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Technology and Culture 41.3 (2000) 591-593



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Book Review

The Works: The Industrial Architecture of the United States


The Works: The Industrial Architecture of the United States. By Betsy Hunter Bradley. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. xii+347; illustrations, figures, notes/references, bibliography, index. $45.

Betsy Hunter Bradley has written a detailed analysis of American industrial architecture over the period from roughly 1840 to 1940, when engineers and architects focused on improving natural conditions of light and ventilation. The 1940s marked the emergence of a new type of factory, with artificial lighting and air conditioning. Bradley seeks to "explain what these manufacturing facilities are and why they look the way they do" (p. 3), certainly an ambitious goal. The result is much like a well-engineered manufacturing plant: the individual elements are well integrated, in a functional sense, to generate a coherent product in the end. Author and publisher have produced an attractive, appealing book with more than one hundred illustrations and a useful glossary of industrial architecture terms.

The Works is divided into three parts. The first consists of three chapters that introduce the major components of the factory complex or "manufacturing works." The opening chapter explains the often confusing terminology applied to factories since the mid-nineteenth century, examines the various perceptions and portrayals of manufacturing facilities, and [End Page 591] briefly outlines the changing roles played by owners, millwrights, engineers, and architects in the design of factories. The second chapter discusses the history and functions of the three major building types found in manufacturing complexes: the single-story production shed, the multistory industrial loft, and the powerhouse. The third chapter considers factors determining the location and layout of manufacturing plants, as well as the influence of transportation systems, power sources, and processes. The wide variety of linear layouts used in the nineteenth century (industrial quadrangle, unit system plan, and others), suggests that there was no "one best solution." Here, Bradley largely ignores twentieth-century layouts--all but two of the nineteen plants illustrated are from the nineteenth century.

The middle part of the book (chapters 4-8) analyzes what Bradley dubs "the engineered factory," that is, industrial buildings designed to solve practical problems faced by manufacturers. Changing building design and works layout were conscious efforts to attain the utilitarian goals set by factory owners: more efficient transmission of power to machinery; improved lighting and ventilation; better fire resistance; greater strength and resistance to vibration; and longer clear spans. In the fourth chapter, Bradley effectively shows the relationship between power sources (steam engines versus electric motors) and the arrangement of the machinery, building designs, and the layout of the works.

The fifth chapter closely examines the often contradictory goals pursued by factory engineers and architects in answering manufacturers' desire for buildings with both wider column spacing and increased loading capacity. This chapter includes a detailed analysis of efforts to design fire-resistant, but not fireproof, industrial buildings, starting in the 1860s. The next chapter considers building materials. Here, Bradley weighs the advantages and disadvantages of plans using frameworks of timber, masonry, cast iron, reinforced concrete, and steel. The nature of the industrial process to be housed, along with costs, determined the "best" design.

The middle section ends with chapters devoted to factory walls and roofs. This is the clearest, most thorough discussion I have seen of the emergence of the "daylight factory." Bradley rightly recognizes the importance of industrial steel-sash window manufacturers in this evolution. The chapter on roofs presents a useful comparison of the various styles of roofs, skylights, and monitors used in factories.

The Works concludes with two chapters that reexamine the aesthetics of industrial architecture. Bradley argues that factories reflect an industrial aesthetic, which is quite distinct from the aesthetic embraced by architects and architectural historians. Factory owners did care about the appearance of their buildings, but often preferred a "functional beauty" that was devoid of ornamentation. Engineers who designed factories did not simply produce functional "boxes" but consciously laid out buildings that were both functional and attractive. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1097-3729
Print ISSN
0040-165X
Pages
pp. 591-593
Launched on MUSE
2000-07-01
Open Access
No
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