3rd October 2012
FIRMITAS, UTILITAS, VENUSTAS
A CRITICAL RESPONSE TO VITRUVIUS & ALBERTI
Throughout history, the makings of an architect have changed by stark proportions and so did the requirements of the finished creation. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (80 B.C.E), famously known as Vitruvius, wrote in The Ten Books on Architecture of how the architect must possess wide knowledge and expertise in many fields of study, and that his buildings must encompass firmitas [durability], utilitas [usefulness], venustas [beauty] (Vitruvius, 33) and harmonious symmetry that of which is found in nature and in man. Leon Battista Alberti (1407-1476), however, stresses in his book Art of Building in Ten Books that the architect should have sufficient skill in both art and mathematics, and that constructions should meet the requirements of man, be of utmost utilization, and have an aesthetic appeal. Modern day architecture can be seen as a hybrid of these mandates. Some annexed, and some abandoned. Vitruvius strictly states that an architect ought to have the ability to draw and sketch, and have a sound understanding of geometry. He continues that an architect must also possess thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, music, medicine, principles of law, and even astronomy for “we find the east, west, south, and north…the heavens, equinox, courses of stars” (Vitruvius, 36). This mandate in itself is overtly existential; for in Vitruvius’ era, astronomy was greatly popular and considered an important field of study. Apart from art, math and physics, the fields of study that Vitruvius mentioned would not be conducive to architecture today, at all. Compared to modern civilization, Vitruvius’ social setting was still a primitive one, even to Alberti’s. It is this time period conflict that urges Vitruvius to state in his treatise that the architect must be all-knowing. The rudimentary beginnings of modernized architecture around that time would...
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