Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Our first point was to look at perspective.  Through examples such as The Powers of Ten, Motel of Mysteries, and some interpretations like how certain structures were formed we can look deeper into each example and see the meaning within them.  Looking back on this unit’s main subjects a common theme can be seen.  When the civilizations we looked at were trying their first attempts they always-borrowed ideas from other sources.  Starting from nature to other cultures there seems to have been few completely original ideas.  The transitions are evident from prototypes, to archetypes, to hybrids.  By these means however, humans seldom have stepped back in technology and understanding as it pertains to architecture.

Prototype, Archetype, & Hybrid of the Column World

What imagination and desire for structure did the first civilizations have?  Our first examples were those from nature and the cosmos.  Circles to mark sacred spots brought from the sun and moon, groups like groves of trees to emulate people, and stacks such as mountains to show hierarchy and the gathering of resources.  There were the groups and circles of Stonehenge to plot the stellar movements.  The stacks of pyramids in Egypt, South America, and China showed importance and a way to the heavens.  And the groups and stacks within palaces/temples brought both people and governance together.  We connected these common themes to how even today they are used.

Mountains, Stacks, Pyramids, Heaven Bound

Following from natural influence we can see how people adapted previous ideas to their own schemes.  Comparing the Acropolis and the Xianyang Palace we can see how, although very far apart, there are some similarities, but also differences among these sites.  Using the Acropolis and Parthenon as the archetype, other cultures expanded upon the post and lentil system.  Ideas in what space, power, experience, principals, precedence, order, technology, and surface developed further past those of the ancient world.  These ideas could be summed up in, “The end is to build well.  Well building hath three conditions: firmness, commodity, and delight.” (Sir Henry Wolten, 1624), or utilitas, firmitas, and venustas as described by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio.


As construction methods and government became more stable, especially with the help of trade and sharing of culture and wealth, the unification of city plans was next to follow by the order of Rome.  Common constructs within this plan included a grid like system of roads and buildings, an aqueduct, bath, temple, basilica, coliseum, forum, and market.  Most of these structures used the offspring of the post and lintel in their form, the arch and its variants such as the vaulted arches and dome. 

“Like the lintel, the arch can be made up of stone, but the arch has two great advantages.  First… the necessity of finding a large stone lintel free of cracks or flaws is eliminated, as are the delicate logistics of handling large blocks of stone for lintels.  Second, because of the physics involved, the arch can span much greater distances than can a stone lintel.” (Roth, pg. 32)

And even though Rome itself didn’t follow those plans, the outlying towns were expected to in order to form some sort of unity amongst them.  However even with these ideals we can still see where variations occurred according to local culture and tradition especially toward the outlying regions of the Roman Empire.

City Plan, Romanchester

Photo Credits: (, (, (, (, (, 


  1. well done. remember to connect up the individual weeks into a seamless whole...and series of synthetic observations.

  2. Matt, you did a good job of dividing your main points by separating them by images rather than labeling them for each week because that makes the ideas seem more separate than they need be. One thing I would challenge you to do is provide transitional sentences between your separate paragraphs. This could be as simple as considering a word the ends at one paragraph and pick up at the beginning of the next, it helps show correlation and relationship between ideas. Otherwise, great thought process and don't shy away from putting visuals in your blog posts!