Architectural Theory : Vitruvius, On Architecture, Book 1

Architectural Theory
Volume 1 - An Anthology From Vitruvius to 1870
edited by:  Harry Francis Mallgrave
A. Classical and Medieval Traditions

Intro + Vitruvius
On Architecture, Book 1
- The Education of the Architect/The Fundamental Principles of Architecture
  • When we speak of the classical tradition in architecture, we refer to the intellectual and artistic productions of Greek and Roman antiquity, and to the “rediscovery” of this legacy in medieval times, the Renaissance, and in the ensuing centuries. (3)
  • Classicism begins with Vitruvius/Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. He served under Julius Caesar as a military engineer. Served under Octavian (son of Julius) as engineer. Built one building “The basilica at Fano” nothing has survived of it. He favored late-Hellenic architecture. (4)
  •  Ten Books of Architecture: Embraces many more concerns than what today is considered to fall within the realm of architecture. (4)
Book 1 he presents the six principles of architecture:

1. Order

2. Arrangement
Arranging things properly and attaining an elegant effect. Groundplan, Elevation and Perspective. Groundplan is made by the proper use of compasses and rules, through which we get outlines for the plane surfaces of buildings. An elevation is a picture of the front of a building, set upright and properly drawn in proportion. Perspective is the method of sketching a front with the sides withdrawing into the background. All three come of reflexion and invention. Reflexion is careful and laborious thought, and watchful attention directed to the agreeable effect of one’s plan. Invention is the solving of intricate problems and the discovery of new principles by means of brilliancy and versatility. (7)

3. Eurhythmy
Is beauty and fitness in the adjustments of the members when they all correspond symmetrically (7)

4. Symmetry
A proper agreement between the members of the work itself and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme. Remember: The human body is in perfect symmetrical harmony. (p 7)

5. Propriety
Is that perfect of style which comes when a work is authoritatively constructed on approved principles. (7)

Doric: Will be the temples of Minerva, Mars and Hercules. Since the virile strength of these gods makes daintiness entirely inappropriate to their houses. (7)

Corinthian: Will be found to have peculiar significance because these are delicate divinities and so its rather slender outlines, its flowers, leaves and ornamental volutes will lend propriety where it is due. (7)

Ionic: The order to Juno, Diana, Father Bacchus, and the other gods of that kind will be keeping with the middle position which they hold. An appropriate combination of the severity of the Doric and the delicacy of the Corinthian. (7)

6. Economy
The proper management of materials; as well as thrifty balancing of cost and common sense.  Try to use local or as local as possible material to cut down in cost. Building dwellings suitable for the clients; whether ordinary householders, great wealthy or for those in high position of government. (8)

Book 2 represents the Vitruvian Triad: Commodity, Firmness, and Delight. Proportion and symmetry can be adjusted where the eye deems it necessary.

Books 3 and 4 he represents the proportional rules and description of three types of temples. Starting with their columns, which later will be constructed as “orders.”

Books 5 and 6 concern other building types such as: Basilicas, Treasuries, Theaters, Gymnasia, and Dwellings.

Books 8, 9 and 10 deal with water: aqueducts, wells. Time-pieces: zodiacs, planets, astrology, sundials. And, mechanics: pulleys, screws, catapults, battering rams.

  • By the fourth Crusade (1198-1216) the Latin Church had achieved its apogee as apolitical and military power and essentially unified Europe with its language, law and theology. Arab scholars had reintroduced Greco-Roman classical tradition into the West. Thus the Gothic period appeared at the moment when a classical cultural renaissance was taking place in Europe; scholars renewed historical interest and the production of books increased dramatically. (5)

  • The Church’s relationship with classicism was ambiguous because it bore the marks of paganism and was often viewed with suspicion; however, there was a genuine interest in recapturing the legacy of the past. (5)

  • Symbolism, a prominent feature of Gothic architecture in particular remained wedded to theological and pedagogical interests. The great monuments of the Middle Ages were extensions of the Church’s teachings.(5)

- The Three-Departments of Architecture: They must be built with due reference to durability, convenience, and beauty.

1. The Art of Building: This department is split into two. The first is of works for general use in public classes; defense, religious and utilitarian. The second is for private individuals. (8)

Defense: The planning of walls, towers and gates. Permanent devices for resistance against hostile attacks.

Religious: The erection of fanes and temples to the immortal gods.

Utilitarian: Meeting places for public use such as harbors, markets, colonnades, baths, theaters, promenades, and such.

2. The making of time pieces

3. The construction of machinery

*notes and information I've taken from my readings - this book was purchased for the arch theory class ARC1201.

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