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The history of the interior design can be explored by focusing on two major architectural designs. These are the Glass and Guest House by Philip and Johnson, and Schroder House. First, the spaces in the Glass and Guest Houses show a reflection of response to contemporary socio-cultural and political needs. First, the extensive lighting programs were an architectural design to regulate the social life for Johnson and Whitney. This reflection is depicted by including large spaces of glazing and applications that do not illuminate direct lighting. In the emphasis, as an architect and socialite, Johnson could not reveal too much of himself. However, he was keen to make designs that would provoke emotions and responses about his life. For example, the walls of the Glass House are entirely transparent; this was a hidden architectural exposure for a gay man, occupation, and dominance over New Canaan Estate. In other words, the spaces in the Glass House reflected the Johnsons social life and his needs as a professional architect. In the emphasis, he was a gay man who did not conform to the traditional family models. He was also ambitious to dominate the architectural business by developing complex buildings.
Similarly, the spaces in the Silverman, Art Nouveau reflected some needs. It offers the viewers with the understanding of Belgium’s over Congo. For instance, the use of ivory reflects the idea that the Congolese faced violence under the colonization of the Belgians.
On the one hand, Johnson designed the Glass and Guest Houses to serve the purposes of attraction, personality, and comfort. Therefore, the integration of electric lightning techniques into residential spaces was used as aspect of interior decoration. For example, the extensive use of lighting served the purpose to enhance the important features such as carpeting and glassware that are found in a domestic house. In relation to comfort, the lighting was significant to enhance functions such as cooking and sewing. More importantly, electric lighting was also crucial to reveal the hidden personality of the occupants. For instance, the use of indirect lighting in some areas is a design that shows that the occupants used these spaces for social functions such as entertainment. On the contrary, Art of Darkness showed significant differences from the Glass and Guest Houses. First, it aimed to show challenges that the whole country faced, rather than individual lives. Secondly, the glasses were stained compared to the transparent ones that were used in Johnson’s designs.
The Art of Darkness did not fail to serve the purpose too. It depicts the hypocrisy and atrocities committed by the Belgians towards the Congolese. Under King Leopold’s rule, the Belgians created devastating conditions in Congo as they wanted to gain the commercial benefits of rubber and ivory. The Congolese were subjected to forced labor, some were taken as hostages, and others were attacked brutally. Under this regime, when the troops killed the villagers, they were supposed to present hands that were severely wounded to prove that no bullet was wasted. As a result, there were massive deaths and destructions. Therefore, although some arts such as the Elephant in Room are attractive, there is a hidden meaning: the Belgians saw Congo as a treasure to rebuild their country, expand to global markets, and improve their economic infrastructure. Moreover, King Leopold exploited every economic area in Congo. For example, he built big greenhouses and structures that used specific materials from Congo.
The Glass and Guest Houses were significant innovations. The experimentation with electric light proved that it could be used as an architectural material. It was more practical to embrace the use of electric light to enhance the interior designs. Interestingly, it was used to create specific visual effects and settings. Therefore, the Glass and Guest Houses were innovative to show magnificent styles of living in a house that had transparent glass walls. Moreover, although the increasing trend of glass-walled houses was facing some challenges related to privacy, this fear could be solved by the use of drapes, curtains, or French shades. In this way, the innovation of decorative landscape enhanced by electric light would not be compromised. In addition, the transparent walls provided Johnson with the visual connection to New Canaan Estate at night. He could have a visual control of his estate from his house. For these reasons, it is clear that the Glass and Guest Houses are an innovative ideas that used electric light as the primarily material to maximize the experience of different domestic spaces. As a result, this idea gradually formed an integral process of modern buildings and interiors.
On the same note, Art of Darkness was an innovation too. It was an indirect way to depict the sufferings the Congolese faced under King Leopold’s rule. They were subjected to hard labor, torture, and killings as they Belgians forced them to provide rubber and ivory. In addition, other treasures such as plants textiles and metals were shipped from Congo to Belgium. Moreover, unlike many historical arts that directly show the impacts of colonial rule, the Art of Darkness was different. It requires the viewers to think critically to understand that materials such as ivory were not used simply for attraction. For example, the use of elephant tusks to create a sculptor of a woman, this was more an artistic creation. In the emphasis, it aimed at showing the distinctive challenges that the women faced to meet the demand of ivory in Belgium. There are concerns among the historians that many Congolese lost their lives during the colonial rule.
However, despite the innovation portrayed in the Glass and Guest Houses, there are theoretical underpinnings that have affected these spaces. On the one hand, sufficient lighting is vital in all living spaces. However, the illuminating effects compromise the comfort of living in these spaces. For instance, the Glass House emphasized on the transparency of the glass walls, but it created the fear of being seen. As a consequence, the residents were forced to use curtains to minimize these effects, contrary to the initial idea. On a similar note, the Art of Darkness did not only aim to show the consequences of Belgium’s colonization in Congo, but the new creativity to use local materials in artistic works. In the emphasis, the snake-headed dragon represented the barbaric ways that the Congolese lived before the onset on the Europeans in their country. On the other hand, although the Belgians committed many atrocities, they marked the beginning of civilization. Consequently, in post- modern Congolese started to reduce the overreliance on rubber and turned to other economic activities such as manufacturing. In addition, these arts show that although ivory was significantly used by the Belgians to enhance the appearance and interior designs, it also evokes the brutality the Congolese faced to ensure it was supplied. Ironically, although the Congolese were subjected to hard labor, beatings, and even loss lives, when the ivory was shipped to Belgium, it was used to create beautiful designs.