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Nam quem fructum ille qui theorema quoddam Euclidis iterum demonstraret? ---Dante, De monarchia, 1313 Quello della casa de Barbadorj non ne uolle fare modello ne della parte Ghuelfa; ma facieua co disegni solamente e a boccha di mano in mano dicieua agli scarpellinj e maestrj de cazoula quello che gli auessono affare... 1 ---Manetti, Vita di Brunelleschi, c.1480
Filarete’s Trattato is written in 24 books and is structured around the conception and construction of two imaginary cities: Sforzinda and her port city Plousiapolis. Written as a dialogue between Filarete and his patron, the Duke of Milan Francesco Sforza, the Trattato is an inventive reconstruction of Filarete’s body of architecture, projected through the voices of the Sforza court characters. We pick up our story at the beginning of book VII, when construction has ceased for the winter on the magnificent new city of Sforzinda. At this point the great rocca is almost complete, and work has proceeded well on the walls, towers, and other principle ornaments for the body of the eight-gated city. All looks favorable for the Duke and his new city, and positive omens predict a city ruled by a magnanimous lord, benevolent yet feared by his obedient people. The winter has prompted a shift in focus away from construction and toward the design of the remaining principle buildings, also under the guidance of Filarete, our courtly architect. The Duke’s young son, astonished at the wondrous architecture unfolding before his eyes, convinces his father to allow him to join Filarete on the building site for the winter. Filarete, ‘lover of virtue’, great sculptor, urban planner, and architect, will now add to his list an unexpected new responsibility: teacher of a noble lord. Filarete’s demonstration of Sforzinda’s most significant edifice, the chiesa maggior, takes place through a series of drawing lessons. Describing in great detail the foundation construction, principal walls and vaults, dome, high alter, sacristies, and campanili, Filarete unfolds this amazing construction over the course of 11 days of intense meetings between our architect and the young lord. The entire episode consumes 14 folios of nearly 650 lines of tightly scripted manuscript accompanied by 9 illustrations. Employing simple geometrical devices, the entire plan, section, and elevation of the cathedral are laid out in a complex dialogue between those operations demonstrated a bocca, i.e. through a verbal demonstration, and those demonstrated through disegnare. Our architect takes on this new role as a drawing teacher with his typical vigor, seizing it as an opportunity to both please his lord and describe his theories of proportion, drawing, and building. The lessons begin shortly after arriving at the site, when Filarete is surprised by the young prince while preparing drawing tavole for the future cathedral in the workshop of a local carpenter. After some genteel and courtly maneuvering, we finally learn that Filarete will be using the next several days to teach his young lord “everything about the order and the measures that a building desires”.6 Disegnare, as explained by Filarete, has been practiced by kings and emperors and is a most noble and worthy endeavor, and therefore it is certainly appropriate for a lord to learn the theories of architecture through the practice of rule and compasses.7 The representation of the cathedral thus becomes a rhetorical demonstration in the making of a drawing, opening up a space between himself and his lord whereby Filarete re-constructs his theory of measure and proportion through actual practice. Drawing, building, and teaching become the three movements of an architect’s imagination, based in the coupling of fantasticare and pensare, setting the basis for the free exchange between eye and hand; mind and thing.8 Two days of intense preparation pass, and our lord is ready to begin his lessons. Like many of us today, Filarete begins his architectural narrative by making a scaled drawing (edificio disegnato piccolo). In this didactic procedure, the very first fact of the cathedral is thus revealed: the principal dimension of the cathedral will be a 150 braccia square. He then explains to his lord the idea of drawing in scale: by putting yourself in the drawing and imagining yourself as a small man, you can imagine the building in its actuality. In drawing, he insists, one often must draw a scaled figure, thus invoking a relationship between drawing
In spite of the technological promise of new modeling techniques, we have not been successful in eliminating ‘communication problems’ between the various agents of construction. Significant portions of construction budgets are still wasted through mistakes in communication, coordination, and other inefficiencies. On an equally frustrating occasion, Brunelleschi’s solution was to dispense with the model altogether, work through the idea with drawings only, and speak to the hands of the masons and stonecutters directly during construction, i.e. ‘a boccha di mano in mano’.2 Yet drawings these days have taken on a rather despondent reputation: remnants of a thankfully bygone past when design and construction were separated by mountains of paper, aloof architects, and entrenched builders. Now many dream of a ‘paperless architecture’, ‘file to factory’, and the new ‘digital master builder’, whereby finally, forever, we can eliminate the pesky role of interpretation in the making of architecture.3 However, at least since Vitruvius, it was the active demonstration of