Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Historiographical Considerations: Some Final Thoughts

The study of the Robinson Crusoe house in an architectural context was a unique endeavour. Instead of having a physical manifestation of an architecture, we had to consider the structures and spaces in literary form. In digesting the text for motives, programs, and functions of the Robinson Crusoe house, it became apparent that the house was as much as a literary narrative device as a setting and situation of the plot.

Robinson Crusoe's shelters transitioned in accordance with his basic needs; first, protection and safety, then shelter from the elements, then storage, leisure, and the need for work. The construction of the shelter and the many additions is a needs-based progression of development in the timeline of the story that grows more complex as Robinson Crusoe's development of a civilization emerges.

As with all good literature, the story of Robinson Crusoe demonstrates a great deal of the author's interpretations of his own epochal timeline. Throughout the course of his life, Defoe met the British colonial expansion, crumbling economic conditions, and an unstable royal monarchy with dissent. He challenged the politics and cultural conditions of London and abroad. As a Puritan and a Catholic Dissenter, Defoe carried with him strong ideals about the nature of civilization. These ideals found the perfect setting for manifestation in the shipwreck tale of survival he would write in the later years of his life.

Many of the ideals and themes explored in the novel are representative of Defoe's historical era, and it was a fascinating experience to explore the translation of this history into literature, then in architecture.

The Construction Process

       Robinson Crusoe built a new civilization from the remnants of a sunken ship and the primitive supplies of the island. From the ship, Crusoe rescued a number of very useful materials, such as cables, masts, planks, and sails. He also recovered a number of tools and supplies from the cabins of the ship. He found hammers, nails, axes, and saws, among other supplies.
       Crusoe built his shelter using vernacular construction techniques of the time. His double layered tent was constructed in the usual manner, each tent made up of two uprights supporting a crosspiece.
The wall fortification - two rows of stakes cut from the ship's masts support stacks of the ship's cable in the manner of a fagot shack wall.
       Over time, Crusoe builds a structural roof over the cabin, similar to a fallen tree shelter. Using tree trunks and wooden poles from the ship as rafters, and supporting them on the face of the rock, he covers the roof with wooden planks and grass. Crusoe extends his fortification by creating a second wall out of brushwood between the trees that encompass the shelter and fagot wall.
      For the bower, Crusoe produces a standard wick-up shelter. This is the first of his structures to resemble a traditional framed house. Thin lumber creates the frame of the bower - four perpendicular walls - and a flat roof. The frame is held together with braided rope, which Crusoe produced from straw. It is then covered with straw and grass to provide shelter. He also develops a number of sheds and apartments in this same fashion.
       Another construction aspect to consider is the cave. Crusoe builds his first wall around a small recess in the rock face. He finds the rock loose and soft enough to burrow in to. Over time, as he requires more shelter, Crusoe burrows a tunnel leading into the rock and back out on the other side of the fortified wall. In the tunnel, he hollows out a number of small cellars in which to store supplies and food.

Final Drawings

Below are the final architectural drawings of the Robinson Crusoe House study.

Elevations 1:50

Stage 1

Sections 1:50

Tent with cave section

Cave section with details

Cave section with roof addition

 Plans 1:50

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 5
Stage 6 

Stage 6 with first shed

Stage 7 with outer wall

Final stage with wall fortifications

Topographical Site Circumstances

Annotated Bibliography

Arthur Haberman and Adrian Shubert, The West And The World: Contacts, Conflicts, Connections. New York: Gage Learning Corporation, 2002. Textbook of Western History. This book was particularly useful in its timelines, as they represented information clearly and concisely. It was a good resource for understanding Defoe’s lifetime in a broader context of history. The text includes a collection of primary sources to support information.

"Audio Podcast Novel,” Robinson Crusoe, Candlelight Stories, (accessed Dec 9, 2012) http://www.candlelightstories.com/category/robinson-crusoe/ Audio Podcasts allowed us access to the book and it’s content when needed. The organization of the podcasts by chapter and interest made it possible to listen to the novel and take notes on important information.

C. George Boeree, “ Abraham Maslow,” Personality Theoriesm, C. George Boeree, http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/maslow.html (accessed 8 December 2012) This is a site set up by C. George Boeree, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Shippensburg University. The site offers the basics on the theories of renowned psychologists such as Abraham Maslow. The piece on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was referenced as a comparison to Crusoe’s hierarchy of needs.

