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SCIENCE IN CHINA PRESS
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Time · Space · Architecture
Research Institute of Architecture, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the 20th century a Swiss writer wrote a book titled Time, Space and Architecture, in which he discussed the relationship between architecture and the times. Fifty years after that, this paper adopts the same title, hoping to deepen the understanding of the space-time structure in architecture and contribute to the new exploration of architectural forms.
1 Differentiating architecture in historic age and architecture in technological age
The space-time development of architecture is mostly described according to dynasties. In the case of China, we count from the ancient, Xia, Shang, Zhou, Spring and Autumn, Warring States, Qin, Han, Jin, Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, to Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing, and to the foundation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st, 1949. In order to classify architecture in terms of time and space we usually rely on its characteristics of a certain era. For instance, Nanshan Temple Palace in Wutaishan, which is regarded as the earliest, completely preserved architecture in ancient China, was built in Tang Dynasty. Similarly, western architecture can be described as buildings of ancient Egypt, Rome, Byzantium, Western Rome, or of Middle Ages, of Renaissance, or of Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Eclecticism, Reactionism, or Neoclassicism, or as new buildings of the early 20th century. The architectural styles and patterns represent and reflect the ages. However, the ages can be overstepped. For instance, Tibet jumped into socialism directly from the serf age. Time can overlap or coincide, and the history of architecture can be ontological. For example, the development in the same country may take various forms; it may be earlier
or later, faster or slower. Another time sequence is the technology system based on productivity. Comrade Deng Xiaoping said that science and technology is a primal productive force. Its application in architecture is the integration of structures, materials and construction technology. The beam-column system existent from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece is just the beam-column structure. Through practice people gradually knew how to best harmonize structure and beauty. The best example is Parthenon in Greece with its proper column and span, its pediment and the foundation of the temple, solemn and elegant. As an epoch-making masterpiece combining architectural technology and art, it will last for ever. The temple freely combines its entrance group, Nike Temple in front of it, devious steps, and Erechtheum caryatid cloister. The spatial balance between Parthenon and Athena can be seen from the porch. When analyzed carefully, this combination is also a group paradigm. Group size, spatial location, asymmetrical balance, as well as mountain nature, are all to be researched. Roman technology adopts arch, which is a great technological progress. The typical application of arch piled up by enormous stones is aqueduct, e.g. the Gehe Aqueduct. Romans knew how to transport water, then they developed the technology into two or three stories and even subsequently to above-ground transportation. Roman baths were luxurious entertainment sites for slaveholders based on the living habits of the time. This scene can be illustrated by Rubens’s paintings about the demise of the Romans. The arch, however, did
Received February 8, 2009; accepted March 29, 2009 doi: 10.1007/s11431-009-0284-0 Supported by the Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 50878042)
Citation: Qi K. Time · Space · Architecture. Sci China Ser E-Tech Sci, 2009, 52(9): 2481―2485, doi: 10.1007/s11431-009-0284-0
not stop developing. Instead, it developed into in medieval churches’ arch. Then flying buttress was developed, which was used to support large-span cathedrals. Religious beliefs promoted the idea of ambition, so buildings grew much larger and higher. France, England and Germany set up cathedrals’ models according to their own locations, and there were some differences in the convergence. If there is a term called “regionalism” today, it can well be said that regional architecture has existed since the ancient; just nobody cared about ideology. In West Asia arches were made of bricks instead of stones. Pantheon, a representative work in Rome, applied the arch structure perfectly. With ceiling lighting on the top, the temple boasts its amazingly large size. The transformation from triangle pediments into circular ones, the transparency of the ceiling, and the force transferring from the arch to the dome were a progress. Then unilateral forces developed to be multidimensional, e.g. circular, such as pyramids of the ancient Egypt based on land surveying geometry. Greek temples with the beam-column structure were the second milestone; the building of Pantheon the third. Beam column, arch and dome have existed constantly for thousands of years, which could also be proved by Chinese burial arch. The stone arch of Zhaozhou Bridge and the stone board bridge of Quanzhou which has a building stone about 8m long, demonstrate that they continue to exist. But that time period is usually commended by historians for its column art manifestation. Architectural style played an important role in history. Therefore, Greece’s pentastyle, Rome’s pentastyle, and Renaissance’s pentastyle, Baroque, Rococo, neoclassicism, modern architectural pluralism, regional style and its transformation and innovation appeared. Genre of style also forms a time sequence, a separate system which does or does not depend on the content, or technology. Hence, there are three threads in the time sequence: (1) Thread of history and culture; (2) Thread of science and technology; (3) Thread of form and ecology. These threads may be parallel, interleaving, intersecting, coincident, or overlapping. With the wheel of history rolling ahead, the development of mankind is always forward. It is necessary for us to comment on time, space, and architecture after analyzing them from different aspects and considering various functions.