the idea, consisting of both showing (or signifying) and seeing (the signified), which gave architecture its fundamental role as a conveyor of meaning.4 This interpretive medium was often geometry, a metonymic procedure mediating between idea and hand, between the speculative body of corpo trasparente and the material body of joints, movement, and construction. Able to unify and move between these worlds with great facility, geometry serves as a kind of armature for both the mind and the building site, closing the space between literal and figural, real and imagined, poiesis and techne. Not surprisingly, architects have often employed the human body as a corporal metaphor between practical and speculative geometry, suggesting a parallel unity among the various faculties of human beings which is at the very foundation of a meaningful architecture. This paper will investigate these procedures through the building of the Cathedral of Sforzinda, an imaginary edifice existing only in the folios of the Trattato di Architettura, conceived over five centuries ago by the sculptor-architect Antonio Averlino, better known by his Greek name, Filarete. Through various means of representation, both verbal (a bocca) and material (drawings and models), the 15th century Florentine reveals this complex relationship between showing and seeing by way of a remarkable ‘de-monstration’: the production of a baby-building.5 In formulating an interpretation of this pregnant episode, we are able pull back the layers of technology which have dominated so much of contemporary discourse, revealing potent reminders of the importance of maintaining an active space of interpretation in both the making and experiencing of architecture.
Lady Architecture interprets the world
the construcing body: Sforzinda Cathedral (Sagrado and Filarete)
the body and drawing the building which characterizes Filarete’s lessons throughout the cathedral demonstration. At the start of day five, with the piccolo edificio thus begun, Filarete embarks on a short narrative into the qualities of a building, which are to be judged, like man, by its capacity to be ‘bene formato, bene organezzato e bene compressionato’. “If he lacks one of these things,” explains Filarete, “[man] cannot be in a state of perfection; so it is with building.”9 Furthermore, echoing Vitruvius, his majesty should realize that the laying out of the cathedral should follow the principles of ‘etterno, bello e utile’. Beginning with the foundations, built for etternita’, Filarete divides and places them according to a strict geometrical and measured plan of the 150 braccia square.10 In divulging briefly into the merits of the cross-plan, which becomes apparent in the foundation work, he concocts a mixture of the imagery of Christ on the cross with that of ancient temples according to Vitruvius.11 Apparently tiring his lord, Filarate decides to end the day’s lesson; this time with an assignment: “Take this tavole which has been gessoed as it ought to be, and this stylus...[and] do only the outline of this head drawn on the tablet.”12 With that said, our lord departs and promises to draw the human figure for at least one hour a day. We begin day six with Filarete checking his lord’s work and embarking on further expositions into the relationship between the proportions of man and those of the building. He returns to his earlier contention that the qualities of a building are also like those of a man, not only in his character but also in how he dressed and adorned (vestiti e ornati). Furthermore, the size and proportion of the human body should act as a guide for seeing the relationships between the membri and the grandezza of buildings. Just as the size of a man is in harmony with the size of his members, so should the members of a building, “be proportionate to the body of the building (corpo dell’edificio).”13 His lord thus retires to continue his drawings, and Filarete prepares for day seven. In returning to the foundation construction, Filarete inaugurates a series of geometrical maneuvers, preparing the 150 braccia square for the various parts of the ground floor. He begins by digging a perimeter ditch 20 braccia wide for the principle walls and two other 20 braccia ditches crossing between the third points for the main vaults.14 The main floor is divided into nine equal squares of 50 braccia each, with smaller square chapels of 25 braccia in each corner, effectively dividing up the plan into 36 equal 25 braccia squares. Once the geometrical armature is established, the main exterior walls are drawn and first interior walls are described. Vaults are thrown high and with great frequency, over the secondary columns, side chapels, and portico. The main piers are raised, and Filarete gives us the first glimpse into the geometry and measures for the octagonal tambour, anticipating the construction of the magnificent duomo. By day eight Filarete slows his pace; there will be no actual drawing today. He needs to stress the importance of certain structural principles of the square cross and how they are sustained by the witness of the Four Evangelists. 15 The corners will act like small temples themselves, becoming the four campanili representing the four pillars of the religious body. This point is made clear through the use of analogy between four men (as walls) and the church walls, which need strong corners just as four men standing in a square need support for their outstretched hands. Thus we learn that the (4) 25 braccia corner squares will act as foundations for the four campanili, and two additional eastern rooms of 25 braccia each will serve as sacristies and baptisteries. At the end of the day Filarate pauses to check the drawing assignment he had given his lord from the previous day. It seems the difficulty of our undertaking is taking its toll. Our teacher reassures his young lord:
