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Vitruvius The Ten Books on Architecture

(Translated by Morris Hicky Morgan, in 1914, edited by Tom Turner in 2000).

This is the first and most famous text in the history of western landscape architecture, architecture, enginering and town planning. In Roman times the architect was, from the word’s Greek etymology, a ‘chief technician’. The Ten Books' Contents list reveals that most aspects of engineering, including harbours, site planning, clocks, aqueducts, pumps and siege engines, come with the author's technical scope. Only a tiny proportion of these subjects come within the twenty-first century scope of ‘architecture’. Vitruvius Pollio’s treatise De Architectura, was written circa 27 BC and is the only book of its kind to survive from antiquity.  These online extracts from Vitruvius comprise the first Book and his comments on what we would now classify as garden design.

Ian Thompson re-interpreted Vitruvius for modern landscape architecture in his book on Ecology, Community and Delight: sources of value in landcape architecture (1999). He argued that Delight is still a useful name for the aesthetic aspect of landscape design but that it makes sense to interpret Firmness as Ecology and Commodity as Community.

With regard to the design methods appropriate to landscape architecture, Tom Turner has suggested a 'simple approach', also deriving from Vitruvius, based on an understanding of Natural Patterns, Social Patterns, Cultural Patterns and Aesthetic Patterns.

The Ten Books on Architecture

Book 1 The Preface is used by the author as an opportunity to fawn on his emperor. Chapter 1 deals with education, which includes a broader range of subjects than the syllabus of  today’s design schools, and Chapter 2 with the five fundamental principles of design (Order, Eurythmy, Symmetry, Propriety, and Economy). Chapter 3 contains the most famous section in the book, making the case for Commodity, Firmness and Delight. Chapter 4 and Chapter 6, on for planning a site in relation to climate, lay down the basis for landscape architecture. Chapter 5 may seem obsolete but modern cities are being re-fortified in response to fears of crime and terrorism. Chapter 7 has fascinating commentary on the placing of important buildings.  Book 1 is  followed by books on materials and on different types of building. Roman towns had little space was available for what we would now call gardens. But some land was allocated to outdoor rooms and Vitruvius comments on the treatment of this land are quoted, from his section on Colonades and walks (Book 5, Chapter 10) and on the Palaestra (Book 5, Chapter 11), which was a gymnasium.

The subjects of Vitruvius Ten Books, using modern terminology, are:

  1. Landscape architecture
  2. Construction materials
  3. Temples (Part 1)
  4. Temples (Part 2)
  5. Public places:  square, meeting hall, theatre, park, gymnasium, harbour 
  6. Private dwellings 
  7. Finishes and colours 
  8. Water supply
  9. Sundials and clocks 
  10. Mechanical engineering

Contents  Top

Book 1 Landscape Architecture

Preface

  1. The education of the architect
  2. The fundamental principles of architecture
  3. The departments of architecture
  4. The site of a city
  5. The city walls
  6. The directions of streets; with remarks on the winds
  7. The sites for public buildings

Book 2 Materials

Introduction Top

  1. The origin of the dwelling house
  2. On the primordial substance according to the physicists
  3. Brick
  4. Sand
  5. Lime
  6. Pozzolana
  7. Stone
  8. Methods of building walls
  9. Timber
  10. Highland and lowland fir

Book 3 Temples (Part 1)

Introduction Top

  1. On symmetry in temples and in the human body
  2. Classification of temples
  3. The proportions of intercolumniations and of columns
  4. The foundations and substructures of temples
  5. Proportions of the base, capitals, and entablature in the Ionic order

Chapter 1 of Book 3 contains the famous advice (below) on ratios and proportion which inspired Leonardo da Vinci's even more famous Vitruvian Man drawing. The ideas it illustrates are related to Plato's Theory of Forms and to ideas about 'sacred geometry' which encouraged the use of circles and squares in renaissance architecture and garden design.

1. The design of a temple depends on symmetry, the principles of which must be most carefully observed by the architect. They are due to proportion, in Greek [Greek: analogia]. Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an entire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as standard. From this result the principles of symmetry. Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members, as in the case of those of a well shaped man.  2. For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the distance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown.  3. Similarly, in the members of a temple there ought to be the greatest harmony in the symmetrical relations of the different parts to the general magnitude of the whole. Then again, in the human body the central point is naturally the navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centred at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to the outstretched arms, the breadth will be found to be the same as the height, as in the case of plane surfaces which are perfectly square.  4. Therefore, since nature has designed the human body so that its members are duly proportioned to the frame as a whole, it appears that the ancients had good reason for their rule, that in perfect buildings the different members must be in exact symmetrical relations to the whole general scheme. Hence, while transmitting to us the proper arrangements for buildings of all kinds, they were particularly careful to do so in the case of temples of the gods, buildings in which merits and faults usually last forever. 

