The Historical Evolution Of Design And Development Cultural Studies Essay

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This paper is mainly concerned with the evolution of design with the development of the technology, organization and cultural changes. Design, a unique and unchanging human capacity, has manifested itself in a variety of ways through history.( John, 2005:8) Acording to John Heskett in his book Design-A Very Short Introduction, originally, the instrument of design was the hand of human beings, with the help of some natural objects. Gradually, human beings tend to adapt the techniques, forms, and patterns to new purposes and applications, then, special purpose of design was focused, and stereotypes of forms, fixed concepts of what forms are suitable for particular purpose were formed. Later, with the improvement of the techniques, those forms were refined,then there came the writing and visual representation, abstraction in design, and individual's needs were emphasized. With the concentration of populations and accumulations of wealth, the construction for special purpose was erected as well. Moreover, trades of merchandise and efforts of government has exerted influence on design, aesthetic concepts or any new concepts that would be acceptable in the market once played an important role.

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The main question of this paper is how social factors affect design, with the case study of the architecture style in South Africa.South Africa is the most modernized country in Africa, and it is called "the best of the third world", under the effect of the colonism over 300 years, and the segregation for about 40 years, the development of its cities and their architecture style were dyed with the flavor of Dutch, Britain and some Asian countries like Indonesians and Malaysia, India and Srilanka.

2 Apartheid and architecture

We have a range of new projects and they passed the building as a way to write the history of the landscape. As a result, these projects are in the writing of history. (Sally, 1981: 19) Performance in many aspects of apartheid, but in its most common form of speaking, is exhibited in the city-scale space strategy, even today, we can still feel the distortion of space. Over the last year a few architects have the power to give them a fundamental challenge "apartheid city" of the foundation law. (David, 1992: 149) "Apartheid city" in South Africa is very common, and the authority in South Africa divided the country into different areas, people of different races living in different places. Usually, people could see two cities adjacent to each other, one is new, spacious and rich and the other dirty, crowed and poor. But recently, after the abolishment of the "Apartheid" policy in 1994, the government advocates national reconciliation and unity, which reflected in the design of the architecture. The most typical construction in this trend was the Mpumalanga Provincial Government Complex, (Picture1)

Picture1. South African Architect-Journal Of The South African Institute Of Architects. 2002

This construction was designed by Meyer Pienaar Tayob, in 1997, located in the outter circle of Nelspruit, people go out of the downtown must pass many crowed business and commercial areas, after walking around a newly-built casino, behind a supermarket could they find this astonishing place. Usually, as the center of the capital city and the symbol of the city, the architecture should be built in the center of the city. Why the government of Mpumalanga chose this place which is hard to access? Because on the one hand, the white lived in the center of the city, however, people of other nationalities lived in the suburb or countryside of the city, rarely people in South Africa could enjoy the right of attending the conference hold in the parliament individually the other. The design took the rights and interests of those who lived outside of the downtown into account for most of them did not have the car, and the national relationship and the demoncratic sense of the people could be strengthened.

Picture2. Achitecture SA, May/June 2002

We could see from the picture2 that the construction is very open, without any serious and solemn atmosphere, and ordinary people could feel its kind and warm, see picture3.

Picture3. Yard. Meyer Pienaar.com.za

3 Foreign cultures on the construction of South Africa

3.1 The architecture style under the influence of Dutch

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It is widely acknowledged that the construction in Dutch is controversial in that the layout of buildings in Holland is, on the whole, very compact. However, in the South Africa, the most common construction is the gable which could be divided into three: main gable, back gable, and end gable all round the Cape Down, the layout is quite similar to that of Bavaria in Germany. (Dorothea, 1981: 44) In the eyes of the Duchess, South Africa is a place filled with various resources, as a result, their construction principle is to grasp the natural resources safely and effectively, and stake out the places and goods efficiently, therefore, the architecture style is very simple, and the local traditional flavor could be found still in Cape Down.