Although this is tiresome and difficult to learn, it is like a rose, in that the stem is thorny and pricks and the flower is odiferous and beautiful. Thus is learning.16 Our lord returns to the ninth day earlier than usual and eager to take his teacher’s advice. Filarete does not disappoint: he springs the rest of the interior vaults, and unravels the high alter. We learn of its qualities, along with the complex placements of stairs, vaults, and rooms below. He embarks on a very detailed braccia-by-braccia description of the exterior elevation, the placement of vaults, cornices, and parapets. Having now reached the detail of column orders, Filarete makes a drawing and explains to his young lord how to draw the principle ornaments such as doors, windows, and the bases and capitals of columns. He finishes the day by laying out one of the most significant exterior features, the columned portico, which is 10 braccia wide and 25 braccia high and faces the church on three sides. Day ten is a feast day, and so our lord does not come to his usual drawing lesson. Filarete, however, wanting to finish the drawings in order to order begin ordering materials, takes this day to continue drawing without his lord. Finally, we learn of the measures of the great duomo: The diameter of its square is 64 braccia, but [since] it is reduced to eight angles and eight sides it will be [actually] 25. By taking half [the greater diameter] this vault will be 32 braccia high [even though its true] radius is 25.17 It will spring from a octagonal tambour, with oculi on four sides, and it will be a double vault with a space of 1.5 braccia between the shells. Every four braccia in height Filarete will spring another short vault to tie the shells together, and he will construct a stair to be able to rise to the top of the dome. Covering the dome is an elaborate system for water run off, and capping it is a lantern with eight double columns. From the ground to the summit is 150 braccia total. The 11th and final day arrives, and our lord is furious that Filarete continued working without him. After some consolation by our architect, the noble lord agrees that, “I certainly will not go hunting again so long as you are doing these drawings. I want this to be my only pleasure...”.18 Thus they begin the final drawing lesson which involves the articulation of the four campanili. After describing their construction and proportions in great detail, Filarete reveals that each campanile will be topped with a rooster, “for as the rooster sings at all hours, so should the priests”. With this our lord is satisfied and they set out to begin the next principle building of Sforzinda, the great Casa Regia. In closing the didactic space opened up by the drawing lessons, Filarete is ready for his lord to become an architect himself. He thus instructs his lord to “have a tavola of two braccia made, laid out in scale to the size you want your court to be. I want you to draw the foundations on this tablet”.19 At this point one can see that a literal rendering of Filarete’s cathedral leaves ample room for interpretation in and of itself. Often contradictory, ambiguous, and unclear, to the modern reader the text could read as a verbal demonstration of Daedalus’ famed labyrinth: easy to enter, yet impossible to find your way though it. At least two recent scholars, Grassi and Spencer, have offered graphic interpretations of Filarete’s twisted sentences and fragmentary drawings. Both renderings rely on heavy doses of interpolation, cross-referencing, and, in some cases, just plain guessing (see endnotes). Filarete’s unsophisticated vocabulary, in the volgare, stands in stark contrast to the learned
chiesa maggior under construction ad quadratum (Filarete, Francesco di Giorgio, Prudence)
Filarete’s labyrinth of interpretation (Taccola, de Fontana, and Filarete)
language of Alberti’s refined Latin in De re aedificatoria. Yet, while Filarete’s workshop language is relatively simple, those looking for the clarity of a disciplined and methodical writer will be disappointed: Filarete operates within the realm of narrative and conjecture; with a sense of kairos possessed by a craftsman at the pinnacle of his techne. Full of digressions and detours, it reads like the unedited cants of a lively bottega, precisely the kind of perturbations that prompted Vasari to pronounce the Trattato as “probably the most stupid book ever written”.20 However, it would be hard to accept that Filarete was being purposely opaque; rather it seems more likely that he saw himself as being eminently clear. In fact, like many of the early architects who employed disegno, his primary purpose in supplying word and image together was in their capacity to explain an idea.21 It seems reasonable to assert that Filarete’s conception of clarity within the space of interpretation was much different than ours. Lacking a lettered background like Alberti, we are gaining a rare glimpse into the working methods of an architect applying common workshop procedures in an innovative and decidedly imaginative way. Filarete’s contribution lies in the unification of certain principles of geometry common to medieval builders with his interpretations of the proportions of the human body based on Vitruvius and conventional workshop practice.