Book 4 Temples (Part 2)

Introduction Top

  1. The origins of the three orders, and the proportions of the corinthian capital
  2. The ornaments of the orders
  3. Proportions of doric temples
  4. The cella and pronaos
  5. How the temple should face
  6. The doorways of temples
  7. Tuscan temples
  8. Circular temples and other varieties
  9. Altars

Book 5 Public places:  forum, basicila, theatres, walks, palaestra, harbours

Introduction Top

  1. The forum and basilica
  2. The treasury, prison, and senate house
  3. The theatre: its site, foundations, and acoustics
  4. Harmonics
  5. Sounding vessels in the theatre
  6. Plan of the theatre
  7. Greek theatres
  8. Acoustics of the site of a theatre
  9. Colonnades and walks
  10. Baths
  11. The palaestra
  12. Harbours, breakwaters, and shipyards

Book 6 Private houses

Introduction Top

  1. On climate as determining the style of the house
  2. Symmetry, and modifications in it to suit the site
  3. Proportions of the principal rooms
  4. The proper exposures of the different rooms
  5. How the rooms should be suited to the station of the
  6. Owner
  7. The farmhouse
  8. The Greek house
  9. On foundations and substructures

 

Book 7 Finishes and colours

Introduction Top

  1. Floors
  2. The slaking of lime for stuccco
  3. Vaultings and stucco work
  4. On stucco work in damp places, and on the decoration of dining rooms
  5. The decadence of fresco painting
  6. Marble for use in stucco
  7. Natural colours
  8. Cinnebar and quicksilver
  9. Artificial colours Black, Blue, Burnt ochre
  10. White lead, verdigris, and artificial sandarach
  11. Purple
  12. Substitutes for purple, yellow ochre, malachite green, and indigo

 

Book 8 Water

Introduction Top

  1. How to find water
  2. Rainwater
  3. Various properties of different waters
  4. Tests of good water
  5. Levelling and levelling instruments
  6. Aqueducts, wells, and cisterns

 

Book 9 Sundials and clocks

Introduction Top

  1. The zodiac and the planets
  2. The phases of the moon
  3. The course of the sun through the twelve signs
  4. Tee northern constellations
  5. The southern constellations
  6. Astrology and weather prognostics
  7. The analemma and its applications
  8. Sundials and water clocks

Book 10 Mechanical engineering

Introduction Top

  1. Machines and implements
  2. Hoisting machines
  3. The elements of motion
  4. Engines for raising water
  5. Water wheels and water mills
  6. The water screw
  7. The pump of Ctesibius
  8. The water organ
  9. The hodometer
  10. Catapults or scorpiones
  11. Ballistae
  12. The stringing and tuning of catapults
  13. Siege machines
  14. The tortoise
  15. Hegetor's tortoise
  16. Measures of defence
  17. Note on scamilli impares

BOOK I

Preface    Top

1. While your divine intelligence and will, Imperator Caesar, were engaged in acquiring the right to command the world, and while your fellow citizens, when all their enemies bad been laid low by your invincible valour, were glorying in your triumph and victory, - while all foreign nations were in subjection awaiting your beck and call, and the Roman people and senate, released from their alarm, were beginning to be guided by your most noble conceptions and policies, I hardly dared, in view of your serious employments, to publish my writings and long considered ideas on architecture, for fear of subjecting myself to your displeasure by an unseasonable interruption.

2. But when I saw that you were giving your attention not only to the welfare of society in general and to the establishment of public order, but also to the providing of public buildings intended for utilitarian purposes, so that not only should the state have been enriched with provinces by your means, but that the greatness of its power might likewise be attended with distinguished authority in its public buildings, I thought that I ought to take the first opportunity to lay before you my writings on this theme. For in the first place it was this subject which made me known to your father, to whom I was devoted on account of his great qualities. After the council of heaven gave him a place in the dwellings of immortal life and transferred your father’s power to your hands, my devotion continuing unchanged as I remembered him inclined me to support you. And so with Marcus Aurelius, Publius Minidius, and Gnaeus Cornelius, I was ready to supply and repair ballistae, scorpiones, and other artillery, and I have received rewards for good service with them. After your first bestowal of these upon me, you continued to renew them on the recommendation of your sister.

3. Owing to this favour I need have no fear of want to the end of my life, and being thus laid under obligation I began to write this work for you, because I saw that you have built and are now building extensively, and that in future also you will take care that our public and private buildings shall be worthy to go down to posterity by the side of your other splendid achievements. I have drawn up definite rules to enable you, by observing them, to have personal knowledge of the quality both of existing buildings and of those which are yet to be constructed. For in the following books I have disclosed all the principles of the art.

CHAPTER I

THE EDUCATION OF THE ARCHITECT   Top

1. The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test. This knowledge is the child of practice and theory. Practice is the continuous and regular exercise of employment where manual work is done with any necessary material according to the design of a drawing. Theory, on the other hand, is the ability to demonstrate and explain the productions of dexterity on the principles of proportion.

2. It follows, therefore, that architects who have aimed at acquiring manual skill without scholarship have never been able to reach a position of authority to correspond to their pains, while those who relied only upon theories and scholarship were obviously hunting the shadow, not the substance. But those who have a thorough knowledge of both, like men armed at all points, have the sooner attained their object and carried authority with them.

