Contemporary designers are creators of objects, buildings or surroundings that rely on characteristics such as lines, smooth and sleek surfaces, very little intricate details. There designs are spacious and/or comfortable, with the asset of clutter. However they must study design history because to open their mind to the past they will learn new ideas and ideologies, “To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child,” Marcus Tullius Cicero, a famous philosopher (106-43 BC)1. The 3 main reasons why learning design history is useful are firstly because it will help advance and learn from success and failures. Secondly to maintain sustainability within our world for future generations and thirdly to learn more about other past cultures. Researching history is valuable in learning from successes and failures for contemporary designers. Confucius (551–479 BC) a famous Chinese teacher and philosopher supports this and explains how we should “Study the past if you would define the future.”2 From ancient civilisations we have learnt to take these valuable skills and accomplishments to help build our outstanding society today. For example Roman buildings (27BC- 476 AD) has lasted for more than 2,000 years and they have given us 3 main successful architectural elements to learn and base new designs upon: the arch, the vault, and concrete.
The main one of these for contemporary designers to look upon is the arch and concrete in which we can use their useful elements of strength to help buildings last longer. The Pont du Gard Aqueduct Bridge (seen in Appendix Picture 1) in France is a great element that was successfully created and, consists of three tiers of arches, with smaller arches on the top tier.4 The Roman Coliseum was made of concrete and consisted of arches structured within its design. It was built in 72-80 CE5 and still stands today and designers can learn from these past successes of strength within the design using these characteristics which are important for future projects in allowing them to be more long lasting to teach future generations also, “History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done” – David Hume, philosopher.6 We can also learn from the mistakes of design, and try to avoid them next time. George Santayana a famous philosopher scholar and novelists supports this by explaining that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”7 For example the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge shocked everyone in 1940 as it was the most modern suspension bridge for its time.
The cause of its destruction was the random action of turbulent wind. From these failures however industrialists and architects learnt that the design failed due to excessive flexibility, drag and lift created by the solid plate girder and meniscal aerodynamic forces acknowledged.9 Attributes like this we can use to steer clear from and learn to think about what aspects will affect our design to base what designers may create on what was successful from the pass – “Instead we must be willing to face our past now, overcome it, and from this we will learn from it forever,” J. Johnson (Musician).10 The second reason why it is useful from learning from design history is for sustainability. This is an important factor for our future as a whole as the Future Annual Report Sates (2000), “Sustainable development is a dynamic process which enables all people to realise their potential, and to improve their quality of life, in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth’s life support systems.”11 The sustainable materials and structures are simple ways of past civilisations portraying to contemporary designers simple and effective ways to be “green.” For example the ancient Persian Wind Towers (Seen in Appendix Picture 2) were elaborate ventilation and cooling systems and rivals the contemporary equivalents today.
They use a mixture of structural positioning, pressure differences and running water. They are wind catcher structures and control temperatures even in the severest of desert environment with cool nights and scorching hot days.13 Another is the Passive solar Orientation for heating.14 This was introduced by the ancient Greeks. Much like our world today they ran into fuel shortages so they had to think about how to maximise heat gain and the retention during winter months. They did this by building cities/houses towards the southern exposure to capture the sun’s rays.15 Now a days designers just build things without purpose or sustainability wasting resources and harming the earth and they need to natural resources are allow and we need to sustain ourselves sometime in the future, supported by Victor Papanek a famous designer “… by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed.”16 The third reason to why contemporary designers should learn about design history is to preserve culture and sites and which will also create a sense of place, because the past is the root of our society values and it is what makes us today which is why we should acknowledge its importance – “A person without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” Marcus Garvey (Jamaican political leader).
Contemporary designers should design something whereby people can learn about contemporary cultures a lot more by visiting where they have thrived. For example when visiting the ancient Mayan temples in Mexico, citizens will have a greater understanding of the origins of Mexican values as well as their culture from the Pre-classic period to the Colonial period. In addition to learn about our culture and where we come from can help not just the general public but also researchers helping us to understand more about ourselves scientifically opening our mind to new discoveries and technologies – “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit, ” Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime minister of India.19 Heritage sites can tell us about pass species like the Galapagos Islands and tell us about evolution as well as the Valcamonica rock art in Italy (seen in picture 3 of appendix).20 It can explain how human societies developed, teaching us more about our past creating a sense of place and important knowledge of where we came from, which is what designers should do and create something that will help and form the future. -“Every piece of history is a piece of human nature,” Joss Whedon, an American writer.
