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Texts/Plea For Euclid Italian translation is by Marco Brizzi.

By Bernard Cache Of course, we cannot affirm that space exists as such, nor can we affirm anything of its substance. Some would even deny that things exist, and maintain that perceptions are just mental events. Nevertheless, we know that there are differences in our perception. A diversity of things are thought before we even think of ourselves as the subject of that thinking. The Leibnizian cogitata comes prior to the Cartesian cogito. And, following Kant, space is the form according to which we organize variations in what occurs to us simultaneously, just as time is the form according to which we organize variations in what occurs to us in succession. Kant thought that Euclidean geometry was the ultimate organization of this form of intuition we call space. But some twenty years after Kant died in 1804, several mathematicians working independently, including: Gauss, Bolyai and Lobachevsky - discovered that we can think of other geometries. These non-euclidean geometries were based on counter-intuitive assumptions and at first were thought of as nothing but a mathematician's game. But less than a hundred years later, Einstein found that in his theory of general relativity, space was better described by using a complex variant of Lobachevsky's geometry. And as this theory of relativity was given very precise experimental validation, non-euclidean geometry proved its relevance and could no longer appear as an exotic logic... So what are the consequences of this evolution of mathematics for architects? Do we have to banish the five Euclidean postulates as an outdated heritage from the Greeks, not unlike the Moderns dismissed the five orders of architecture? By the way, the Moderns already made allusion to other geometries but with very little tangible results. And nowadays, in our digital age, does the computer compels us to think and live in a multidimensional, nonEuclidean, topological space? Or shouldn't we instead consider the computer as a variable compass, which will open new potentialities within the old Euclidean space? These questions require that we investigate in close detail what happened to geometry, and their answer is all the more important in as much as geometry still remains the very basic tool of architecture. continued [ in English and Italizn translations] published by Arch'it and ANY Review. ABA-NET © 2003-04 Anand (site root) home | Index | Search Bhatt, Architect. @ Arch'it: Extended Play


non-euclidean geometry proved its relevance and could no longer appear as an exotic logic. what was profoundly original. The Leibnizian cogitata comes prior to the Cartesian cogito. Euclid wrote his Thirteen books of Geometry some 300 years before Vitruvius composed his own Ten Books of architecture at the turn of the first millenium. following Kant. And. On the one hand. the Elements are a first attempt to link together abstract logic and sensual experience. Einstein found that in his theory of general relativity. Kant thought that Euclidean geometry was the ultimate organization of this form of intuition we call space. Bolyai and Lobachevsky . who the Greeks always held in great respect. A diversity of things are thought before we even think of ourselves as the subject of that thinking. does the computer compels us to think and live in a multidimensional. Nevertheless. it constitutes one of the first major work of logic. This certainly makes Euclidean geometry one the oldest works of science.Plea for Euclid Of course. The dismissal of Euclidean geometry by architects sounds rather surprising when one notices how appreciated it is by contemporary scientists. space is the form according to which we organize variations in what occurs to us simultaneously. in our digital age. And moreover Euclid didn't start from scratch. not unlike the Moderns dismissed the five orders of architecture? By the way. In his book: The emperor's new mind. topological space? Or shouldn't we instead consider the computer as a variable compass. was to systematize a corpus of what before him remained a collection of isolated theoretical demonstrations and practical solutions. and maintain that perceptions are just mental events. minds and the laws of physics Penrose argues that Euclidean geometry comes first in the list of the very few theories which deserve the label "superb" for their phenomenal accuracy. such as Roger Penrose. As such. And as this theory of relativity was given very precise experimental validation. Some would even deny that things exist. But some twenty years after Kant died in 1804. What Euclid did. . space was better described by using a complex variant of Lobachevsky's geometry. we cannot affirm that space exists as such. Hence the double evaluation required by the Elements of geometry. on the other hand. by the Egyptians in particular. even by those who cannot be suspected of orthodoxy.. These non-euclidean geometries were based on counter-intuitive assumptions and at first were thought of as nothing but a mathematician's game. several mathematicians working independently. we know that there are differences in our perception. it is a description of space both as a form of intuition and physical phenomena. In fact Euclid's work has two faces. nor can we affirm anything of its substance.. just as time is the form according to which we organize variations in what occurs to us in succession. Concerning computers. non-Euclidean. including: Gauss. and their answer is all the more important in as much as geometry still remains the very basic tool of architecture. And nowadays. bearing witness to the multiple origins of geometry of which Michel Serres reminds us (1). But less than a hundred years later. So what are the consequences of this evolution of mathematics for architects? Do we have to banish the five Euclidean postulates as an outdated heritage from the Greeks. the Moderns already made allusion to other geometries but with very little tangible results. Many of the theorems he used where known much before his time. So let us start with the physical face of geometry. both axiomatic container and physical content. which will open new potentialities within the old Euclidean space? These questions require that we investigate in close detail what happened to geometry.discovered that we can think of other geometries.