3. In all matters, but particularly in architecture, there are these two points:- the thing signified, and that which gives it its significance. That which is signified is the subject of which we may be speaking; and that which gives significance is a demonstration on scientific principles. It appears, then, that one who professes himself an architect should be well versed in both directions. He ought, therefore, to be both naturally gifted and amenable to instruction. Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist. Let him be educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens.

4. The reasons for all this are as follows. An architect ought to be an educated man so as to leave a more lasting remembrance in his treatises. Secondly, he must have a knowledge of drawing so that he can readily make sketches to show the appearance of the work which he proposes. Geometry, also, is of much assistance in architecture, and in particular it teaches us the use of the rule and compasses, by which especially we acquire readiness in making plans for buildings in their grounds, and rightly apply the square, the level, and the plummet. By means of optics, again, the light in buildings can be drawn from fixed quarters of the sky. It is true that it is by arithmetic that the total cost of buildings is calculated and measurements are computed, but difficult questions involving symmetry are solved by means of geometrical theories and methods.

5. A wide knowledge of history is requisite because, among the ornamental parts of an architect’s design for a work, there are many the underlying idea of whose employment he should be able to explain to inquirers. For instance, suppose him to set up the marble statues of women in long robes, called Caryatides, to take the place of columns, with the mutules and coronas placed directly above their heads, be will give the following explanation to his questioners. Caryae, a state in Peloponnesus, sided with the Persian enemies against Greece; later the Greeks, having gloriously won their freedom by victory in the war, made common cause and declared war against the people of Caryae. They took the town, killed the men, abandoned the State to desolation, and carried off their wives into slavery, without permitting them, however, to lay aside the long robes and other marks of their rank as married women, so that they might be obliged not only to march in the triumph but to appear forever after as a type of slavery, burdened with the weight of their shame and so making atonement for their State. Hence, the architects of the time designed for public buildings statues of these women, placed so as to carry a load, in order that the sin and the punishment of the people of Caryae might be known and handed down even to posterity.

6. Likewise the Lacedaemonians under the leadership of Pausanias, son of Agesipolis, after conquering the Persian armies, infinite in number, with a small force at the battle of Plataea, celebrated a glorious triumph with the spoils and booty, and with the money obtained from the sale thereof built the Persian Porch, to be a monument to the renown and valour of the people and a trophy of victory for posterity. And there they set effigies of the prisoners arrayed in barbarian costume and holding up the roof, their pride punished by this deserved affront, that enemies might tremble for fear of the effects of their courage, and that their own people, looking upon this ensample of their valour and encouraged by the glory of it, might be ready to defend their independence. So from that time on, many have put up statues of Persians supporting entablatures and their ornaments, and thus from that motive have greatly enriched the diversity of their works. There are other stories of the same kind which architects ought to know.

7. As for philosophy, it makes an architect high-minded and not self-assuming, but rather renders him courteous, just, and honest without avariciousness. This is very important, for no work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility. Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with the idea of receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by cherishing a good reputation. These are among the precepts of philosophy. Furthermore philosophy treats of physics where a more careful knowledge is required because the problems which come under this head are numerous and of very different kinds; as, for example, in the case of the conducting of water. For at points of intake and at curves, and at places where it is raised to a level, currents of air naturally form in one way or another; and nobody who has not learned the fundamental principles of physics from philosophy will be able to provide against the damage which they do. So the reader of Ctesibius or Archimedes and the other writers of treatises of the same class will not be able to appreciate them unless he has been trained in these subjects by the philosophers.

8. Music, also, the architect ought to understand so that he may have knowledge of the canonical and mathematical theory, and besides be able to tune ballistae, catapultae, and scorpiones to the proper key. For to the right and left in the beams are the holes in the frames through which the strings of twisted sinew are stretched by means of windlasses and bars, and these strings must not be clamped and made fast until they give the same correct note to the ear of the skilled workman. For the arms thrust through those stretched strings must, on being let go, strike their blow together at the same moment; but if they are not in unison, they will prevent the course of projectiles from being straight.

9. In theatres, likewise, there are the bronze vessels which are placed in niches under the seats in accordance with the musical intervals on mathematical principles. These vessels are arranged with a view to musical concords or harmony, and apportioned in the compass of the fourth, the fifth, and the octave, and so on up to the double octave, in such a way that when the voice of an actor falls in unison with any of them its power is increased, and it reaches the ears of the audience with greater clearness and sweetness. Water organs, too, and the other instruments which resemble them cannot be made by one who is without the principles of music.

10. The architect should also have a knowledge of the study of medicine on account of the questions of climates air, the healthiness and unhealthiness of sites, and the use of different waters. For without these considerations, the healthiness of a dwelling cannot be assured. And as for principles of law, he should know those which are necessary in the case of buildings having party walls, with regard to water dripping from the eaves, and also the laws about drains, windows, and water supply. And other things of this sort should be known to architects, so that, before they begin upon buildings, they may be careful not to leave disputed points for the householders to settle after the works are finished, and so that in drawing up contracts the interests of both employer and contractor may be wisely safe-guarded. For if a contract is skillfully drawn, each may obtain a release from the other without disadvantage. From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.