2 Migration of population brings about cultural transformation and innovation
Architecture exists, develops, disappears, and even perishes for mankind’s surviving, producing and living. Several situations occurred in history. One of them was the macro-ecological damage resulting in population migration from the Yellow River valley in the north to the Yangtze valley. Small-scaled population migration, e.g. the population migration to Dalian, was initially due to poverty. “Braving the journey to the Northeast” and “Going to the West Gate” were for the same reason. Mostly people moved from highly or relatively highly civilized places to less or relatively less civilized places, with the purpose to exploit the soil or explore the territory. China’s population was not so large in history, so sometimes migration was a kind of administration, and sometimes could be seen as a consequence of the war. Annexation, looting, encroachment led to disappearance of culture, leaving not a bit trace. Nothing else is now to be seen except several graveyards, which show us the rise and fall of Western Xia Dynasty. So was the Goguryeo culture of Jilin. The largest population migration was mostly for occupying land and plundering. Enclosure wars, for example, were all aimed at grabbing the rights and interests. Sometimes the violence of war even led to the population or ethnic extinction. Wars were an important reason for large-scaled population migration. Population and wealth were vital resources. Population migration usually brought out the original culture which included architectural culture. Crusade of Europe and Kublai Khan’s invading Europe in Yuan Dynasty both resulted in population migration and mandatory diversion of culture. Construction of reservoirs and dams may also force the local population to migrate. The construction of the great dam of Yangtze River compelled two million people in Chongqing to move. Such large-scaled move was a passive one and required a great deal of residence construction in and out of this area, which changed the local life and those people’s original life. Population migration may also be caused by natural disasters, such as debris flows in the western mountainous areas and earthquakes. People suffered from these disasters, so they moved to other places where they could build safer houses on better foundations. Population movement leads to the changes of natives’ culture, including the change of architectural
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culture, although cultural development is mainly based on the development of local economy. Meanwhile, blending of architecture and culture, and regional independent innovation are equally remarkable. They frequently occur in architectural culture. For instance, besides dome and arch, there are highly-sloped crest and spire in European architecture, especially in churches. The spire has become a symbol due to religious dominancy in history. So it is quite natural and understandable that many European buildings adopt both dome and spire as an emblem or symbol. In traditional European architecture, the part from the dome to the spire is generally taken as a stylistic feature, while the oriental architecture, which takes the comparatively stable Chinese culture as the main body, considers two slopes, four slopes, gable and hip roof as the main structure. Slightly tilted roof has become an important feature of Chinese architecture. Chinese and oriental architecture, such as in-room flat, pillars enclosed by thick soil or brick walls, are simple beam column system, with one beam and another on top of column. Chinese glazed tile is a creative application. Later it was even graded. Yellow, blue, and green ones used in important buildings express an oriental spirit, while black and white ones used in civilian houses form a simple local style. The phenomenon of urbanization is also population movement, that is, a large number of peasants swarm into cities in developed areas. At the beginning, peasants move from south to north, like migrant birds, and go back in winter. In Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, a considerable number of migrant workers stay in the city. First they lived in areas connecting the city and the countryside, or “villages within the city”. Now under the guidance of the government policy, primary schools are set up there, so that their children have education opportunity. However, due to the financial crisis, a considerable number of migrant workers have to go back to their homes and get reemployed. This migration phenomenon is due to the acceleration of urbanization. At the same time, city culture is also brought to the countryside.