He. These definitions are followed by the famous five postulates: 1. The first four postulates were easily accepted as the propositions that enable one to construct figures and conduct demonstrations with a ruler and a compass (2). What puzzled even the earliest commentators is the fact that Euclid himself seemed to shun his fifth postulate since he made no use of it in the first 28 propositions. the postponed use of the fifth postulate led commentators to think that it was not really necessary. with the physics and experimental accuracy of his time. our experience is that free curvature surfaces in architecture require rigorous accuracy. As those familiar with the difficulties created at a building site by the 1/10 millimeter accuracy of numerically controlled components surely know. And then. which form the basis of all of his theorems or propositions. who had plainly assumed the consequences of non-Euclidean geometry. 2.To describe a circle with any center and distance. as they have been confronted over the course of the history of mathematics.) already mentioned Ptolemy's attempt at emendation (second century A.D. 4. but we still have a way to go before trespassing the boundaries of Euclid's description. Now. when it comes to the other aspect of the Elements. but generally. one perceives this curvature only in the case of bodies moving at speeds close to that of the light. was conscious that geometry was a matter of choice. Funnily enough. errors in treating the geometry as Euclidean amounting to less than the diameter of an atom of hydrogen!". 5. Postulates and Common Notions.Einstein's theory certainly teaches us that space(-time) is actually "curved" (i. Euclidean geometry is a more than sufficient approximation of architectural space. deviation from Euclidean flatness are tiny indeed. As Einstein put it : "What is incomprehensible is that the world is comprehensible". where intuition had nothing to dictate to logic. if a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles.That. if produced indefinitely.D. the very limited impact of Einstein's theory on technology.To draw a straight line from any point to any point. In fact. Lobachevsky concluded that Euclidean geometry was the best model of space. 3. . Euclid started by three types of propositions: successively Definitions. Nevertheless. things become a bit more complex and require that we look at the organization of the work. or prove it to be a consequence of the first four postulates. to: the "parallel" as coplanar straight lines which never meet. Normally. Hence.e not Euclidean) in the presence of a gravitational field. starting with the postulates. the two straight lines. i. definitions. "over a meter's range. Proclus (fifth century A. Euclid introduces some common notions of arithmetic and logic like: "Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another" or "The whole is greater than the part". The 23 definitions introduce terms which range from: the "point" as that which has no part. following the more logico rather than the more geometrico. Certainly. meet on that side on which the angles are less than two right angles. postulates and common notions will each create their own problems that we will analyse chronologically.To produce a finite straight line continuously in a straight line. the fact is that Lobachevsky himself undertook to submit geometry to experimental verification. and proposed his own method.). By which we see that our trivial intuition is rather well suited to what we experimentaly build up as a reality of space. On the other hand. that one could either get rid of it.e.That all right angles are equal to one another.

finally. Hilbert based his system on 21 axioms. one will find that the proposition: "two distinct points determine a . working independently at about the same time. Hence the necessity of tracking every remaining spatial intuition in the Elements of Euclid. trying to demonstrate that the negation of this unfortunate postulate would lead to contradiction. or. projective geometry is composed of 8 axioms which establish the relations between. and in the spherical model of elliptic geometry "points" are pairs of diametrically opposed points. the German Gauss had preceded the Russian Lobachevsky and the Hungarian Bolyai. In so doing. Saccheri used his earlier work in logic to undertake a reductio ab absurdum. but he actually demonstrated many theorems of what we now know as non-Euclidean geometry. The four postulates constitute what is called the "absolute geometry" after which geometry bifurcates. The main result of these investigation had been to produce equivalent forms of the fifth postulate. i. the problem would be the opposite. you have three options: you can stay within Euclidean geometry and assume that the number of parallels is only one. which he organized into five groups. By 1763. but they had proved that the fifth postulate was not only necessary but essential in making the logic of Euclid coincide with general intuition. What becomes apparent is that the problem then moves from the postulates to the definitions. the number "five" establishing a continuity with Euclid's work. up to twenty-eight different attempts to solve the fifth postulate problem were listed and criticized by Klugel. : to find intuitive models which would suit their logic. you can postulate that there is more than one parallel. Geometry became axiomatic.But for more than two thousand years. each of whom had proved the independence of the Parallel Postulate in 1823. mathematicians actually consolidated the basis of Euclidean geometry. It was certainly no longer the only geometry. which opens the doors to Lobachevsky's "hyperbolic geometry". whatever the number of parallels to a given line are assumed to pass through a given point. Girolamo Saccheri published in 1733 a little book with the title Euclides ab omni naevo vindicatus (Euclid Freed of Every Flaw). just as postulates are undemonstrable. but Gauss didn't dare to publish his discovery fearing the criticism that could be brought on by such a counter-intuitive result. will sort out the problem of the fifth postulate. For instance in Poincaré's model of hyperbolic geometry "lines" become arcs of circle. For instance. The three of them demonstrated that no logical contradiction would arise with the other four postulates. As for the other geometries. not only did Saccheri not find any logical contradiction. To do so. It is under this new form that several mathematicians. who reformulated it as the Parallel Postulate: "through a given point P there is a unique line parallel to a given line". Once this absolute geometry is assumed. Saccheri was so anxious to vindicate Euclid that he took these unexpected geometrical results for the logical contradiction he was looking for. all attempts proved unsuccessful until an Italian Jesuit Priest. Meanwhile. The first group. This will be the great achievement of Hilbert in his Grundlagen der Geometrie. "line" or "plane". Far from providing an intuitive support to the logical demonstrations. in so doing. In fact. the most promising of which being that of Playfair. the meaning of primary terms like points or lines is deduced from the system in which they are used. published in 1899. one would have to jettison the usual signification of terms like: "point". However the geometrical consequences of what he established were so unexpected and so different from general intuition that he felt entitled to conclude that he had come upon propositions "at odds with the nature of the straight line". Spatial intuition would just have to adapt to each case. rather than the definitions of. it is worth noticing that. you can state that there are no parallels which lead to the " elliptic geometry " of Riemann. lines and planes. the concepts of points. a Scottish physicist and mathematician (1748-1819).e. Primary terms are indefinable.