11. Consequently, since this study is so vast in extent, embellished and enriched as it is with many different kinds of learning, I think that men have no right to profess themselves architects hastily, without having climbed from boyhood the steps of these studies and thus, nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences, having reached the heights of the holy ground of architecture.

12. But perhaps to the inexperienced it will seem a marvel that human nature can comprehend such a great number of studies and keep them in the memory. Still, the observation that all studies have a common bond of union and intercourse with one another, will lead to the belief that this can easily be realized. For a liberal education forms, as it were, a single body made up of these members. Those, therefore, who from tender years receive instruction in the various forms of learning, recognize the same stamp on all the arts, and an intercourse between all studies, and so they more readily comprehend them all. This is what led one of the ancient architects, Pytheos, the celebrated builder of the temple of Minerva at Priene, to say in his Commentaries that an architect ought to be able to accomplish much more in all the arts and sciences than the men who, by their own particular kinds of work and the practice of it, have brought each a single subject to the highest perfection. But this is in point of fact not realized.

13. For an architect ought not to be and cannot be such a philologian as was Aristarchus, although not illiterate; nor a musician like Aristoxenus, though not absolutely ignorant of music; nor a painter like Apelles, though not unskilful in drawing; nor a sculptor such as was Myron or Polyclitus, though not unacquainted with the plastic art; nor again a physician like Hippocrates, though not ignorant of medicine; nor in the other sciences need he excel in each, though he should not be unskilful in them. For, in the midst of all this great variety of subjects, an individual cannot attain to perfection in each, because it is scarcely in his power to take in and comprehend the general theories of them.

14. Still, it is not architects alone that cannot in all matters reach perfection, but even men who individually practise specialties in the arts do not all attain to the highest point of merit. Therefore, if among artists working each in a single field not all, but only a few in an entire generation acquire fame, and that with difficulty, how. can an architect, who has to be skilful in many arts, accomplish not merely the feat — in itself a great marvel —of being deficient in none of them, but also that of surpassing all those artists who have devoted themselves with unremitting industry to single fields?

15. It appears, then, that Pytheos made a mistake by not observing that the arts are each composed of two things, the actual work and the theory of it. One of these, the doing of the work, is proper to men trained in the individual subject, while the other, the theory, is common to all scholars: for example, to physicians and musicians the rhythmical beat of the pulse and its metrical movement. But if there is a wound to be healed or a sick man to be saved from danger, the musician will not call, for the business will be appropriate to the physician. So in the case of a musical instrument, not the physician but the musician will be the man to tune it so that the ears may find their due pleasure in its strains.

16. Astronomers likewise have a common ground for discussion with musicians in the harmony of the stars and musical concords in tetrads and triads of the fourth and the fifth, and with geometricians in the subject of vision; and in all other sciences many points, perhaps all, are common so far as the discussion of them is concerned. But the actual undertaking of works which are brought to perfection by the hand and its manipulation is the function of those who have been specially trained to deal with a single art. It appears, therefore, that he has done enough and to spare who in each subject possesses a fairly good knowledge of those parts, with their principles, which are indispensable for architecture, so that if he is required to pass judgement and to express approval in the case of those things or arts, he may not be found wanting. As for men upon whom nature has bestowed so much ingenuity, acuteness, and memory that they are able to have a thorough knowledge of geometry, astronomy, music, and the other arts, they go beyond the functions of architects and become pure mathematicians. Hence they can readily take up positions against those arts because many are the artistic weapons with which they are armed. Such men, however, are rarely found, but there have been such at times; for example, Aristarchus of Samos, Philolaus and Archytas of Tarentum, Apollonius of Perga, Eratosthenes of Cyrene, and among Syracusans Archimedes and Scopinas, who through mathematics and natural philosophy discovered, expounded, and left to posterity many things in connexion with mechanics and with sundials.

17. Since, therefore, the possession of such talents due to natural capacity is not vouchsafed at random to entire nations, but only to a few great men; since, moreover, the function of the architect requires a training in all the departments of learning; and finally, since reason, on account of the wide extent of the subject, concedes that he may possess not the highest but not even necessarily a moderate knowledge of the subjects of study, I request, Caesar, both of you and of those who may read the said books, that if anything is set forth with too little regard for grammatical rule, it may be pardoned. For it is not as a very great philosopher, nor as an eloquent rhetorician, nor as a grammarian trained in the highest principles of his art, that I have striven to write this work, but as an architect who has had only a dip into those studies. Still, as regards the efficacy of the art and the theories of it, I promise and expect that in these volumes I shall undoubtedly show myself of very considerable importance not only to builders but also to all scholars.