"Daniel Defoe," The Biography Channel website, http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-defoe-9269678 (accessed Dec 9, 2012).The website discussed the life and times of Daniel Defoe, giving an articulated synopsis of his early life, career, published works, and his legacy.

Daniel Defoe. Robinson Crusoe (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1995), 242. The complete and unabridged print version of the Robinson Crusoe featuring introduction and notes by Doreen Roberts of the University of Kent at Canterbury. The notes provide explanations for the diction of the time. The book was used in order to understand the context of the project and the details of the shelter.

Daniel Defoe. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Pennsylvania: The Franklin Library, 1977. The Franklin Library’s edition of Robinson Crusoe was cross-referenced with the Wordsworth edition and the Oxford World Classics edition of the novel. These were the primary sources for the objective information collected on Crusoe, the island and his dwellings.

Daniel Defoe. Robinson Crusoe. Edited by Thomas Keymer, Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. The Oxford World’s Classics edition of Robinson Crusoe contains a chronology of the events of Daniel Defoe’s life in

conjunction with a timeline of historical events. This proved to be a good reference for the creation of the timeline of Defoe’s life and his involvement in his contemporary political climate.

D.C. Beard. Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926. Shelters, Shacks and Shanties contains step-by-step instructions on building small sized structures from both man-made and natural materials. This book was used as useful in helping us deduce the building construction techniques that Crusoe would have used. In addition, Shelters, Shacks and Shanties contains an abundance of illustrations of these techniques. The book was referenced in our creation of illustrations of Crusoe’s shelters.

Environmental Thinker, “The Purpose and Importance of Trees” Environmental Thinker, http://environmentalthinker.blogspot.ca/2009/02/purpose-and- importance-of-trees.html (accessed 10 December 2012) The article focuses on the purpose of trees and the specifics of what how they help the environment. This reference was used as verification for the natural purposes of trees as mentioned in the purpose and function entry of the weblog.

Flickriver, Illustrations of Robinson Crusoe, (accessed Dec 10, 2012) http://www.flickriver.com/photos/odisea2008/sets/72157607186278673/ Images used in the blog were found on this site. They were useful as they fit the style of drawings being produced by the group and they also held true to the narrative of the story.

History – Civil War and Revolution,” The BBC UK Website, (accessed Dec 5, 2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/ The BBC UK website gives an overview of the civil war and revolution occurring in 1603-1714, discusses The Gunpowder Plot, and The Great Fire of London. It also informs us of the Daily Life in the 17th Century, allowing for a broader understanding of the context in which Robinson Crusoe is written. It proved to be a valuable site for understanding the Cultural History and in creating the Timeline of events.

Primary Industries Agriculture, “African boxthorn – image gallery,” n.a. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/weeds/profiles/african- boxthorn/african-boxthorn-image-gallery (accessed 8 December 2012). This database provides information on different types of plants such as the African Boxthorn. Information such as the location, genus and physical qualities of the boxthorn are described. Information on the boxthorn is necessary to identify the tree that Crusoe stayed for the first night in addition to providing more information on Crusoe’s shelter for the first night.

"St. Lucia Geography,” About .com website, (accessed Nov 28,2012) http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcstlucia.htm. This website stated scientific information pertaining to the climate, geography, land use, and location of the island of St. Lucia. It made for a good reference to base our estimates of Crusoe’s island off of, and gave us evidence to support what we read from the text.

"The British Empire -Trading Routes and Construction,” The Map as History Website, (accessed Dec 5, 2012) http://www.the-map-as- history.com/demos/tome05/index.php This site uses diagrammatic and visual tools to inform the viewer about the European colonial expansion. Trade routes and construction are discussed and shown via maps and helped to give a geographical understanding to the events discussed on the Blog timeline.

Thomas Nelson & Sons, “ROBINSON CRUSOE- An English Graphical Bibliography,” Robinson Crusoe- An Identification Guide, http://larryvoyer.com/RobinsonCrusoe/crusoe%20pages/nelson.htm (accessed 8 December 2012) The site keeps a record of many old covers of Robinson Crusoe from previous publications. One cover from the site was taken to as a picture reference for the weblog.

