Originally called the Salled des Capucines, Palais Garnier is one of the most popular opera houses in the world and a true marvel and symbol of Paris and the era in which it was constructed. Charles Garnier , who won the design rights in a competition of 170 contestants, designed the building in 1861. The building took 14 years to complete and was the home of the Paris Opera until 1989 where its primary function transitioned to housing the Paris ballet. Influenced by Renaissance artisans such as Michelangelo, Garnier’s style was truly unique and became the inspiration for many buildings afterward.
Innovation: Bessemer Steel Process
Location: England, U.K
By: Henry Bessemer
In 1855, Henry Bessemer received a patent for the first inexpensive process for the mass-production of steel. Although the process was independently discovered in 1851 by William Kelly and used outside of Europe for many years prior, Bessemer was the first to use the process on an industrial scale. The Bessemer process involves the removal of impurities from iron through oxidation and blasting air through molten iron. This process revolutionized the steel industry by cutting manufacturing costs by more than 75 percent and decreasing the time and labor requirements for steel production. Before the Bessemer process, steel was far too expensive to use as a primary material in the production of bridges and buildings. During this time, wrought iron and cast iron were used. Wrought iron is made by heating iron until it reaches a red and softer state, and then manually shaping it into the desired shape. Cast iron is made by melting pig iron, and then pouring it into a mold until it cools. Both wrought iron and cast iron are generally stronger and more rust-resistant, but the cheaper cost of producing mild steel surpasses those qualities. `
Innovation: First Mechanical Ice-Machine
Location: Geelong, Australia
By: James Harrison
Following in the footsteps of Jacob Perkins who obtained the first patent for a vapor-compression refrigeration system in 1834 and John Gorrie who patented a mechanical refrigeration system machine in 1851, James Harrison began operation of his first commercial ice-making machine in 1854 in Geelong, Australia. In 1855, Harrison was granted a patent for an ether vapor-compression refrigeration system which was the system used in the ice-machine.
“This novel system used a compressor to force the refrigeration gas to pass through a condenser, where it cooled down and liquefied. The liquefied gas then circulated through the refrigeration coils and vaporised again, cooling down the surrounding system.”
This system not only revolutionized the refrigerator (as the sytem is still used today with refinements and a replacement of ether by other gases), it also revolutionized mechanical cooling contributing to the development of the air-conditioner. The ability to have heat transferred to an area of higher temperature was a primary problem in architecture before AC. However, with the ideas and inventions of James Harrison and fellow scientists of low-temperature technology, temperature could now be regulated and AC would eventually become a standard for all buildings.
Innovation: Reinforced Concrete
Location: Paris, France
By: Francois Coignet
In 1853 Francois Coignet built the first iron reinforced concrete structure ever, a house at 72 rue Charles Michels in Paris, France. Although initial reports stated that the house may be dangerous, it still stands today and serves as a historical monument and representation of the importance of the material. Before Coignet discovered the use of reinforced concrete, concrete itself was very limited as a building material due to its low tensile strength and ductility. One primary concern was unacceptable cracking and therefore structural failure. However, with the addition of a steel reinforcing bar containing a higher tensile strength and ductility, certain regions subject to tensile stresses would now have a greater resistance to those forces. This innovation lead to the widespread use of concrete in buildings. Of course, reinforced concrete has been and still is one of the most common used materials in structures.