3 The rapid development of cities and urbanization in the west and developed countries in the 20th century considerably changed the morphology of architecture and cities
First of all, transportation tools were improved and de-
veloped. Transition from the age of carriages to the age of cars was a great development. Transportation with subway, light rail, and bullet trains made the connection between regions easier, faster and more convenient, altering the relation between time and spatial distance. Rapid transportation and high-speed roads greatly reduced the space and time distance between cities and between regions. New construction technology induced great changes in materials and structures, especially the reinforced concrete, which greatly enhanced the plasticity of structure and architectural configuration. The alteration of architectural configuration and the emergence of steel structure and high-rise buildings helped save land. Then underground parking lots and large garages were put into use. While the line shape of traditional architecture is geometrical, i.e. the combination of square, rectangular, cone and circular, modern architecture may assume plastic forms, parabola, and nonlinearity. The transition from linear to nonlinear and the organic splicing changing from plane function to attractive appearance are a huge leap. In the second half of the 20th century, the results of pliability and flexibility features could be obtained from computer-aided design, so as to implement novel designs. The development of art, especially of painting, expresses individual ideas and feelings. A canvas can manifest not only history of ancient times or Middle Ages, but certainly also wishes of an individual. Early and late impressionists jumped out of detention of gallery and pursued light and color, brightness and darkness. Certainly painting art can also influence architecture. People understand architecture from six sides to no boundary, and understand it as bionic, ecological, and integrated into nature. On the one hand, architecture has become a larger mechanism like hangar and boatyard. Liberation of people’s concept promotes liberation of architectural art. On the other hand, for the purpose of scientific research, architecture can be precise, soundproof, quakeproof and anti abrasion. Visional technology turns a whole “still” wall into an “animation”—a moving and 3-dimensional image. Artificial light provides new effects, and the application of glass adds to the splendor of modern architecture. However, light reflection brings about light pollution. Artificial light is an essential element in modern cities’ architectural configuration. It reflects the clear sky and the mirage-like city. The development of modern architecture has changed the traditional architectural scale, proportion,
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foil, color and shape, as well as the interface of the city. Modern architecture is the demand of modern society; it is affected by modern technology, i.e. new materials and construction skills, and directly or indirectly by modern art. New buildings indicate the arrival of a new architectural world. They not only make an epoch, but also record the historical architectural culture, which reflects the history and foreshows the future. Modern transportation is a result of the rapid gathering and concentration of population. The rapid accumulation and dispersion of transport requires space between public vehicles. Since high-speed vehicles must be able to reach all the connection points in or out of the city, viaducts or underground passages become inevitable. Therefore, circular viaducts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, which go through the populous areas of the cities, are quite necessary. Meanwhile, pedestrians need flyover, which means the city blocks have to be divided. Traditional pedestrian overpass and commercial streets are transformed from outside ones to inside ones. After the blocks have been divided, community life, welfare and education of the city have to be reorganized. Special attention should be paid to the safety of nurseries and primary schools.