 

CHAPTER 2    Top

THE FIVE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF ARCHITECTURE

1. Architecture depends on Order, Eurythmy, Symmetry, Propriety, and Economy.

2. Order gives due measure to the members of a work considered separately, and symmetrical agreement to the proportions of the whole. It is an adjustment according to quantity. By this I mean the selection of modules from the members of the work itself and, starting from these individual parts of members, constructing the whole work to correspond. Arrangement includes the putting of things in their proper places and the elegance of effect which is due to adjustments appropriate to the character of the work. Its forms of expression are these: groundplan, elevation, and perspective. A groundplan is made by the proper successive use of compasses and rule, 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 the proportions of the contemplated work. Perspective is the method of sketching a front with the sides withdrawing into the background, the lines all meeting in the centre of a circle. 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, on the other hand, is the solving of intricate problems and the discovery of new principles by means of brilliancy and versatility. These are the departments belonging under Arrangement.

3. Eurythmy is beauty and fitness in the adjustments of the members. This is found when the members of a work are of a height suited to their breadth, of a breadth suited to their length, and, in a word, when they all correspond symmetrically.

4. Symmetry is a proper agreement between the members of the work itself, and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme, in accordance with a certain part selected as standard. Thus in the human body there is a kind of symmetrical harmony between forearm, foot, palm, finger, and other small parts; and so it is with perfect buildings. In the case of temples, symmetry may be calculated from the thickness of a column, from a triglyph, or even from a module; in the ballista, from the hole; in a ship, from the space between the tholepins; and in other things, from various members.

5. Propriety is that perfection of style which comes when a work is authoritatively constructed on approved principles. It arises from prescription, from usage, or from nature. From prescription, in the case of hypaethral edifices, open to the sky, in honour of Jupiter Lightning, the Heaven, the Sun, or the Moon: for these are gods whose semblances and manifestations we behold before our very eyes in the sky when it is cloudless and bright. The temples of Minerva, Mars, and Hercules, will be Doric, since the virile strength of these gods makes daintiness entirely inappropriate to their houses. In temples to Venus, Flora, Proserpine, Spring-Water, and the Nymphs, the Corinthian order 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. The construction of temples of the Ionic order to Juno, Diana, Father Bacchus, and the other gods of that kind, will be in keeping with the middle position which they hold; for the building of such will be an appropriate combination of the severity of the Doric and the delicacy of the Corinthian.

6. Propriety arises from usage when buildings having magnificent interiors are provided with elegant entrance-courts to correspond; for there will be no propriety in the spectacle of an elegant interior approached by a low, mean entrance. Or, if dentils be carved in the cornice of the Doric entablature or triglyphs represented in the Ionic entablature over the cushion-shaped capitals of the columns, the effect will be spoilt by the transfer of the peculiarities of the one order of building to the other, the usage in each class having been fixed long ago.

7. Finally, propriety will be due to natural causes if, for example, in the case of all sacred precincts we select very healthy neighbourhoods with suitable springs of water in the places where the fanes are to be built, particularly in the case of those to Aesculapius and to Health, gods by whose healing powers great numbers of the sick are apparently cured. For when their diseased bodies are transferred from an unhealthy to a healthy spot, and treated with waters from health-giving springs, they will the more speedily grow well. The result will be that the divinity will stand in higher esteem and find his dignity increased, all owing to the nature of his site. There will also be natural propriety in using an eastern light for bedrooms and libraries, a western light in winter for baths and winter apartments, and a northern light for picture galleries and other places in which a steady light is needed; for that quarter of the sky grows neither light nor dark with the course of the sun, but remains steady and unshifting all day long.

8. Economy denotes the proper management of materials and of site, as well as a thrifty balancing of cost and common sense in the construction of works. This will be observed if, in the first place, the architect does not demand things which cannot be found or made ready without great expense. For example: it is not everywhere that there is plenty of pitsand, rubble, fir, clear fir, and marble, since they are produced in different places and to assemble them is difficult and costly. Where there is no pitsand, we must use the kinds washed up by rivers or by the sea; the lack of fir and clear fir may be evaded by using cypress, poplar, elm, or pine; and other problems we must solve in similar ways.

9. A second stage in Economy is reached when we have to plan the different kinds of dwellings suitable for ordinary householders, for great wealth, or for the high position of the statesman. A house in town obviously calls for one form of construction; that into which stream the products of country estates requires another; this will not be the same in the case of money-lenders and still different for the opulent and luxurious; for the powers under whose deliberations the commonwealth is guided dwellings are to be provided according to their special needs: and, in a word, the proper form of economy must be observed in building houses for each and every class.

 

CHAPTER 3   Top

THE DEPARTMENTS OF ARCHITECTURE

1. There are three departments of architecture: the art of building, the making of time-pieces, and the construction of machinery. Building is, in its turn, divided into two parts, of which the first is the construction of fortified towns and of works for general use in public places, and the second is the putting up of structures for private individuals. There are three classes of public buildings: the first for defensive, the second for religious, and the third for utilitarian purposes. Under defence comes the planning of walls towers, and gates, permanent devices for resistance against hostile attacks; under religion, the erection of fanes and temples to the immortal gods; under utility, the provision of meeting places for public use, such as harbours, markets, colonnades, baths, theatres, promenades, and all other similar arrangements in public places.

