The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 4 (1926) > Issues > Issue 3 > The new art of structural engineering: an introductory course in structures
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The new art of structural engineering: an introductory course in structures

IN the last chapter arguments were advanced to show that in the design of street façades it was necessary to take into account several other factors besides that of construction. One of these factors is scale, and I shall now investigate a little further how considerations of scale may affect the disposition of the constructional members of a building, or if not the constructional members themselves, the appearance which these latter are allowed to present to the public. There is one particular type of façade which is becoming more and more common in our streets, and it is claimed in defence of it that in a peculiar manner it expresses the new ferro-concrete construction. It will be contended here that this particular species of design not only belies the ferro-concrete framework, but that it has the further disadvantage of violating architectural scale in so grievous a manner that even one such façade will do much to destroy the pictoria1 merit of a whole street. Figure No. VII. shows a whole row of these new façades and enables us to judge of their character far better than it is possible to do by visiting actual streets in our towns, for at present the new experiment in design is being conducted here and there by the setting up of isolated examples, which are seen in contrast with the old-fashioned types of façade rather than in conjunction with buildings belonging to their own genus. In architecture, before judging of any type of building which must take its place in the city, we must always generalise and ask ourselves the question, “What if all buildings performing a similar function were to adopt the same style, how would this affect the appearance of a street on which such buildings were aligned?” At the present time it is, unfortunately, true to say that the designers of buildings are often actuated by no more worthy motive than to make the the façades for which they are responsible as different as possible from the neighbouring ones. These modern façades with their "vertical emphasis" (an effect which is achieved by arranging the fenestration in vertical rows enclosed in long reveals or recesses) do indeed separate themselves most conspicuously from the old-fashioned street frontages which have rather an horizontal emphasis due to the presence of substantial horizontal spans of wallage between each row of windows. The author of the façades with "vertical emphasis" is able to proclaim to his acquaintances that his new building is something quite remarkable and is easily recognised as belonging to a new order of architecture. He has achieved notoriety, but we are compelled to ask ourselves whether he is making a worthy contribution to civic design. An examination of Figure VII. makes it clear that the system of what is called vertical composition effectively dissociates a façade from its neighbours, and especially is this the case if the façades happen to be of different heights, for the unit of fenestration is no longer the individual

Author(s): Billington, David P

Keywords: structural engineering;tertiary education;introductions