the negation of the uniqueness of the parallel postulated in the fourth group generates non-Euclidean geometries. gathers the 6 axioms needed to define geometrical equality. 64-73. This principle of Duality was developed by Poncelet who systematised the Projective Geometry of Desargues. when it comes to the suppression of axioms. B and C belong to the same line and B is between A and C. Thus. we come upon a new transformation . (2) As concern architects and designers. 1993. demonstrate the simple way that forms take form. From this perspective again. including the one known as the axiom of Archimedes. topology. we get a more general but also less structured geometry. it is very interesting to notice the logical and geometrical approach of ornament by Jan Hessel de Groot who imposed himself the restriction to generate figures and ornamental motifs only by 45° and 60° set-squares. And. Topology. In Dreihoeken bij Ontwerpen van Ornament (Ornamental Design by triangles). in "Casabella". This group of movements defines what is called: "metric geometry". Evariste Galois (18111832). luglio-agosto 1997. can be converted in the converse relation "two distinct lines determine a unique point". the group of movements which transform geometrical figures without affecting distances nor angles in these figures. The third group.unique line". and their precise self-determination. And this is easier to understand when we look at geometry from another angle. Jan Hessel de Groot. gathers the four axioms of "order" establishing the meaning of "between". rotation and symmetry form a first group of transformation. is based on an even more restricted number of axioms. he exposes his aim as to: 1. Notes (1) Cf Michel Serres: Les origines de la géométrie. the last group is made up of the two axioms of continuity. provide a tool that can be used to maintain unity in ornamental composition. If A. 2. Flammarion. Cf: Il progetto dell'ornamento. congruence. The fourth group holds one unique axiom. which means that there can be both a projective geometry of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. Euclid's work must be recognized as the most structured geometry. if we forget the distances and concentrate on the "shape" of the figures defined by the angles between elements. in its turn. At about the same time non-Euclidean geometry was discovered.647. which means that you cannot add a 22nd axiom without creating contradictions in the system. pp. then C is also said to be between C and A. translation. The second group. For instance. And finally. which is the famous parallel postulate. n. Klein would go so far as to define the various geometries by the group of transformations which leaves invariant certain properties of geometrical figures. Combinations of these 21 independent and consistent axioms enable one to generate many geometries. The other geometries can be generated either by the negation or the suppression of one or several of these 21 axioms. Thus Frederic Klein has shown that projective geometry is independent of the Parallel Postulate. But one can also investigate nonArchimedean geometry by negating the axiom of Archimedes in the fifth group. Paris. established the theory of groups that Klein would later apply to geometrical transformations. Now. Euclidean geometry is based on the totallity of the 21 axioms and it has been proved that this logical system is saturated.

order and continuity are also essential to Euclidean geometry. This scaffolding-building. Whereas. which is but a revival of the utopic drawings of Archigram. Projective geometry and topology can be more general only to the extent that they deal with looser transformations and objects. just as if figures where made of an elastic material which can be stretched and deformed. symmetry and scaling form a wider group of transformations. So what clearly appears in Klein's theory of transformation as in Hilbert's axiomatics. Translation. which appear all the more difficult to draw since perspective is no longer taught to the general public. Continuing in this fashion. of course. between Euclidean geometry. one would enter by the main entrance . we come upon a third group of transformations. or we would say. getting rid of distances and angles. so doing. Euclidean geometry requires more axioms and more structured properties. the use of this building induces a very specific experience for all the people whose destination lies above the first floor. there is only a question of specifying the form of the Parallel postulate. This corresponds to the common notion of perspective that a circle should be drawn as an ellipse when seen obliquely and it has been an important debate in architecture: to decide whether our eye is able to recognize circles perceived on the slant (3). Euclidean geometry includes topology. Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz went so far as to propose columns of oval section in order to correct for perspective effects in his counterproposal for the colonnade of St. at least to our knowledge. if we focus on what is called "position properties" as opposed to "metric properties". The escalators obviously . Peter in Rome. currently enveloped by more scaffolding for maintenance. However. We then get the group of homologies which defines projective geometry. It is a bifurcation between geometries of the same level. we encounter another group of transformations : the homeographies which define topology. strangely enough. one would find himself in the inverse mixed situation.provided he knows where it is located . This building is the Beaubourg Center in Paris. And finally. since no advantage has been taken of possible connections with the underground passing alongside the eastern facade. which assimilate the circle. he would not pass directly to the inside but to an intermediate kind of situation. but not torn. rotation. order and continuity. is certainly not original by virtue of its machinic image. This mixed situation arises from a series of conditions. So. such as the vastness of the hall. the group of similitudes which defines Euclidean geometry. the stains of rainwater on the gray carpet. where he remains in an kind of exterior space although being already in the interior of the building. Between Euclidean and nonEuclidean geometries (those of Riemann and Lobachevsky).which is the scaling. and only look at the continuity of the figures and at the order in which their elements are linked together. it focuses on what is left.and. The Moebius strip has now become common place in contemporary architecture. if we do away with position properties. is that there is a hierarchy organizing the various geometries. Because topology doesn't register any difference between a cube and a sphere. the parabola and the hyperbola as sections through the same invariant cone. But there is one well-known building which actually has a rather complex topological structure that has been overlooked. Let us take an example which should appeal to architects. or the streams of people in coats heading chaotically to escalators where. But. although in most projects this remains more a rhetorical figure than a geometrical structure. Nor does it fully function as a urban machine. there is a relation of inclusion in terms of both number of axioms and relevant geometrical properties left invariant by a certain group of transformations. Topology is less than Euclidean geometry. the ellipses. we can add projections and sections to the group of similitudes. projective geometry and topology. In this case. Common misunderstandings result from the fact that topology focuses on properties which typically lead to complex interlaced figures. As such topology enables one to focus on fundamental properties from which our Euclidean intuition is distracted by the metric appearances. and makes obvious the difference between the sphere and the torus.