Erotes at work in Filarete’s bottega
Euclid: the coherent body
Filarete’s use of geometry in the building of the cathedral may be conceived as somewhat of a practical matter. The square has properties of symmetry and equality which makes it a useful ordering device in construction. Although we can only speculate on the choice of 150 braccia as the principle measure in the cathedral, Filarete’s choice of a square plan is without a doubt intentional. Throughout the Trattato, he insists on the implementation of the simple proportions of the square and its derivatives, reflective of his extensive experience within a culture of capomaestri and on-site master masons. 22 Knowledge of dividing and taking measures from a square is the most elementary of building operations, easily confirmed through string lines, rule, and compasses.23 As several late 15th century German mason’s pamphlets have shown, a thorough understanding of simple geometrical relationships have an additional value: the plan and the section of the church have a geometrically bound wholeness which can be discovered through its derivation ad quadratum (by the square) or ad triangulum (by the triangle).24 Thus the traditional methods of working could be administered from master-to-mason largely through gestured, oral instruction; often without the aid of complex drawings.25 Through the applied and proper use of Euclidean geometry, the edifice becomes a coherent body, beautiful because it is inseparable, immovable, and complete.26 Such a wholeness seems a primary concern for Filarete in our Sforzinda cathedral, since the church is exactly as tall as it is wide (150 braccia), that is, it is also figured ad quadratum. In northern Europe several documents circulated throughout mason’s lodges which proclaimed the authority of Euclid in the unity of life and work through Geometry, with one such document claiming geometry as literally the “measure (metrona) of the Earth (geo)” and the “causer of all” the other liberal sciences.27 The documents recording the building of the cathedral in Milan display one of our best examples of this relationship between wholeness and practical geometry. In a meeting dated May 15, 1401, the Lombard master craftsmen have gathered to consider a plan submitted by a French master mason, Jean Mignot, which calls for an increase in the overall height of the church, thus bringing the nave section in-line with an equilateral triangle. The masons must debate how such a change to the body of the church would affect the overall form (forma sostanziale). The deliberation takes the form of a traditional Scholastic dialogue of doubt and response: 28 Question: “In considering the form (forma) of the second design [i.e. Mignot’s plan], would it change the church only with respect to the previous dispositions concerning the maximum height or width, or would its essential form (forma sostanziale) change in some way?” Donato: “In comparison to the earlier ordinance (ordinata), some variation is made to the height if we execute the design of Mignot, but this variation is praiseworthy because it follows the reason of the geometry of the triangle.” Alcherio: “If I do not err, some change in the height is made with Mignot’s plan, but, just the same, any change [that] happens will be a betterment to the solidity, to the congruity, to the beauty, and to the speed of construction of the work, and that it will turn out to be very burdensome evidence against the blind who pretend to be geometers.” Scrosato: “Responding that if some previous disposition is varied, that it is varied for the better, in a more pleasing and more praiseworthy way, according to the geometry of the triangle.” 29
For the modern reader, the barriers to a clear rendering of Filarete’s cathedral are not meant to be overcome, rather they are meant to be interpreted. That is, they ought to be re-made and re-situated according to a new contextual reading. That we are unable to interpret it with precision (i.e. to know what he surely meant) doesn’t particularly matter. What matters is the glimpse into an especially fruitful chiasm between idea and thing and Filarete’s subsequent attempt to express this gap. He does this through the proximate corpus, a body which slides among the material and immaterial demonstrations of the building, forging idea and thing into a synthetic coherence. We may well ask at this point: in returning to our critical stance taken against the contemporary replacement of ‘communication’ for ‘interpretation’, what makes Filarete’s braccia-by-braccia method any different from today’s attempts minimize the ‘communication problems’ among the parties of building? Both use geometry, words, and images--was it not Filarete’s desire to communicate clearly and to minimize problems in construction? It surely seems so, and we can hardly say that he was trying to amplify them. However, in a ‘paperless’ environment, where the architect directly produces the digital template for the various electronically controlled fabrication machines, the possibility of human making, of the presence of the interpres, is utterly eliminated. Disegno, Filarete’s interpretive medium, is inseparable from the processes of fantasticare and misurare, and is thus not primarily a tool to reduce construction uncertainty, even though it certainly did so. We’ll see in the subsequent analysis that Filarete’ synthesis of geometry, the human body, and the means of representation form the basis for unity in Vitruvius’ signifier and signified: instead of ‘this stands for that’, we have ‘this and that stand for each other.’ A metonymic procedure, where part and whole stand in reciprocity, it is a horizon for meaning in architecture. The space of interpretation is not an object-space bounded by distance and time, rather it is distance based in corporeity, on the uninhibited space of metaphor which transcends the modern notion of ‘communication’ as something to be controlled, governed, and specified. Geometry, then, becomes the principle armature in this space of dynamism, able to transcend the notion of a static architecture which is formulated to completion in an architect’s mind and ‘communicated’ without error to a transparent and anonymous builder.
