Building Buildings

There are four things that human beings need to survive: air, water, food, and shelter. Of these, shelter is the one that human beings have exercised the most control over through the years. The days of hunkering down in natural caves are long gone. Today we find shelter not by scouring mountainsides but by searching real estate listings online or in a paper. Beaches were once useless to us for shelter because they were flat and laid open to the elements. Now, thanks to the miracles of modern architecture, they're the sites of some of the most upscale dwellings in the city.

This transformation of natural landscapes, which has occurred all over the world and continues to occur as new technological advancements are made, is the subject of our Building Buildings series of articles. In it, we will trace the history of architecture, for architecture is the process by which stacks of building materials become shelters which are bought, sold, traded, and brokered by people who have graduated from a real estate license course. We will focus not just on the design of these buildings but also how our criteria for selecting ideal building sites have changed with our evolving lifestyles.

Building Buildings will show how humanity has gone from mud huts made of sticks laid into place with workers' bare hands to towering structures supported by I-beams that must be moved by pneumatic conveying. It is through these advancements that we became the species we are today, for with the advancement of shelter technology comes increases in the carrying capacity of humanity. Newer and more modern buildings have allowed us to blossom from a handful of mutant offshoots of monkeys to the dominant species on the planet, now more than six billion strong.

Another huge component in the evolution of architecture that we will cover in our series is the continual advancement in materials science. Where once we relied upon thatched roofs that were flammable and prone to leaks, today we have ceramics, shingles, and ceiling tar. There are even researchers working on new solutions in the fields of materials science and plastic fabrication. Toronto's streets act as a tour through more than 200 years of building materials as you go from the mortar-and-brick to the modern chrome-and-glass skyscrapers of the Financial District.

Building Buildings will also outline how it is not just the design and construction of buildings that has evolved over the years, but also the purposes for which they were constructed. In the earliest years of architecture lasting structures were reserved for dead royalty and places of worship, while today churches and graveyards are dwarfed by the might of office towers and condominium complexes. Emphasis has moved away from spacious pulpits to the installation of efficient wall mounted boilers and corner offices with walls of windows. In essence, we will be talking about what buildings say about the goals and values of the people who design and occupy them.

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Monday, May 10, 2021