3.2 The architecture style under the influence of Britain

The immigration from Britain to the South Africa could date back to the finding of the gold mine, which brought the wooden house and the iron pantile into this land. Initially, the house as a whole, was made from the iron, from the top to the wall, even the ceiling, were iron-made. Later, the iron-made house was gradually replaced by the brick and stone because it is hot in summer and cold in winter. The colonialism of Britain could be divided into two periods: the Victoria and Edward period. As a result, the architecture style was greatly dyed with the flavor of the architecture in the Victoria and the award times respectively, with the former in the 19th century, and the latter, in the first years of the 20th century. The architecture style gained the inspiration from the nature and simplified the over-decorated ornaments that hold between the Victorian architects. The image of the construction was brief and bright, the frame of doors and windows was white, and the glass was colored. Generally speaking, the construction under the rule of the British colonialism is "dominant", in other word, there's strict control over the labor and any possible threat. The living areas of the local folks and that of the colonist were clearly divided, and the construction of the city was constrained by the social ladder. Hardly could the authority take the interest of the black into consideration.

3.3 The architecture style under the influence of oriental culture

Cape Down is the main habitation of the Muslim in the South Africa, people living there once came from different countries with different background, of those colonists most were Duchess, Frances and Germans. However, where there is colonist, there is slave. It is recognized that most slaves at that time were from Indonesians and Malaysia, India and Srilanka, and they are the forefather of the Muslim circle in Cape Down. They have their own customs and beliefs which could be reflected by their living places. Ie gable is the symbol of the architecture of the Muslim; it is very vivid and fantastic, compared with the western style in its dignity and solemnness.

4 Multi-cultural South Africa under construction

There is a strong relation between culture and architecture. In other words, the change in culture and knowledge affect the way people react with the built environment. Architecture is an expression of culture. While knowledge of science and technology provides us with know-how to select materials and choose construction techniques, culture provides us the guidance of what we should aim at and how to achieve the aim. Culture also shapes architecture. During different periods of evolution architecture has recorded the impact and influences of culture of its time and place and thus architecture provides us a great source of reference to the culture of different societies and nations.

Since the first Dutch immigrants came to the South Africa, the main non-nature factors influencing city development were: colonialism, mining industry and apartheid. The complexion of the history of the colonialism determined the mixture of the architecture style. And the past apartheid still influences the present architecture design.

South African culture is a collage that mixing the characteristics of Europe, Asia, and itself, which could be reflected by its architecture. During the early modern period, the absorption of new diverse influences such as Baroque, Arab, and Turkish and Gujarati Indian style attaches different flavor to every corner of its society. From the Dutch style in Cape Down to the "ancient oxford street" in High Street, this is graceful and elegant.

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In Karoo, you could see lots of typical Victorian architecture, grand galleries and small windows, which are designed in accordance with the local climate. These construction could be easily found in Oudtshoorn, Prince Albert and Philippolis.  

Special attention could be paid to Newtown, where people could find Museum Africa, Market Theatre, Music Centre, National Design and Craft Centre, World of Beer, Worker's Museum Kippies Jazz Club, all of which are the fruit of the development and improvement of South Africa.

Sir Herbert Baker, one of the most influential architects in the South Africa, once designed most of the typical constructions in the history, and today, the architecture stand still, such as Union Buildings and Westcliffe. (Ivor, 2000: 51)

5. Summary

The development of the city in South Africa is a process during which different foreign cultures are conflicting and blending with one another. The architecture style, filled with the sophisticated western culture, as well as the saline distortion space due to "apartheid". The profound meaning of the modern architecture in South Africa could be seen both historically and realistically. Modern architecture should not be the simple imitation of the history, or the harsh connection of the traditional factors and modern constructions. (Bryan, 1997: 25) It is no wonder that the development of the cultural heritage is of great value, and aesthetic and architectural aspects should also be taken into consideration except social-economic factors. (Peter, 1998: 39) Greater attention to production quality and a more holistic approach to design must be the norm. (John, 2005:22), which could create a harmonous community for the humans.