Idea geometricae architectonicae : Milan Cathedral (Cesariano)
The above sampled masons are unanimous in their support for the ‘ragione geometrica del triangolo’. Clearly this change is not a matter of adjusting a few dimensions for practical reasons, rather it is a practical change made for undoubtedly theoretical concerns, in this case to submit the body of the church to the immutable reason of geometry. The documents from the Milan cathedral, however, suggest that certain other considerations, especially those affecting the religious iconography of the church, often trumped such ‘theoretical’, Euclidean concerns, implying that the relationship of the body to applied geometry is not so simple.30 On one occasion, around a year earlier than our previous deliberation, Mignot levies a scathing criticism against the Lombard masters who have proposed to construct four additional towers at the corners of the main crossing-tower. Given the weak state of the foundations and the scantily proportioned piers, according to Mignot, such a construction “runs the danger of utter ruin” (la fabbrica corre pericolo di ruina). The masters reply that the church will indeed be “bene fortis” since: “...[the four towers] integrate aforesaid church and transept so they correspond to a rectangle according to the demands of geometry, but beyond this, for the strength and beauty (fortitudine et pulchritudine) of the crossing-tower. To be sure, as if as a model for the, the Lord God is seated in Paradise in the center of the throne, and around the throne are the four Evangelists according to the Apocalypse, and these are the reasons why they were begun.” In other words, the “strength and beauty of the crossing tower”, i.e. its coherent body, depends on the iconography of the four Evangelists much more than any structural advantage given to it by geometry. A similar phenomenon occurs in our Sforzinda cathedral, where Filarete justifies the four campanili (placed in the four corners) in terms of their symbolic relationship to the four Evangelists: “I will make [four campanili] because I want them to be dedicated to the four Evangelists, by whom and for whom our religion is sustained and maintained, and of which they are witnesses. By similarity I have placed these four squares with thicker walls in this form, so that they are strong (fortezza) and support the temple...” 31 Furthermore, as Filarete continues, on the prompting of his young lord: they are placed at the corners, becoming the material columns to support the idea of a ‘croce vero’.32 Filarete illustrates this with an analogy: Imagine four men standing in a square with their arms spread, fingertips touching. The men’s bodies form a ends of a cross, but after a few minutes their outstretched arms need support in order to remain stretched: thus the need for the four campanili at the four corners, giving support to the extended arms, making them “forte...e più durabile”.33 The body of the building thus resides in the cross, in the reciprocity between forte and vero. A square-ish crossing is not only vero because it symbolizes Christ on the cross, it also symbolizes Christ because it is forte, thus unifying the signified and the signifier into a coherent body mitigated through the medium of geometry. 34 The union implied through proper use of geometry is further reflected in several latemedieval drawings which are revealing of the space opened up between practical geometry and the coherent body. A drawing preserved by the Bolognese architect Antonio di Vicenzo shortly after the foundations were laid in the cathedral of Milan records his impressions of how the future cathedral will rise according to the footprint before him. He overlays the
elevation of the cathedral onto the footprint, presuming that the body of the church would rise ad triangulum, as this was the stated plan. That the elevation was not ‘locked in’ to the plan and that could potentially rise either ad quadratum or ad triangulum from the same footprint reveals that geometrical wholeness transcended the kind of determinism which characterizes certain contemporary views of medieval building practice.35 This drawing has been the source of much measuring and speculation by historians, since it ‘explains’ so much about certain inconsistencies in the building documents, but for our purposes it demonstrates a fundamental experience of the Euclidean imagination as employed by architects such as Filarete: the dynamic flipping between plan and section is akin to the material imagination grasping the entirety of construction by means of the armature of geometry. Filarete demonstrates this himself, late in his treatise, when discussing one of the temples of Plousiapolis, projecting the elevation of temple steps directly on top of the foundation plan. We see this again, as demonstrated by both word and image, in a drawing on parchment by the brief provedditore of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giovanni di Gherardo da Prato, dated c.1426. Among several geometric constructions and a remarkable and rare section cut of an illuminated cupola, Giovanni renders what appears to be a reflected plan of the future duomo. The accompanying text discloses some further information: “Above in the middle. This is the center of the round arch and not of the pointed fifth. Below. This is the apex of the vault and not the center of the pointed fifth. [That is to say] it is the [axial] center of the vault sections and not of the rising arcs of the vault...” 