it is only when one enters the rooms of the museum or of the library that one really feels inside. In so doing. Moreover. . the Klein Bottle can take many shapes. that suddenly the trivial concept of the unique parallel starts playing tricks on you. that is. The narrow dimensions of the tube. New topological structures can be incarnated in Euclidean space as squared figures as well as curved figures. One single topological structure has an infinity of Euclidean incarnations. of course. but in the meantime. one might think that topology brings free curvature to architecture. To what extent this topology has been taken into account in this particular architecture is another question. about which topology has nothing to say. But this reminder demands accurate work on curvature.take people back to the outside. And finally. we would say that one comes from the outside to enter in an external interior and then proceed into an internal exterior before finally getting inside. suspending them in the air while they contemplate the Parisian skyline. they should open the mind of architects and allow them to think of spatial structures before styling them as either curved or squared. To be sure. Willingly or not. we enter into Euclidean geometry. One should not think of Euclidean geometry as cubes opposed to the free interlacing of topology. This spatial experience has the topological structure of a Klein bottle. contribute to create a kind of cozy atmosphere which can even become oppressive. the variations of which are not relevant for topology. the design of complex curvature is essentially Euclidean. one would find oneself more sheltered than one was before in the main hall. they mean to indicate that they do not care about the actual shape in which topology can be incarnated. When mathematicians draw those kind of free surfaces. and the stillness of the people standing on the mechanical steps while starting to undress. architects measure things. even if one is again confronted by the weather. recapitulating this experience. Because topological structures are often represented with in some ways indefinite curved surfaces. freed from this tension between interior and exterior. but this is a misunderstanding. Topology cannot be said to be curved because it precedes any assignment of metrical curvature. as soon as it comes to actually making a geometrical figure out of a topological structure. but the fact is that this structure could be built and actually exist in Euclidean space. And. we may want to remind ourselves of the formless topological background common to all saturated geometries. and this implies a metric. can we make people forget Euclid. Only by mastering the metrics. its circular section. On the contrary. be they Euclidean or not. So. it is only when variable curvature is involved that we start getting the real flavor of Euclid.

These isochrone maps certainly give shape to the perception of geographical space by train travellers. cannot be suspected of empiricism. And indeed. Poincaré would even go so far as to justify the limitation of our experience to three dimensions by relating it to the combination of the two dimensional surface of our retina with the single independent variable of our muscular efforts to focus on object according to their distance.Notes (3) Cf: Architectura Civil by Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz. one would certainly experience a fourth dimension in its visual space. it is a spatial representation of distances measured in time. Bordeaux would appear much closer to Paris than Clermond-Ferrand because the first town benefits from a fast train link. and this for two reasons. This is very different from the Beaubourg example where we proposed a spatial structure for an architectural space. Hence the interest in isochrone maps. Paul Virilio has rightfully emphasized the importance of speed in the perception of territory. see also Claude Perrault's critics of optical corrections. certainly. But perhaps the best . topology can be very usefull to analyse phenomena the dimensions of which are not restricted to the three dimensions of space. In his dialogue with Bertrand Russel. would conclude that "Euclidean geometry is not true but is the fittest" (4). We would then get a kind of Riemann surface with a tunnel directly linking Paris to Bordeaux. We could even go further and use a 3D curvature to manifest the coexistence of fast tracks with slower means of communication. But morover. and then because it suits rather well the behavior of solid bodies and light. First because it is objectively the simplest. the best geometric vehicle remains 3D Euclidean space. But note that those folded surfaces of isochrone maps or even isochrone tunnels can very well be represented in 3D Euclidean space. while the slower means of communications would be inscribed on the outer distended surface of the tunnel. As regards multidimensional phenomena. In a world where accommodation and convergence of our eyes would require two different efforts. Those new representations substitute to the more traditional one and it is rather a sign a richness that Euclidean space can house several types of representation. Not that we want to repeat Kant's error saying that Euclidean space would be the unique form of spatial intuition. insofar as we want to give an easy intuition of them. for instance. All these phenomena are certainly topological. sorts of deformed territories where. but we cannot avoid the fact that there is a highly positive feed back between our Euclidean intuition and the experimental behaviour of physical space. since it is a question of modified distances which have an impact on order and continuity. Let's now take another example at the scale of the territory. just like a polynome of the first order is simpler than a polynome of the second order. Henry Poincaré who.