4 Global information and network have changed people’s lives and have also affected architecture and architectural culture
Internet, computers and digital technology have accelerated information transmission. People use computers in their offices; through television people in rural areas know various lives and states of people in cities. Both cities and rural areas are affected in architecture, clothing, and all kinds of fashion. Efficient transportation and information significantly enhance the relation of the time, space and architecture. Space and time of architecture can change from 3-dimensional to 4-dimensional, space can change from real to virtual, and time and space can be stepped over. The height and span of buildings can be greatly increased. Knowledge accumulation is accelerating to the extent of so-called knowledge explosion. Multidisciplinary study is gaining popularity. Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci was not only a painter but also a sculptor and an engineer; today people with average intelligence can step into several disciplines too. Mankind is making progress, but history
needs memory, inheriting, transformation and innovation. A variety of tools and techniques make architectural design possible. I have been to Frank Gehry’s office, where I saw young people using a rolling machine to collect data of the camber and uploading them to the computer which then would calculate the tensional loads. In his office, we could also find plans of normal school buildings. However, architects make designs mainly by using their brains, concepts and various architecture engineering knowledge, as well as the national standards and regulations, and by considering the local reality. After all, designs reflect concepts and ideology. Rapid information exchanges create culture collision, exchange and integration. Ideas are ahead of or behind the development of technology. “Copycat” for a certain period of time is acceptable, but a building can exist for a much longer period than people’s lives. Clothing styles can be copied; fashion drifts with the tide of time and leaves only an impression. But some public and memorial architecture continues existing to be appreciated and studied, impressing people with memory and emotion. Sometimes the meaning of a building can be converted, but the image is persistent. Architectural creation is parallel with globalization and localization, and it is multivariate and multilevel. Information has the characteristics of fashion and time. The space continues to exist or disappears when the time is definitely gone. The new space, the new history, and the new time and space emerge constantly, which is a kind of metabolism. History does not have emotion while people do. But people can only memorize, recall, summarize and conclude the history, face the reality and look forward to the future. They have a hope and an ideal for the future. Modern time, space and architecture information are the most important elements. People strive for the initiative in time. But architecture is a hysteretic development form. Time can be mastered, created, and innovated in our knowledge fields. Seizing every creative opportunity to study is the foundation of architectural design.
5 Dialectic reflection of the space-time operation
The above discussion reveals that analyzing architecture requires relative time-space concepts. (1) All researches on architecture are considered from the moving process of space-time, from dynamic, from
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relative relation, and from the meaning and the relations of existence. That gives us the theory and the method of dialectical thinking of historical materialism. (2) Analyzed from the time sequence, the researches are considered from the time sequence of architectural technology, from history development, political society and the changes of economic technology; the ages of architectural technology development in west are the ages of beam column, fornix, reinforced concrete, steel structure, as well as inflatable constructions. The transformation from geometric to non-geometric, and from linear to non-linear, greatly exceeds the span of different historical times. Oriental quadrangle dwellings, with wood structure as their main frameworks, take flat as a unit. There are regular ones with three to five, seven, nine flats, such as official buildings, and irregular ones called “grass shelf”, which are a free combination of structures and a construction group with local features on a slope or near water. From the aspect of architectural style, Western Europe is typical for the combination of “column” and “arch”, balanced and unbalanced architecture configurations. Architectural styles are influenced by fashion and their own structure. The development of decoration and devices is based on fashion change, such as the external decoration of western architecture, and ornamental-pattern of the base of Chinese constructions. This relative independence indicates that the contents are constant while the forms are alterable. It can also be concluded that the functional contents are essential while forms are principal. During the whole process we can make analysis longitudinally or transversely, i.e. analysis on the nodes, so as to acquire a relatively scientific method. We have to make a dialectical reflection due to the complicated changes of history and huge differences between eastern and west-
ern architecture. The purpose of architecture is to serve people. Since ancient times, there have been rulers and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. What we consider are the common people, the working class and the intelligentsia. In fact, architecture provides service to people of all ranks, and to abstract “people” with behavioral and emotional requirements. When studying the relative static in urban and rural areas, we should take account of the stable population and the flowing crowd, and consider the service for the majority of regional people, that is, activities in all levels and of all types. Cities and towns are patterns of population concentration, which are influenced by a variety of environmental factors, such as nationality, states, customs and personal relations. Integration is an overall analysis, and also a converging study, but differences are a research of category and typology. Discussion of people’s wisdom and emotion should take meanings, symbols, and sites into consideration. Anthropological concepts and the synthesis of local people’s activities help to make judgment. Modernity should be taken as an access point, including modern people’s feelings and wisdom, intelligence, knowledge and scientific methods. Actions should be taken to suit the times and local circumstances. What we study are the contemporary groups. The time endows us with modern cities, behavior and psychology of modern people, transportation and communication of modern cities. It is an age of modern transportation and corresponding establishments, an age of information. We should value scientific methods and use them to set up ideals based on history, the present and the future, and to establish a comprehensive science of morphology.
Qi K Sci China Ser E-Tech Sci | Sep. 2009 | vol. 52 | no. 9 | 2481-2485