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7.3 Metaphorical architecture

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Vitruvius believed "a wide knowledge of history' to be an essential part of the architect's education, and explained his point with an example (Figure 7.7):

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, he will give the following explanation to his questioners. Caryae, a state in Peloponnesus, sided with the Persian enemies against Greece; later the Greeks... took the town, killed the men, abandoned the State to desolation and carried of their wives into slavery... Hence, the architects of the time designed for public buildings statues of these women, placed so as 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.

Furthermore, Vitruvius believed that: "Music... the architect ought to understand so that he may have knowledge of the canonical and mathematical theory', which is useful in the design of catapults, theatres and water organs.

If architects fail to create legible metaphors, critics and viewers will do the job for them. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, every educated person knew that it symbolized admiration for the achievements of the ancient world.

Architecture had become a metaphor for civilization. During the seventeenth century, "classical' came to mean "of the first class', as proved by use in Greek and Roman times. Other architectural styles were adopted during the nineteenth century, symbolizing admiration for medieval Christianity, Italy, Switzerland or whatever. The Modern Movement, demanding a new architecture for a new age, swept away these "styles'. That new architecture was supposed to be metaphor-free. Puzzled viewers soon began to invent their own metaphors. They spoke of cardboard boxes, matchboxes and filing cabinets. Despite designers' outraged protestations, these boxy buildings were metaphors and had meaning. The messages they carried were "modernity' and "functionalism.

Architecture had become a metaphor for civilization. During the seventeenth century, "classical' came to mean "of the first class', as proved by use in Greek and Roman times. Other architectural styles were adopted during the nineteenth century, symbolizing admiration for medieval Christianity, Italy, Switzerland or whatever. The Modern Movement, demanding a new architecture for a new age, swept away these "styles'. That new architecture was supposed to be metaphor-free. Puzzled viewers soon began to invent their own metaphors. They spoke of cardboard boxes, matchboxes and filing cabinets. Despite designers' outraged protestations, these boxy buildings were metaphors and had meaning. The messages they carried were "modernity' and "functionalism

Medium caryatids original

7.7 Caryatids on the Acropolis, Athens

Medium ronchamp chapel original

Le Corbusier's design for Ronchamp can be seen as a duck, a crab, a hat or a hand.

Medium cardboard boxes original