When one goes into telecommunication laboratories working on interfaces of the socalled virtual space. which will then exceed the capacity of 3D Euclidean space. the abscissa was privileged over the ordinate. only 230 years old and originates somewhere between Claude Perrault's Ordonnance des cinq espčces de colonnes selon la Méthode des Anciens (1683) which made the architectural orders a convention and Durand's Précis des leçons d'architecture (1802-1805) which based architectural composition on an abstract system of axis. I will mention that Objectile uses everyday mathematical functions with a great number of parameters in order to design 3D surfaces. By the way. one is perplexed when one hears of non-Euclidean interfaces in cyberspace. But multidimensionality is not the exclusive privilege of topology. one can only be struck by the pregnancy of very traditional spatial metaphors: like the double-pitched house or the village.z) would later be called Cartesian space.argument in favor of Euclidean geometry is to remind of the satisfaction of mathematicians when the same Poincaré provided an Euclidean model of Lobachevsky's geometry. he kept on mixing analytical procedures and geometrical methods that he always used for elements of the first order ( straight lines and planes). translate. it is only in 1700 that the equation of the sphere was first written. The grid in itself is certainly a very ancient and fundamental element which can be found in the castrum romanum as well as in the architectural orders with the vertical column and the horizontal entablature. As far as architectural practice goes. Not to mention the striking formal analogy between the Christian Cross and the Cartesian system of X-Y axis. the principle of locating one point on the plane by two segments was already known to the Greeks. Thus. then. Just as an example. that we won't invent any new architectural space without going deeper into Euclidean geometry. He went further by extending his system of co-ordinates to 3D space and even to a kind of four dimensional space. although the output is plain euclidean 3D. there also exist Euclidean hyperspaces as well as projective hyperspaces. By contemplating arcs of circles which axiomatically behave as lines. that Lagrange wrote the equation of the straight line and plane in a system with three equivalent co-ordinates. interfaces much more "heimat" than "cyber". But Euclidean space has nothing to do with these traditional archetypes of space. As for Descartes himself. But it took a very long time before this formal element assumed its current status of abstract grid and we . was probably the first one to really introduce rectangular co-ordinates (which he called longitude and latitude) and to establish relations like the equation of the straight line (5). Nicolas Oresme who died as the Bishop of Lisieux in 1382. and our daily experience in computer-aided design and manufacture confirms. The bi-univocal correspondence between points of the Euclidean space and three-numbers sets (x. one must be convinced that analytical tri-dimensionality is not entirely outdated in the history of Euclidean geometry. And it is not until 1770. We then work within multidimensional parametric spaces. but the real use of coordinates could only come out of relations established between those two numbers. one could at least figure out what it was all about. Sure. but he lacked the analytical formalism which would be invented by Descartes (1596-1650) and Fermat (1601-1663). Hence. In his Introductio in analysis infinitorum (1748) Leonard Euler was the first to establish the principle of equivalence of the double axis: x and y.y. at any rate. we think that what has be to be thought and drawn is the way in which we use. analytical geometry was limited to the plane and ignored 3D space. before him. Fully isotrope 3D space is. or plunge multidimensional spaces of all kinds into 3D new Euclidean figures. I would say that the essential part of our work is not to create "multidimensional topological non-Euclidean virtual spaces" but to design interfaces between parametric hyperspaces and 3D Euclidean figures. We believe. Sure we can think of multidimensional topologies. although real analytical geometry would only show up in the 18th century. Up to that point.

the parabola and the hyperbola were already known since antiquity. Borromini would still use arcs of circle to compose the ovals of San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane instead of drawing real ellipsis. At about the same time that Descartes initiated analytical geometry. To be sure. had the idea to transpose the methods of perspective in geometry and it took some 200 years before the Napoleoniac officer Poncelet benefited from his captivity in Russia to synthesize projective geometry. In its Brouillon projet d'une atteinte aux événements des rencontres du cône avec un plan (1639). we can say that projective geometry studies the effect of the two types of homographic transformations (projections and sections) on the . these curves were studied in isolation. This secularisation of infinity would not be particularly welcome. Likewise. the swap do not alter the postulates. The Académie de Peinture led by Le Brun would opposed this approach to perspective where things should be drawn according to geometrical rules rather than following empirical perception. be assimilated to common points of the plane. architect but also Abby of the counter-reformist Theatines Order. a French architect. The circle became just one particular case of the various conicals. Hence the reluctance to accept that a circle seen from an oblique angle transform into an elliptical figure with its own consistency. which admitted of being transformed into one another by projections and sections. Guarino Guarini. which had been reintroduced into the Renaissance by Baldassare Peruzzi (6). As for the three remaining. Apart from a few disciples like La Hire. a concept which enabled him to describe at once the closed finite figures of the circle and the ellipse as well as the open infinite parabola and the double hyperbola. metaphysicians and mathematicians. But stepping back from axiomatics. considered as a divine attribute. Parallels would now intersect like any other line and converge toward this point at infinity which is now considered just as another point on the plane. Swapping "points" and "planes" enables us to replace the three first axioms by the three following. Carnot. In 1604 Kepler had been the first to use the concept of the point at infinity. He enunciated the fundamental principal of duality by asserting that every theorem involving points and planes has a shadow theorem which can be deduced by swapping the words "point" and "plane". But Kepler still thought of geometry as a symbolic system and the continuum which linked together the conicals was still oriented toward the perfection of the circle. Desargues had made a unified system out of the four conical curves.suspect it might take a bit longer before we draw all the consequences of this "cartesianisation" of Euclidean space. the nine axioms put together as the postulates of projective geometry by Hilbert would give the principle of duality its most general form. Apart from a few exceptions like Pascal and Mersenne. Nevertheless. with primacy given to the circle as the perfect figure. each being thought to constitute a specific case. In reaction. the work of Desargues would fall into oblivion and it is only at the end of the 18th century that projective geometry would raise a new interest with Monge. Sieur Girard Desargues de Lyon. Chasles and especially Poncelet and von Staudt. But even mathematicians like Descartes would show some reluctance to considering parallels as converging lines. The Greek Appolonius had already considered them as sections of a cone whose basis was a circle. the metaphysicians could not accept that the infinite. Hence also the emphasis on the optics of the "perspectiva naturalis" where the remoteness of objects is rendered by fading colors rather than by the rigorous geometrical constructions of the "perspectiva artificialis". would invent methods to draw complex figures only with finite points. Later on. The same slow-moving history happens with projective geometry the integration of which into CAD software is only starting nowadays. Desargues would find considerable opposition amongst artists. in architecture. For their part. Only Desargues would do away with any symbolism of the figure and draw all the consequences of the point at infinity. the ellipse. Poncelet would develop in space what Desargues had demonstrated in plane. the circle.