36 The drawing, then, is to be read as both a plan and a section, flattened together in a single projection. To imagine this projected construction, one must imagine the plan as actually the larger body of the cupola, with height as well as length and width. The text allows us to pull the drawing apart and put our body into the drawing, becoming a body by which to project the corporal imagination. This supra-visible world of imagining the invisible from certain data, or givens, is a fundamental component in the construing of architecture, opening the door for us to enter into the dynamic space of interpretation.
Euclidean imagination: Milan Cathedral 1390 (Antonio di Vicenzo)
Plan and partial elevation: Cathedral of Plousiapolis (Filarete)
drawing the coherent body: Santa Maria del Fiore (Gherardo da Prato)
le ape costruendo: Filarete ponders the constructing bees (Filarete, Bettini)
Our point of departure for the relationship of corpus and geometry comes from Plato.43 In the Timeaus, in the becoming of the first Being, we learn that each of the four elements, earth, fire, air, and water, corresponds to a geometric soma inscribable within a sphere (cube, pyramid, octahedron, and icosahedron, respectively), thus ‘solidifying’ the role of geometry in the creation of the Cosmos--the only body that can be a body of all bodies.44 It was the demiurge, then, who put the elements together and “fashioned (etektonato) it to be One single Whole, compounding of all wholes, perfect and ageless and unailing.”45 Plato’s soma is thus a construction, a putting-together, in its most perfect, complete, and coherent form: a sphere.46 Brought into the cinquecento by his translator and commentator, Marsilio Ficino, soma is rendered as corpus, likely following Cicero who also translated parts of Timaeus.47 In his Platonic Theology Ficino takes great pains to demonstrate the existence of the soul, however he must first show that it is not body. Again, geometry proves useful: “Two bodies (duo corpora) cannot both occupy exactly the same place at the same time. For if they had to be in exactly the same place, they would first have to be divided into parts and then their parts in turn joined to parts...” 48 In other words, the parts would have to be joined together in order become a body again. Yet in seeing the full picture of the corpus of the Sforzinda cathedral, this question is still not settled, since Plato’s word for body was not the only Greek word to come down through the Latin lexicon rendered as corpus. It turns out that corpus was the standard medieval Latin translation of Euclid’s word for a 3-dimensional shape, stereon, as in the tradition of Campanus of Novara’s translation the Elements in 1260, mentioned and likely read by Filarete.49 The question then becomes whether corpus consists of material or exists solely as a geometric entity, devoid of material. Plato’s soma and Euclid’s stereon have come down to us both as corpus, yet they are clearly different kinds of bodies. L.B. Alberti appears to settle this in De re aedificatoria when he states that “the building is a kind of corpus, which consists of lineamenta and materia.” In this sense Alberti appears to distance himself from Campanus, whose translation he studied and annotated.50 All this is in spite of the fact that in Alberti’s Elementa, another source for Filarete, he seems content to refer to 3-dimensional geometric shapes as corpora.51 On the other hand, for Ficino all bodies consist of materia and quantitas, placing corpus firmly at the most earthly stage of the chain of being.52 Thus Alberti and Ficino reveal that tied to this notion of corpus is the slippery question of whether it contains material or not. For Plato geometric bodies are (or correspond to) the four materials. More precisely, Ficino points out, according to Proclus (Plato’s 5th century commentator), there are three types of bodies: material and composite (e.g. the four elements); spheres made from the elements themselves (material but non-composite); and heavenly bodies (non-material, non-composite).53 Compare this to Seneca’s three corpora from his Epistulae: continuous bodies (man); composite bodies (ships, houses, everything that is a result of joining together into one sum total); and certain bodies made up of distinct separate members (army, populace, senate).54 From this we can determine that in distinguishing between the various meanings of corpus, it must be qualified, determined in context, or otherwise placed in a situation, thus opening up a space of interpretation very close to Vico’s four tropes.55 As Filarete demonstrates in his cathedral drawing and geometry lessons to his lord, corpus, as a metonymic procedure, has a tremendous facility in the traversing between mind and material, the metaphorical continuity between fantasticare and misuare.
