roof was to get morning and evening light without any restriction. Therefore the glasses were placed in specific position. He tested this idea in his “Green house”. After it was applied to the Crystal Palace. (The Crystal palace, p29)

The roof of transept is semicircular from exterior. In construction of this roof the support was made arched timbers. Columns supported on each arched timber. The transept roof also following the concept of ridge-and-furrow roof. It was constructed in a flat manner, but following the shape of arched timber. The range of the arches had louvered framed opening which allow passive ventilation for the building.

Hollow columns of the structure support the roof. The roof itself looks flat. It has ridges and furrows, because of rise and fall of them is small, roof looks flat. Truss span of the roof 24 feet from each other and this spanning were supported by light beams or rafters. These rafters call “Paxton’s gutter”, because he created the system of using the rafter as a gutter. The advantages are when it rains, water running from the surface of the roof to “Paxton’s gutter”. From there water goes to the main gutter, which is connected to the hollow columns and passes down to drainage. (The Crystal Palace, p.36)

But later on roofing system gets a problem, because of not availability of good quality construction materials. On of the disadvantages was leaking mostly from all of the part of the big building. This problem could not be solved.

In terms of maximizing the space cast columns had advantages compare to masonry columns of traditional architecture, because it could carry the same load as masonry columns. Cast Columns much slimmer than masonry columns and can provide more open indoor space. When the constriction was complete the interior exhibition space was enormous. Because there were no solid walls, only the slender columns supporting the self weight.

On of the important advantage of the structural frame works, that cast iron was low in price compare to traditional carved stone. The columns of the Crystal Palace consist of reservoir, where the all the drain water collects from the roof. This drain water is usable in situation of fire or for agriculture. (The Crystal Palace, p18).

The great height of the building was divided into 3 stories. Where are the cast iron columns in each stories have different height. In lower floor columns height is 19 feet and for first and second floor is 17 feet. Between the columns the girders have same depth and sizes. They look similar and give an impression of latticework. Therefore construction does not look heavy. “This showing how great strength may be combined with elegance and lightness” (The Crystal Palace, p35-36).

Joseph Paxton designed his “Victorian house” in such a way, so the building retains moisture and gets bright natural lighting every season of the year. But the mechanical and natural products, which were in the building, were destroyed because of moisture. After this experiment with “Victorian House”, it was experience for him to create new design to avoid those issues for Crystal Palace. (The Crystal Palace, p 32).

An important advantage in construction of Crystal Palace takes machinery. Paxton used different types of cut machines (Punching machine, Iron drilling machine, Adzing and planning machine). Al the machines powered by steam engine. Painting machine reservoir filling with the paint, then it runs on surface of the frame. It constructed in a way so unnecessary part could be cleaned. One of the machines he used for framed wall. The frames being cut in machinery with the exactly same dimensions, after this glass was put into the frame. The glass sashes been designed in way so in summer can be removed. Since the work is done by machine, people did not worry that part might not match with each other. (The Crystal Palace, p51) In pre-industrialized period building been by human crafts without machines. Therefore it is harder and construction takes long time to be completed. The society of Art awarded Paxton’s sash-bar machines in 1841 with medal. These types sash-bar machines started using in other part of the country. In present time sash-bar design was taken from Paxton’s machine.

The big challenge of The Crystal Palace was to maintain the normal temperature inside. Because the function was exhibition, there would be thousands of people. Heat producing by people and the heat coming from outside was the main issue. Already in that time Joseph Paxton cleverly designed the external shading devices. Direct sun light does not get, light is filtered and it becomes very soft. Another way of solution of heat transfer was to make ventilation system. He designed ventilation system for wall and flooring. Placing prefabricated lovers on the wall provides hot air escape. For flooring system board were placed 1 cm apart from each other. It was cleverly designed passive design. Air could travel inside. (Wikipedia). This is the one of the great example when people started thinking of climatic response. Design the space, which will cleverly work, rather than designing it for decoration.

In terms of spatial planning, Paxton provided refreshments spaces for people during the exhibition. There are spaces with open courts and trees. There was no necessity of making solid enclosures, so the structure does not lose the lightness. The trees of the north entrance were also for refreshment purpose. Spaces were enclosed by sash-glazed partitions almost similar as exterior glass panels. Rooms of the building was designed that can get more natural lighting and ventilation. Partitions that separate the rooms give the building very light effect. (The Crystal palace, p.36)

In 1936 on 30th November Crystal Palace was set on fire. In one hour the building was destroyed. North Transept was burned. Government not insured to cover the rebuilding. Because the cost was around 2 million pounds. That time Welby Pugin founder of Gothic Architecture called this building “Glass Monster”. He told Paxton “ You had better keep to building green houses, and I will keep mu churches and cathedrals”. Many other architects started criticizes Crystal Palace. Many books and articles was written after the demolition. Thomas Carlyle called it “Big glass soup buble”. But in these letter days Crystal Palace benn called “Proto Modern Architecture” and became a precedent for many buildings such as commercial buildings in Europe and America. Crystal Palace became a symbol of industrial revolution, strength and economic- industrial power of England that time. (Manpret Singh, “The demolition Of Crystal Palace 1926-1941”. )


The main idea of this essay was to show the effectiveness of industrialized methods of construction of Crystal Palace in opposition to Gothic revival style and Art Noveau, which represents traditional architecture. The main points are:

  • The main difference is that Crystal Palace represents new modes of design, where buildings do not have to be so heavy. The purpose is economical use of space. For example: slender columns allow having big indoor space compare to masonry columns.
  • Using of different types of machines. Building can be completed in short period of time.
  • Low cost and availability of cast iron.
  • Smart designed structure in response to climatic aspects. As was already mentioned above, Paxton’s gutter system, which collects the rain water in specific reservoir. Drain water is usable in case of fire or for agriculture.
  • Less using of artificial lighting, because of glass material.
  • Passive ventilation design. Louvered wall system and flooring system, where the block’s spacing is 1 cm., which allows the space, breathe.

The Crystal Palace was the great example of new style of architecture. It was a step forward from the traditional architecture. The structural system of Crystal Palace we can still use in our time. It was a precedent for future buildings. Already experienced cast iron and glass. After the demolition, people know how to avoid those problems. Test it and make it work better, but the main concept is based on Crystal Palace skeletal system. Therefore nowadays we have improved skeletal structures.

My opinion is that this type of architecture is more useful, compare to traditional. In terms of spaces, how could it be better and lighter by using the different types of materials? But at the same time it can carry the similar load.

It was the time when people started thinking of different design, shapes and form. When people started thinking of low cost structures and experiencing of different materials except brick and stone. When people started thinking of opportunities engaging with surrounding and climate aspects of those kinds of structures. Which is did not exist for traditional type of architecture. Gothic and arts and crafts buildings are more concentrating to show the importance of it. Even the decorations, which are not useful.

There might be disadvantages of Industrial Revolution, but the main advantage is step for the future with industrial mind.