as CAD software become parametric and variational. Projective geometry would benefit from the same algebraic methods which applied to Euclidean space with cartesian geometry. instead of becoming non-Euclidean will rather benefit from all the extensions of Euclidean space into Arguesian geometry. Not by chance is this company called SGDL. circles and straight lines form a four dimensional space in which they are assimilated to circles of zero. the digital age is still deeply Euclidean and will probably remain so for all the good reasons we have rehearsed. which stands for Sieur Girard Desargues de Lyon: since this team of software developers still find time to peruse mathematical writings several centuries old. which means that you can now stretch a model. Poncelet was very attached to spatial intuition and wanted to develop projective geometry as an autonomous discipline. This general method of considering curves of order "n" would pave the way for spaces of curves. a French and Canadian company has started developing the most advanced CAD software kernel on the basis of these ideas and their first real time application in due this year. What will probably happen is that. are no longer isolated archetypes but appear as particular cases in the continuum of the quadrics. the pyramide. Y. together with more sophisticated figures like the torus. independent of algebraic analysis. one can notice in the field of mathematics a strong return to geometry initiated by eminent figures like Coxeter. The various primary forms that constituted the Roman lesson of Le Corbusier in his book Vers une architecture: the cylinder. And according to the principle of continuity. CAD software kernels will benefit from the extension of Euclidean space within projective geometry. As far as technical applications are concerned. Thus. U. and those numbers would be either real or imaginary to take into account imaginary solutions in equations of intersections.variety of Euclidean space to which has been added points at infinity. But the evolution of mathematics would go the other way. Z. each of which is the object of a dedicated function in traditional software. and still maintain control of its metric relations. While examining how the Thirteen books of Euclid have been reworked throughout the history of mathematics. As such they will integrate the concepts we have mentioned above: points at infinity. finite and infinite radius. One last parenthesis about the fundamentals of geometry before considering how the digital age could bring us the real flavour of Euclidean space rather than dissolve it. the extension of euclidean space to infinite points is complemented by another extension to imaginary points. So much so that future CAD software. for instance. and extend them to all conicals or curves of the second order. the cube. All points of projective space would be associated to four numbers X. one day or another. For several years already. designers can start to implement topological deformation into Euclidean metrics. And more generally. such as architecture. points. Poncelet would use these projections and sections to develop theorems already demonstrated for simple figures like circles. Suffice it to say that the twin brother of CATIA was called EUCLID (7). the fourth one enabling the addition of points at infinity to Cartesian space. This allows. we first looked at the postulates and their axiomatisation by . For instance. the parallelepiped and the sphere. Meanwhile CAD softwares appeared in 1960's and their structure remained strictly Cartesian. mathematicians forgetting the spatial significance of their investigations. They have already developed a single interface which enables one to manipulate points at infinity and thus unify the various primitives. For instance. imaginary points and multidimensional spaces of curves and surfaces (8). Projective geometry would then become an algebra which developed for its own sake. Poncelet would also assume that theorems established for finite and real figures also apply to infinite and imaginary cases. the radical axis defined by the points of intersection between two circles to keep on existing as an imaginary axis when the circles no longer overlap. allowing one to manipulate these three elements with same mathematical methods.