2. All these must be built with due reference to durability, convenience, and beauty.[Note: the better-known translation of these values 'Commodity, Firmness and Delight', comes Henry Wotton's 1624 Principles of Architecture) Durability will be assured when foundations are carried down to the solid ground and materials wisely and liberally selected; convenience, when the arrangement of the apartments is faultless and presents no hindrance to use, and when each class of building is assigned to its suitable and appropriate exposure; and beauty, when the appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste, and when its members are in due pro~ portion according to correct principles of symmetry.

 

CHAPTER 4    Top

THE SITE OF A CITY

1. For fortified towns the following general principles are to be observed. First comes the choice of a very healthy site. Such a site will be high, neither misty nor frosty, and in a climate neither hot nor cold, but temperate; further, without marshes in the neighbourhood. For when the morning breezes blow toward the town at sunrise, if they bring with them mists from marshes and, mingled with the mist, the poisonous breath of the creatures of the marshes to be wafted into the bodies of the inhabitants, they will make the site unhealthy. Again, if the town is on the coast with a southern or western exposure, it will not be healthy, because in summer the southern sky grows hot at sunrise and is fiery at noon, while a western exposure grows warm after sunrise, is hot at noon, and at evening all aglow.

2. These variations in heat and the subsequent cooling off are harmful to the people living on such sites. The same conclusion may be reached in the case of inanimate things. For instance, nobody draws the light for covered wine rooms from the south or west, but rather from the north, since that quarter is never subject to change but is always constant and unshifting. So it is with granaries: grain exposed to the sun’s course soon loses its good quality, and provisions and fruit, unless stored in a place unexposed to the sun’s course, do not keep long.

3. For heat is a universal solvent, melting out of things their power of resistance, and sucking away and removing their natural strength with its fiery exhalations so that they grow soft, and hence weak, under its glow. We see this in the case of iron which, however hard it may naturally be, yet when heated thoroughly in a furnace fire can be easily worked into any kind of shape, and still, if cooled while it is soft and white hot, it hardens again with a mere dip into cold water and takes on its former quality.

4. We may also recognize the truth of this from the fact that in summer the heat makes everybody weak, not only in unhealthy but even in healthy places, and that in winter even the most unhealthy districts are much healthier because they are given a solidity by the cooling off. Similarly, persons removed from cold countries to hot cannot endure it but waste away; whereas those who pass from hot places to the cold regions of the north, not only do not suffer in health from the change of residence but even gain by it.

5. It appears, then, that in founding towns we must beware of districts from which hot winds can spread abroad over the inhabitants. For while all bodies are composed of the four elements, that is, of heat, moisture, the earthy, and air, yet there are mixtures according to natural temperament which make up the natures of all the different animals of the world, each after its kind.

6. Therefore, if one of these elements, heat, becomes predominant in any body whatsoever, it destroys and dissolves all the others with its violence. This defect may be due to violent heat from certain quarters of the sky, pouring into the open pores in too great proportion to admit of a mixture suited to the natural temperament of the body in question. Again, if too much moisture enters the channels of a body, and thus introduces disproportion, the other elements, adulterated by the liquid, are impaired, and the virtues of the mixture dissolved. This defect, in turn, may arise from the cooling properties of moist winds and breezes blowing upon the body. In the same way, increase or diminution of the proportion of air or of the earthy which is natural to the body may enfeeble the other elements; the predominance of the earthy being due to overmuch food, that of air to a heavy atmosphere.

7. If one wishes a more accurate understanding of all this, he need only consider and observe the natures of birds, fishes, and land animals, and be will thus come to reflect upon distinctions of temperament. One form of mixture is proper to birds, another to fishes, and a far different form to land animals. Winged creatures have less of the earthy, less moisture, heat in moderation, air in large amount. Being made up, therefore, of the lighter elements, they can more readily soar away into the air. Fish, with their aquatic nature, being moderately supplied with heat and made up in great part of air and the earthy, with as little of moisture as possible, can more easily exist in moisture for the very reason that they have less of it than of the other elements in their bodies; and so, when they are drawn to land, they leave life and water at the same moment. Similarly, the land animals, being moderately supplied with the elements of air and beat, and having less of the earthy and a great deal of moisture, cannot long continue alive in the water, because their portion of moisture is already abundant.

8. Therefore, if all this is as we have explained, our reason showing us that the bodies of animals are made up of the elements, and these bodies, as we believe, giving way and breaking up as a result of excess or deficiency in this or that element, we cannot but believe that we must take great care to select a very temperate climate for the site of our city, since healthfulness is, as we have said, the first requisite.

9. I cannot too strongly insist upon the need of a return to the method of old times. Our ancestors, when about to build a town or an army post, sacrificed some of the cattle that were wont to feed on the site proposed and examined their livers. If the livers of the first victims were dark-coloured or abnormal, they sacrificed others, to see whether the fault was due to disease or their food. They never began to build defensive works in a place until after they had made many such trials and satisfied themselves that good water and food had made the liver sound and firm. If they continued to find it abnormal, they argued from this that the food and water supply found in such a place would be just as unhealthy for man, and so they moved away and changed to another neighbourhood, healthfulness being their chief object.