corpo trasparente: the material and immaterial
Filarete mentions on several occasions that certain tools are necessary in the fantasticare and misurare of the Sforzinda cathedral. The first step, as we saw above, is to properly prepare the drawing surface, the wooden tavola, just as one prepares the site for building.37 Our young lord must then learn the ways of the rule and compasses in order to lay out the primary measures, since these instruments allow him to work according to the rules of geometry. Nearing the end of the Trattato, in Book 22 when Filarete teaches the principles of geometry, Filarete introduces a third instrument--the square, declaring that: “these are the two instruments [the compass and the square] with which all bodies (corpi) are measured and made...” 38 For Filarete, then, a coherent geometrical entity is also a kind of body, or corpo. In addition, corpo is composed of points, lines, and surfaces, but if divided, ceases to be corpo and is thus defined by its respective elements. These same definitions are laid out by Alberti in his Elementa, and they are repeated at the end of the cinquecento almost verbatim by Francesco di Giorgio.39 It thus follows that a drawing of a building, obeying the rules of the compass and the square, is also corpo, since the proper use of the instruments guarantees a certain wholeness.40 That a building (usually a church) is naturally a corpo is reflected in its common vernacular use in the building documents of the churches in Milan and Florence, as well as by Filarete himself.41 To add or subtract from a body either disrupts the parts, thereby threatening its corporality, or it produces another body altogether. Perhaps this is what occurred to Poliphilo, a frequent lover of bodies himself, when he encountered yet another wondrous monument in the dream world of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, illuminating this relationship between solidity, wholeness, and the body of the building: “Nevertheless, although perfection in this noble art does not deviate from the rule, the clever and industrious architect can adorn his work at will with additions and subtractions so as to gratify the sight, so long as the solid body is kept intact and conciliated with the whole. By ‘solid’ (solido) I mean the whole body (corpus) of the building that was the architect’s original thought, his invention, his prescience and symmetry, well studied and executed without any accessories.” 42
corpus solido : Poliphilo beholden (Hypnerotomachia Poliphili)
Master mason Lorenz Lechler draws ad quadratum (14th cent. ) :: Socrates draws in the sand in Meno
throughout the Trattato. Later, during the laying out of Sforzinda’s sister city, Plousiapolis, Filarate demonstrates a procedure by which the linee occulte become the string lines stretched across a building site.62 In this way, the evanescent lines of the mind descend from the mind to the building site, by way of a drawing, supported by the transparent body of geometry.