To our knowledge. we have already seen to what extent modern physics have validated Euclidean intuition. which means that there are true propositions which cannot be proven as such and remain undecidable within the system itself. there is. Paris. pp: 454-467). Incompleteness can be mitigated by a limited recourse to intuition. Dominique Soto et la scolastique parisienne (Annales de la Faculté des Lettres de Bordeaux. (8) SGDL is now able to handle not only the quadrics. no such thing as a "non-peanean finance". in 1937 Gentzen reestablished the coherence of the theory of numbers by using one single principle referring to an intuition exterior to the formal system. From this perspective then. Then. be a consequence of the relations established by the axioms. Thus geometry is spoilt by the same incompleteness that Gödel demonstrated about arithmetic. (5) P. we can suspect that when a proposition as errant as non-Euclidean architectural space becomes so widespread. For instance. in fact. we haven't said a word about the common notions by which Euclid referred to arithmetic and logic. arithmetic suffers from the same flaw and. for instance. Euclid's Thirteen books. up to now. Moreover. but also the cubics and the quartics. geometry suffers from the same flaws as its presupposed axiomatics.Hilbert. still appears as the best available theoretical and practical tool to deal with figures in space. Notes (4) Henri Poincaré. And the truth of this symptom seems to indicate that we . is the contemporary rejection of Euclid a merely academic matter or just another strategy of the avant-garde? Is it a tabula rasa of space that seeks to succeed the tabula rasa of time through which the Moderns sought to rid us of the past? We have seen how the controversy about projective geometry in the Baroque era was already architecture and still philosophy. and we now realize that even its logical structure should not be call into question anymore than logic itself. Bulletin hispanique. (6) See Wolfgang Lotz: Die ovalen Kirchenräume des Cinquecento. All the same. (7) CATIA just bought EUCLID while we were writing this text. it bears the value of a symptom. the more than 2000 years old work. 1911. But what Gödel demonstrated is that this is a general flaw of all powerful axiomatics. which doesn't specifically affect Euclidean geometry. which in turn includes a logic. So whatever the angle we are looking from. This led us to the fact that the primary terms of geometry should no longer be subject to definition because their signification would. to our knowledge. very few people take advantage of this incompleteness for claiming for a non-peanean arithmetic. 1902. Hilbert's axiomatic geometry also relies on basic notions of arithmetic and logic. even among people manipulating billions of dollars across the planet. La science et l'hypothese. since there is a hierarchy of axiomatic systems by which geometry includes an arithmetic. But. As a direct consequence. Duhem.

The parallels are then the two lines transposed on each side of the original line at a given distance. For a tool path is fundamentally a parallel to the surface to be manufactured. Fig.objectile. Then comes the case of the straight line. And the concept of parallel. were we not involved in numerically controlled manufacturing [Cf www. This is the canonical case according to which we generally confuse parallel and translation [fig. By definition. The value of Euclidean space would be of less consequence to us. at least. starts creating interesting problems long before we contemplate free surfaces. A machining program is basically the parallel to a free surface. so fundamental in Euclidean geometry. a machining program generator starts by calculating the set of points at an equal distance from the surface. We might find ourselves facing a false choice between the old metaphysical circle and the cyber topological ectoplasm. Take all the decisions that a CAD software has to take when it comes to drawing parallels. Then there no surprise as long as we consider the core of the segment whose parallel can be assimilated to the two transposed]. It is then a circle. but what happens when it comes to the . which choice would result in either the solid sphere where distance is established as a constant surrounding an identified centre or the teratology of inconsistent figures… Just as if curvature could not start to vary without having us fall into indeterminacy.have lost the will or. In other words. not only in the geometrical sense. from which we already see that the parallel transforms a figure into another type of figure [fig. the parallel to a point P is the set of points at a given distance from P. The parallel is easy to draw as long as we consider a infinite line. but also in the philosophical sense in which Nietzsche used this concept (9). distance given by the radius of the spherical tool of the router. 2]. But this misconception will quickly vanish when we consider the finite straight line. But let us come back to technical matters. the strength and the ability to establish distances. 1]. 1-7. whichever it is.

while the gaps between the four external segments is a direct consequence of our additional rule [fig. This result might satisfy many people in the molding industry but it leaves us with a figure different from the original square and its internal parallel. which is called "homothetie" in French. 4bis]. And this might certainly dissatisfy many architects and designers. 8]. Thus. And in the case of architecture software. 3bis]. specifying that we only want the points at a distance that can be determined according to a orthogonal line. squared or chamfered (10) [fig. We now have to distinguish the inside of the square from the outside and make two different cases in order to link together the four isolated external segments and shorten the four internal crossing segments. 3]. CAD software can always find solutions for extrapolating distorted squares.ends? Rigorously speaking. the reverse parallel of a parallel to an initial figure is not necessarily this initial figure. In this case the generation of the parallel creates bigger and smaller circles. meaning where the latter can be calculated [fig. But we will quickly see that this rule will lead us to other problems in the next case : that of the square. because they are indeed at the same given distance from the original line. the external parallel will become a square with rounded corners [fig. . 7]. we have to add a rule to our definition of the parallel. Otherwise. The line then becomes an oblong [fig. 5]. based on the Greek etymology "homoios" meaning "similar". 6]. which of course can be a serious limitation. If. elements like walls are "intelligent" enough to behave as the majority would expect them to. If we cancel this rule again. Fig. 4]. as well as the primary intuition of the general public. CAD software usually provide several options to solve this problem in the case of polygonal or composite figures: external parallels can be chosen to be rounded. since the first result of the parallel will then be eight independent segments [fig. we consider the inner one and generate its external parallel at the same distance used previously. if we want to stick to the intuitive idea of the two segments. The shortening of the interior segments is preliminary to the elimination of loops in the most general case of parallels. This intuition would tend to extrapolate on the basis of the very special case of the circle where both the inner and outer parallel remain a shape similar to that of the initial circle [fig. coming back to our square and its two parallels. 4ter]. 8 . but we must be aware of the irreversible loss of information each time we come back from an internal parallel to an external parallel [fig. and the operation becomes a scaling transformation. Similarly when figures are composed of more complex elements. we must add two half circles to the two segments on each side of the original straight line. we come upon a rounded square the straight parts of which merge with the sides of the initial square [fig. And the dissatisfaction might even become greater when we notice that the parallel is generally not a reciprocal transformation.Two parallels to the same curve by different extrapolation method.

