As is often the case, the relationship between a civilization's technology and its architecture is complex and varied. For the builder, technology is a means to satisfy the demands of a particular problem. For the architect, as concerned with the symbolic as the functional, the expressive use of technology is as important, often more important, than the functional. In imperial Rome, the arch was was employed as a practical solution for creating great public works, like aqueducts and stadia, but the older, more structurally limited stone post-and-lintel architecture was retained for religious and important civic buildings, at first because of its Greek heritage and later its association with high culture. Eventually the two were combined to create a distinctively Roman architecture, as in the Pantheon. In our Industrial Age, iron and then steel framed structures were used regularly to construct bridges and other civil works long before they were used in buildings. Exceptional architectural examples, like Paxton's Crystal Palace, were at first for demonstration purposes, rather than a part of the normal architectural lexicon.


Prior to the Industrial Age, the construction of static structures - buildings, bridges, civil works - were at the cutting edge of technology. No longer. In the twentieth century that position was assumed by dynamic structures - ground transportation, ships, planes and, finally, subspace vehicles. We now build ships which can house the population of a small city, planes which can transport an entire urban neighborhood to the other side of the world in hours, and rockets taller than most of the buildings in the center of an industrial city. The technologies required to operate these are well in advance of that for the most sophisticated twentieth century building.

20th Century Structures

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