Essay on A Critical Response to Vitruvius & Alberti

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ARC131 H1F 3rd October 2012
Mikaile Ibrahim
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
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Vitruvius’ understanding is that the architect must be aware of every aspect of his creation, whereas today, these aspects are met by separate entities.
Vitruvius also stresses on order, arrangement, eurhythmy, symmetry, propriety and economy and how architecture depends on these demands. This is not the case in today’s society. With advances in physics and construction sciences which allow buildings to be of asymmetrical shape and attain an abstract form directly places it in conflict with his stated ‘Eurhythmy’. To Vitruvius, all facets of architecture were to be in a state of complete harmony, as his views were so constrained towards the perfection of the human body. He described the various proportions of limbs and other body parts to be so accurately symmetrical and coordinated to meticulous detail. This perfection of the human body inspired architectural designs. In contemporary society, mainstream architecture has little to no correlation with the human body. It has been kept completely separate. Architectural inspiration today, more or less stems from everything outside the human, and looks towards a futuristic simplicity and sleek aesthetic that demands a different approach to the art of a building altogether. This commercial mindset has been influential since the engineering breakthroughs of the second millennium.
As for Alberti, he holds the architect on a very noble and high ground of esteemed public
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