since concavity and convexity are the basic intensive qualities on which sculpture is based [fig. the phenomena being inverse in the case of a negative distance [fig. But the parallel does not only break symmetry.Convex relief. This is an issue of more than merely mathematical interest for architects and designers. This is the case of a positive distance in reference to the concavities. The parallel breaks curvature symmetry by emphasizing concavity while softening convexity. 11]. This irreversible loss of information becomes even more blatant in the case of a free open curve as one increases the distance according to which the parallel is generated. 10 . Concave relief. 10]. The first effect of the parallel is to reduce the radius of curvature of concavities and increase that of the convexities. 9 .Parallels on both side of a simmetrycal curve. . As Henry Moore wrote: "Rodin of course knew what sculpture is: he once said that sculpture is the science of the bump and the hollow" (11). Convexities and concavities are the mathematical equivalents of the sculptural bumps and hollows. 9]. Symmetrical relief. Fig. or vice versa.Fig. it starts creating loops where the distance assumes a value superior to the local radius of curvature on the initial curve [fig.

as in the multiplying of cornices and frames. On the final relief. . It is this elimination of loops which is responsible for the loss of information we have already encountered in the case of the square.Parallel at a distance superior to the radius and parallel at a distance equal to the radius. 13]. 12 . The parallel transforms simple undulations into strange surfaces. We can bet that baroque architects already knew quite a bit about these transformations by which they endlessly created curves out of curves. although still Euclidean. 12].Fiocchi su di una parallela ad una curva libera. on the inverse parallel of the parallel. Fig. since the basic operation carried on by a CAM software is precisely to cancel the loops on the parallel surface which a spherical tool has to follow in order to machinate a relief. or strange because Euclidean should we say. 11 . Architects and designers shouldn't ignore this issue either. this loss of information will appear as zones where the tool is too large to get into the concavities and will then substitute its own constant radius for the varying curvature of the initial relief [fig. where loops can themselves include other loops [fig.Fig.

one understands that it is far more complex than the false intuition by which we assimilate this operation to usual transformations such as translation or scaling. we can start thinking of the general concept of variable curvature. As one can see. like Parasolid. The examination of a simple operation like the parallel of the square already shows a variety of unexpected cases. and then check to what extent it can be drawn with current CAD software. Let us mention for instance. . Parallels do not need to be drawn at a constant distance anymore. figures which we will be able to manufacture and build. final relief. Old methods like Guarini's "maniera di condurre una linea ondeggiante" (12) can be pushed further than was previously possible.Machinic parallel. On examining the intricacies of the basic concept of the parallel. applied Euclidean geometry is not that simple. we can certainly take advantage of them in order to investigate new figures within Euclidean space. There still are very basic operations which the best modelers available on the market. the generation of swept shape along a line the radius of curvature of which becomes locally inferior to half the width of the section. What we are hinting at is that architects can turn the complexity of Euclidean geometry into richness. As an example of this type of problem. we would very much like to record the exact geometry of the handrail that Desargues drew for the entrance stairs of the Château de Vizille built in Dauphiné in 1653. but if we think about these difficulties as architects.Fig. initial relief. 13 . cannot solve directly. At the moment when Euclidean geometry is supported by computers. Circles can be modulated.

14. thanks to the parametric software. December 21st 1998 Notes . we haven't really tasted it yet! Bernard Cache.Fig. Figure 14 shows a sketch that Guarini presented in his "Architettura civile". The lines thus generated result more or less concave and convex according to the position of the horizontal line in relation to the middle axis of the rectangle. you push the horizontal line beyond the limits of the rectangle. As such it can be drawn on parametric software. And if. So now think of undulations which don't need to be created out of planar arcs of circles! Think of parallels at a distance which is always variable! Many unexpected figures will then enable us to incarnate complex topologies in Euclidean space. which enables to generate a variety of undulating lines. We have only caught a whiff. Guarini explicitly presents his sketch as a general device. It is no wonder since Guarini's sketch is a method to generate undulating lines by creating parallel at a variable distance. you then get the strange looped lines we have already encountered. Arcs of circle are drawn from the center located at the intersection of the oblique lines and passing by the intersection of these oblique lines with a variable horizontal line.

Capo secondo: Del modo di piegare varie linee curve necessarie all'ortogarfia: maniera di condurre una linea ondeggiante. . we find those three solutions at many architectural scale. (12) See Guarino Guarini: Architettura civile. 1992. Lastra III. Da Capo Press. New York. (10) Interestingly enough. The peripheral contour of the block can remain square or become chamfered (Plan Cerda) or rounded. Trattato III. (11) Henry Moore writings are collected by Philip James in Henry Moore on Sculpture. starting by that of the urban block built around a square courtyard.(9) Let us also mention that parallelism was the name under which Leibniz and Spinoza discussed the question of the relation between body and soul. How to fold various curved lines necessary for orthography: way of drawing an undulating line.