Function and Fantasy: Iron Architecture in the Long Nineteenth Century

December 1, 2020
Function and Fantasy: Iron Architecture in the Long Nineteenth Century

The introduction of iron – and later steel – construction anddecoration transformed architecture in the nineteenth century.While the structural employment of iron has been a frequent subjectof study, this book re-directs scholarly scrutiny on its place inthe aesthetics of architecture in the long nineteenth century.Together, its eleven unique and original chapters chart – for thefirst time – the global reach of iron's architectural reception,from the first debates on how iron could be incorporated intoarchitecture's traditional aesthetics to the modernist cleaving ofits structural and ornamental roles.The book is divided into three sections.Formations considers the rising tension between the desireto translate traditional architectural motifs into iron and thenascent feeling that iron buildings were themselves creating anentirely new field of aesthetic expression.Exchanges charts the commercial and cultural interactionsthat took place between British iron foundries and clients infar-flung locations such as Argentina, Jamaica, Nigeria andAustralia. Expressing colonial control as well as local agency,iron buildings struck a balance between pre-fabricatedfunctionalism and a desire to convey beauty, value and oftenexoticism through ornament.Transformations looks at the place of the aesthetics ofiron architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies, a period in which iron ornament sought to harmonize widesocial ambitions while offering the tantalizing possibility thatiron architecture as a whole could transform the fundamentalmeanings of ornament.Taken together, these chapters call for a re-evaluation ofmodernism's supposedly rationalist interest in nineteenth-centuryiron structures, one that has potentially radical implications forthe recent ornamental turn in contemporary architecture.