10. That pasturage and food may indicate the healthful qualities of a site is a fact which can be observed and investigated in the case of certain pastures in Crete, on each side of the river Pothereus, which separates the two Cretan states of Gnosus and Gortyna. There are cattle at pasture on the right and left banks of that river, but while the cattle that feed near Gnosus have the usual spleen, those on the other side near Gortyna have no perceptible spleen. On investigating the subject, physicians discovered on this side a kind of herb which the cattle chew and thus make their spleen small. The herb is therefore gathered and used as a medicine for the cure of splenetic people. From food and water, then, we may learn whether sites are naturally unhealthy or healthy.

11. If the walled town is built among the marshes themselves, provided they are by the sea, with a northern or north-eastern exposure, and are above the level of the seashore, the site will be reasonable enough. For ditches can be dug to let out the water to the shore, and also in times of storms the sea swells and comes backing up into the marshes, where its bitter blend prevents the reproductions of the usual marsh creatures, while any that swim down from the higher levels to the shore are killed at once by the saltness to which they are unused. An instance of this may be found in the Gallic marshes surrounding Altino, Ravenna, Aquileia, and other towns in places of the kind, close by marshes. They are marvellously healthy, for the reasons which I have given.

12. But marshes that are stagnant and have no outlets either by rivers or ditches, like the Pomptine marshes, merely putrefy as they stand, emitting heavy, unhealthy vapours. A case of a town built in such a spot was Old Salpia in Apulia, founded by Diomede on his way back from Troy, or, according to some writers, by Elpias of Rhodes. Year after year there was sickness, until finally the suffering inhabitants came with a public petition to Marcus Hostilius and got him to agree to seek and find them a proper place to which to remove their city. Without delay he made the most skilful investigations, and at once purchased an estate near the sea in a healthy place, and asked the Senate and Roman people for permission to remove the town. He constructed the walls and laid out the house lots, granting one to each citizen for a mere trifle. This done, he cut an opening from a lake into the sea, and thus made of the lake a harbour for the town. The result is that now the people of Salpia live on a healthy site and at a distance of only four miles from the old town.

CHAPTER 5     Top

THE CITY WALLS

1. After insuring on these principles the healthfulness of the future city, and selecting a neighbourhood that can supply plenty of food stuffs to maintain the community, with good roads or else convenient rivers or seaports affording easy means of transport to the city, the next thing to do is to lay the foundations for the towers and walls. Dig down to solid bottom, if it can be found, and lay them therein, going as deep as the magnitude of the proposed work seems to require. They should be much thicker than the part of the walls that will appear above ground, and their structure should be as solid as it can possibly be laid.

2. The towers must be projected beyond the line of wall, so that an enemy wishing to approach the wall to carry it by assault may be exposed to the fire of missiles on his open flank from the towers on his right and left. Special pains should be taken that there be no easy avenue by which to storm the wall. The roads should be encompassed at steep points, and planned so as to approach the gates, not in a straight line, but from the right to the left; for as a result of this, the right hand side of the assailants, unprotected by their shields, will be next the wall. Towns should be laid out not as an exact square nor with salient angles, but in circular form, to give a view of the enemy from many points. Defense is difficult where there are salient angles, because the angle protects the enemy rather than the inhabitants.

8. The thickness of the wall should, in my opinion, be such that armed men meeting on top of it may pass one another without interference. In the thickness there should be set a very close succession of ties made of charred olive wood, binding the two faces of the wall together like pins, to give it lasting endurance. For that is a material which neither decay, nor the weather, nor time can harm, but even though buried in the earth or set in the water it keeps sound and useful forever. And so not only city walls but substructures in general and all walls that require a thickness like that of a city wall, will be long in falling to decay if tied in this manner.

4. The towers should be set at intervals of not more than a bowshot apart, so that in case of an assault upon any one of them, the enemy may be repulsed with scorpiones and other means of hurling missiles from the towers to the right and left. Opposite the inner side of every tower the wall should be interrupted for a space the width of the tower, and have only a wooden flooring across, leading to the interior of the tower but not firmly nailed. This is to be cut away by the defenders in case the enemy gets possession of any portion of the wall; and if the work is quickly done, the enemy will not be able to make his way to the other towers and the rest of the wall unless he is ready to face a fall.

5. The towers themselves must be either round or polygonal. Square towers are sooner shattered by military engines, for the battering rams pound their angles to pieces; but in the case of round towers they can do no harm, being engaged, as it were, in driving wedges to their centre. The system of fortification by wall and towers may be made safest by the addition of earthen ramparts, for neither rams, nor mining, nor other engineering devices can do them any harm.

6. The rampart form of defense, however, is not required in all places, but only where outside the wall there is high ground from which an assault on the fortifications may be made over a level space lying between. En places of this kind we must first make very wide, deep ditches; next sink foundations for a wall in the bed of the ditch and build them thick enough to support an earthwork with ease.

