Industrial Revolution, part II

Industrial Revolution, part II: Identity and comfort

The industrial revolution brought about many changes for human kind. These changes not only took the form of machines and architecture, but were also evidenced in society structure. Some historians have compared this transformation to the Neolithic revolution (Tate & Smith, 1986, pp. 221), when humans began practicing an agrarian society. The industrial revolution also transformed society in a way that allowed people to become individuals, prompting them to question authority and, for the first time, to question their fate. As more and more factories were added, more jobs and wealth was created; people saw this as an opportunity to “make” something of themselves and to “climb” the social ladder.

The ideas of “comfort” and “privacy” were still somewhat new to 19th century society yet architecture was beginning to take notice of these desires. In the early years of American history, most of the houses had been small and had few rooms however; most of the houses in the 19th century were separated into spaces that focused on the activity at hand (i.e. sleeping, eating, entertaining, cooking). This idea also translated into commercial spaces; hospitals, shopping centers, churches, and government buildings were all separated based on their unique operations. In addition, due to the efficiency of the machine, people were able to enjoy more relaxation, hobbies, and entertainment. Libraries, museums, and theaters were opened to accommodate leisure activities.

While much of the architecture (exterior and interior) during the Victorian period was comparatively similar from house to house, it was the interior décor that provided “identity” and “comfort” to the owner. The more décor, the higher the owner’s intelligence and social standing were gauged. How do you believe this relates to society today? How do you define comfort and identity? What examples can you cite? Be specific.