They should have the motivation to design a product or building that will be remembered that will push the boundaries of current technology for us to build upon in –“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future,” supported by Albert Camus a French novelist and journalist. For example the ancient pyramids of Egypt (2630 BC–2611 BC) show great human accomplishment as today it still marvels researchers on how the Egyptians built these magnificent sites without the use of basic technology. Overall these three reasons portray why learning design history is so useful through learning from past mistakes and successes, learning how to become more sustainable without using harmful materials and learning from different cultures to view where our values came from incorporated with creating a sense of place for future generations to learn from. It is important to learn from the past otherwise we know very little of the present or future and become ignorant to everything around us that may help us strive in the future – “A generation which ignores history has no past: and no future,” supports and said by Robert Heinlein a famous writer.
1 McDermott, Brian. 2001. “Quotes about History.” Accessed August 31st, 2014. http://homepage.eircom.net/~odyssey/Quotes/History/Historians.html 2 Moncur, Michael. 1994. “The Quotations page.” Accesssed August 31st , 2014. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/29259.html 3Karen Carr. 2012. “Roman Architecture.” Accessed August 31st, 2014. http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/romans/architecture/romarch.htm 4Wikipeadia. 2014. “Pont du Gard.” Accessed September 1st, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_du_Gard 5 Wikipeadia. 2014. “Colosseum.” Accessed September 1st, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colosseum 6 Russel Tarr. 1998. “Active History.” Accessed September 1st, 2014. http://www.activehistory.co.uk/historical_quotations.htm 7 Indiana University. 2011. “The Santayana Edition.” Accessed September 4th, 2014. http://iat.iupui.edu/santayana/content/santayana-quotations 8 Claudia Bingham Baker. 2005. “Tacoma Narrows Bridge.” Accessed September 4th, 2014. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tnbhistory/machine/machine3.htm 9 Claudia Bingham Baker. 2005. “Tacoma Narrows Bridge.” Accessed September 4th, 2014. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tnbhistory/machine/machine3.htm 10 SearchQuotes. 2014. “Learning From The Past.” Accessed September 7th, 2014. http://www.searchquotes.com/viewimage/Learning_From_The_Past/355/ 11 Pavlova, Margarita. 2009. Technology and Vocational Education for Sustainable Development. Vol. 10. New York: Springer Publishing. 12 Web Ecoist. 2014. “7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design & Technology.” Accessed September 7th, 2013. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/01/25/ancient-green-architecture-alternative-energy-design/ 13 Web Ecoist. 2014. “7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design & Technology.” Accessed September 7th, 2013. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/01/25/ancient-green-architecture-alternative-energy-design/ 14Web Ecoist. 2014. “7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design &
Technology.” Accessed September 7th, 2013. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/01/25/ancient-green-architecture-alternative-energy-design/ 15Web Ecoist. 2014. “7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design & Technology.” Accessed September 7th, 2013. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/01/25/ancient-green-architecture-alternative-energy-design/ 16 Victor J. Papanek. 1984. Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. 1st ed. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishing. 17 Brainy Quotes. 2001. “Marcus Garvey.” Accessed September 9th 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marcusgarv365148.html 18 By Melanie J. Martin. 2014. “Why Are World Heritage Sites Important?” Accessed September 9th 2014. http://www.ehow.com/facts_5513442_world-heritage-sites-important.html 19 Brainy Quotes. 2001. “Jawaharlal Nehru.” Accessed September 9th, 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jawaharlal141407.html 20 By Melanie J. Martin. 2014. “Why Are World Heritage Sites Important?” Accessed September 9th 2014. http://www.ehow.com/facts_5513442_world-heritage-sites-important.html 21 McDermott, Brian. 2001. “Quotes about History.” Accessed August 31st, 2014. http://homepage.eircom.net/~odyssey/Quotes/History/Historians.html 22 Good Reads. 2014. “Albert Camus.” Accessed September 12th, 2014. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/209885-without-culture-and-the-relative-freedom-it-implies-society-even 23 Web Ecoist. 2014. “7 Ancient Wonders of Green Design & Technology.” Accessed September 7th, 2013. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/01/25/ancient-green-architecture-alternative-energy-design/ 24 Good Reads. 2014. “Robert A. Heinlein.” Accessed September 12th, 2014. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/186632-a-generation-which-ignores-history-has-no-past-and