University of Virginia Library, “Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe,” n.a. http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DefCru1.html (accessed 9 December 2012) From the University of Virginia’s electronic text centre, this site provides the complete text of Robinson Crusoe and divides the text into titled chapters. As a digitized version of the text it is easier to navigate when in search of particular parts of the book.
Annotated Bibliography


Throughout his many years on the island, Robinson Crusoe made a number of adjustments and additions to his home. The following images are a study of the developmental stages of Crusoe's fortification.
Crusoe starts off by constructing a fence at a ten yards in radius from the rock and five feet high out of desire for security from the potential dangers on the island. He then sets up a double tent for storage and simple protection from the element within the fence. 
Once the fence and the wall is complete, Crusoe begins carving into the cave to create a cellar so as to separate lodging from storage. This also creates space within the tent for him to put a chair and a table.
Following the cellar, Crusoe puts turf up against the wall both for reinforcement and for and camouflage. Fearing potential damage to his goods once the rain season arrives, Crusoe creates a simple roof by setting rafters between the fence and the rock and using more turf to cover the roof.
Crusoe begins to expand his cave again, desiring more space for storage and a kitchen. However, one day the roof of the cave collapses and from then on, Crusoe begins using posts, like the stakes in the fence, and planks, possibly from the ship, to support the roof the cave as he expands. Crusoe also sets up the posts so that they may partition the rooms.
As he carves further into the cave, he creates pathway from the cave to the exterior of his wall. Presumably, this is done to allow for easier access to the kitchen once he has gathered food since the wall requires a ladder to cross.

Crusoe then begins a series of further expansions to the cave. 

 When Crusoe was building the bower, he chose not to construct a fagot wall but instead made a simple hedge by linking surrounding trees with brushwood. Finding that this strategy provided both shade and further camouflaging, Crusoe applied the same technique to his first fortification.
After finding the footprint in the sand, Crusoe is alarmed and immediately sets out to fortify the hedge to create a second wall. Earth is removed from the cave and placed against the second wall to make it stronger. Crusoe also creates seven holes and sets up his spare muskets there for further defensive measures. By this time, the trees have also grown bigger to completely hide his fortification from site.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Thesis Statement

The circumstances of Defoe as an author and a puritan, accompanied by the plot of the novel itself, influence the manner in which Crusoe as a character is motivated to create and construct his shelters.  Defoe’s knowledge and understanding of construction would dictate the manner that the shelters would be constructed by Crusoe’s character in the novel. Defoe’s puritan views would also add an idealistic interpretation of what Crusoe’s shelters and lifestyle would be portrayed as. Crusoe’s hard working mentality, and his constant strive for improvement are examples of this, and are prevalent throughout the story. The external pressures of the island would also affect how the shelters would come to be, influencing how they might protect Crusoe against the elements and other threats, or how they would be constructed from the materials in the surroundings. The progression and “renovation” of his shelters, as well as the construction of new elements, such as the Bower would also portray Crusoe’s inclination to strive for more comfort after having his basic needs met. This evaluation of the narrative draws many parallels to the hierarchy of needs and how Crusoe responds to his ascent on that hierarchy. Defoe’s symbolizes the construction of a civilization on a savage island, by building Crusoe’s character up in a progression of developments on the shelters themselves.

Crusoe's Priorities

Crusoe farming

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Security
  4. Roof
  5. Rest
  6. Fuel
  7. Organization
  8. Agriculture
  9. Comfort
From the list, it is evident that security is one of the most important things to Crusoe. When Crusoe first arrives on the island, his primary concern is security and thus he chooses the most secure place he can possibly find on the first night, which happens to be a up within a boxthorn, and arms himself with one of its branches. The value of security is also displayed in in the construction of the hut of crates where he would first create a barricade using the crates before pitching up the tent. The same order of construction is also applied to the fortification, demonstrating that more important than the roof which provides him protection from the elements, is the wall that protects him from predators. After Crusoe finds the the footprint in the sand, security becomes even more important, rising above food as a priority.
"the concern that was now upon me, put an end to all invention, and to all the contrivances that I had laid for my future accommodations and conveniences. I had the care of my safety more now upon my hands than that of my food. I cared not to drive a nail, or chop a stick of wood now, for fear the noise I might make should be heard"
Organization is unexpectedly above agriculture and comfort for Crusoe. The importance on organization may be an influence from Defoe. Defoe, after going through experiences such as the London fire and the the Plague, may be aiming to create an idealized civilization through Robinson Crusoe and perhaps because he feels that organization is essential to the construction of a healthy civilization, he stresses the factor of organization within Crusoe's shelters.