7. Then within this substructure lay a second foundation, far enough inside the first to leave ample room for cohorts in line of battle to take position on the broad top of the rampart for its defense. Having laid these two foundations at this distance from one another, build cross walls between them, uniting the outer and inner foundation, in a comb-like arrangement, set like the teeth of a saw. With this form of construction, the enormous burden of earth will be distributed into small bodies, and will not lie with all its weight in one crushing mass so as to thrust out the substructures.

8. With regard to the material of which the actual wall should be constructed or finished, there can be no definite prescription, because we cannot obtain in all places the supplies that we desire. Dimension stone, flint, rubble, burnt or unburnt brick, - use them as you find them. For it is not every neighbourhood or particular locality that can have a wall built of burnt brick like that at Babylon, where there was plenty of asphalt to take the place of lime and sand, and yet possibly each may be provided with materials of equal usefulness so that out of them a faultless wall may be built to last forever.

 

CHAPTER 6    Top

THE DIRECTIONS OF THE STREETS; WITH REMARKS ON THE WINDS

1. The town being fortified, the next step is the apportionment of house lots within the wall and the laying out of streets and alleys with regard to climatic conditions. They will be properly laid out if foresight is employed to exclude the winds from the alleys. Cold winds are disagreeable, hot winds enervating, moist winds unhealthy. We must, therefore, avoid mistakes in this matter and beware of the common experience of many communities. For example, Mytilene in the island of Lesbos is a town built with magnificence and good taste, but its position shows a lack of foresight. In that community when the wind is south, the people fall ill; when it is northwest, it sets them coughing; with a north wind they do indeed recover but cannot stand about in the alleys and streets, owing to the severe cold.

2. Wind is a flowing wave of air, moving hither and thither indefinitely. It is produced when heat meets moisture, the rush of heat generating a mighty current of air. That this is the fact we may learn from bronze eolipiles, and thus by means of a scientific invention discover a divine truth lurking in the laws of the heavens. Eolipiles are hollow bronze balls, with a very small opening through which water is poured into them. Set before a fire, not a breath issues from them before they get warm; but as soon as they begin to boil, out comes a strong blast due to the fire. Thus from this slight and very short experiment we may understand and judge of the mighty and wonderful laws of the heavens and the nature of winds.

3. By shutting out the winds from our dwellings, therefore, we shall not only make the place healthful for people who are well, but also in the case of diseases due perhaps to unfavourable situations elsewhere, the patients, who in other healthy places might be cured by a different form of treatment, will here be more quickly cured by the mildness that comes from the shutting out of the winds. The diseases which are hard to cure in neighbourhoods such as those to which I have referred above are catarrh, hoarseness, coughs, pleurisy, consumption, spitting of blood, and all others that are cured not by lowering the system but by building it up. They are hard to cure, first, because they are originally due to chills; secondly, because the patient’s system being already exhausted by disease, the air there, which is in constant agitation owing to winds and therefore deteriorated, takes all the sap of life out of their diseased bodies and leaves them more meagre every day. On the other hand, a mild, thick air, without draughts and not constantly blowing back and forth, builds up their frames by its unwavering steadiness, and so strengthens and restores people who are afflicted with these diseases.

4. Some have held that there are only four winds: Solanus from due east; Auster from the south; Favonius from due west; Septentrio from the north. But more careful investigators tell us that there are eight. Chief among such was Andronicus of Cyrrhus who in proof built the marble octagonal tower in Athens. On the several sides of the octagon he executed reliefs representing the several winds, each facing the point from which it blows; and on top of the tower he set a conical shaped piece of marble and on this a bronze Triton with a rod outstretched in its right band. It was so contrived as to go round with the wind, always stopping to face the breeze and holding its rod as a pointer directly over the representation of the wind that was blowing.

5. Thus Eurus is placed to the southeast between Solanus and Auster: Africus to the southwest between Auster and Favonius; Caurus, or, as many call it, Corus, between Favonius and Septentrio; and Aquilo between Septentrio and Solanus. Such, then, appears to have been his device, including the numbers and names of the wind and indicating the directions from which particular winds blow. These facts being thus determined, to find the directions and quarters of the winds your method of procedure should be as follows.

6. In the middle of the city place a marble amussium, laying it true by the level, or else let the spot be made so true by means of rule and level that no amussium is necessary. In the very centre of that spot set up a bronze gnomon or "shadow tracker". At about the fifth hour in the morning, take the end of the shadow cast by this gnomon, and mark it with a point. Then, opening your compasses to this point which marks the length of the gnomon’s shadow, describe a circle from the centre. In the afternoon watch the shadow of your gnomon as it lengthens, and when it once more touches the circumference of this circle and the shadow in the afternoon is equal in length to that of the morning, mark it with a point.

7. From these two points describe with your compasses intersecting arcs, and through their intersection and the centre let a line be drawn to the circumference of the circle to give us

Medium leonardo vitruvian man garden design original

Leonardo Vitruvian Man garden design

Medium villa lante circle square original

Villa Lante circles and squares (image courtesy Paolo Alfieri)

Medium villa la magia circle courtyard fountain original

Villa la Magia: circular fountain in courtyard square (image courtesy Penn State Libraries)