Qualità : the beautiful body
If, as Serlio contends, there is no difference between a sold and transparent body, he stops considerably short of stating that there are no differences between bodies altogether. Rather, it seems, that beyond just having coherence, bodies are also characterized by another, higher level of seeing. In his book on geometry, Serlio makes a careful distinction among the levels of corporal perfectibility by using a geometrical proof. He draws two geometrical copri, both with the same perimeter, one which is a perfect square and another which is a long rectangle:
This armature of the realm between the visible (misurare) and invisible (fantasticare) is geometry. Plato’s divided line in the Republic is perhaps the most salient example, revealing the power of geometry to act as a mode of representation, as an in-between procedure which relies on visual thinking in the demonstration of Plato’s two modes of reality (the intelligible realm of episteme vs. the physical realm of doxa).56 This practice is again picked up in the Meno, where Socrates validates the principle of recollection by means of a geometrical drawing made in the sand.57 However, whereas in the Republic Plato relies on a verbal description of the Line, in the Meno Plato has us imagine the square through the visualization of a physical drawing, validating the power of geometry in the transmission of an idea through actual physical representation. Plato’s employment of geometry as a kind of transparent system of signs is parallel58 to Serlio’s idea of hidden lines, or linee occulte. For Serlio in his 16th century treatise on architecture, linee occulte were those lines on a drawing which reveal the connection between the physical, practical structure of a building and the invisible, hidden properties of perfect forms.59 Our best contemporary equivalent, ‘ghosted’ or ‘vanishing’ lines, still supports this notion of the power of geometry to conceal certain secret relationships buried beneath the concerns of the composite, material building. These secrets are inevitably tied to the notion of the building as a corpus, with a magical coherence and indivisible rectitude, understood supra-visibly, as in lines guiding the hand of construction. In describing the steps in constructing a perspective drawing, Serlio states that first the student must draw a skeleton of transparent linee occulte which act as the guiding armature for the geometrical body under consideration: “...all the lines which cannot be seen are hidden (occulte). Nor is there any difference between a transparent body (corpus) and a solid body...[as in a human body] the flesh covers the skeleton, but the skeleton is nevertheless there, hidden inside. In the same way, those artists who have seen the skeletons of humans and animals are more skilful and have a better understanding of the art than those who deal with the subject superficially, only making use of outward appearance.” 60 Filarete follows a similar invisible procedure while setting up the drawings for the Sforzinda cathedral. Recall that Filarete’s first act is to lay out a 150 braccia square on his drawing tavola. The very next step is to take the compasses and divide the large square into little squares of 10 braccia each, setting up what amounts to a 15 x 15 grid of linee occulte.61 These lines denote the invisible skeleton of the future body, placing the walls, columns, and vaults in their proper relationships according to the visible lines represented on a drawing. This process of gridding a drawing (disegno proporzionato) is repeated
From this [geometrical proof] can be seen how bodies (corpi) which are more perfect (perfetti) have more power (forza) than bodies which are less perfect. It is the same with mankind (l’huomo). The closer man gets to the mind of God (intelletto a Dio), which is perfection itself, the more goodness he has in himself...
Serlio’s neoplatonist demonstration is indicative of Ficino’s notion of qualitas. In his chain of being, Ficino posits the existence of a in-between entity, one that mediates between corpus and anima (the soul) and has the properties of moving the otherwise passive body. Like the soul, it is indivisible, but it shares in the properties of corpus insofar as “if it is separated from matter [it is] corrupted”. Ficino continues: It is as though motion’s efficacy consists in qualitas. The point is clearly demonstrated by the fact that our desire (appetitus) is aroused by something because it is good, not because it is large or multiple; and goodness (bonus) is a qualitas.64 For Filarate and our Sforzinda cathedral, it is the task of the architect to determine the appropriate qualità for the body of the building, since, analogous to man, it possesses qualità of both the body and the soul.65 Similar to Serlio, Filarete’s notion of qualità is a
the hidden body :: linee occulte from the hand of Serlio
way of understanding the range of differences among various people (and buildings), one of mankind’s greatest sources of beauty: Man has these differences and dissimilarities for a good reason. I have told you that a building is made in human form and simile. You see the same result in buildings. You never see any building...that is totally like another either in similarity, form (forma), nor in beauty (bellezza). Some are large, small, medium-sized, beautiful, less beautiful, and ugly (brutto), some uglier, like man himself... 66 Thus Filarete sets up a nearly transparent metonymic relationship between uomo and building, a dynamic space of imagination whereby the qualità of men are interchangeable with the qualità of buildings. As such the body of the building ought to be treated as if it were alive, possessing all the various qualità of a living, breathing human body: You say that a building does not sicken and die like a man..I say to you that a building does just that, for it sickens when it does not eat, that is, when it is not maintained and begins to fall off little by little exactly as man [does] when he goes without food, and finally falls dead...through corruption, the body of the building (corpo dello edificio) rots like a man...67 In addition to understanding the building as a living body, qualità is the central notion in Filarete’s theory of proportion. In the cathedral of Sforzinda, just as it is improper for a bishop or priest to be malformed, so is it that a house of God should have be properly formed, with dignità. As such, all qualità of the cathedral are derived from the human figure in three ways: measure, members (or limbs), and proportions.68 On proportion, both a building and a man are well proportioned when one member corresponds well with another.69 The case is similar with members: when one member is twisted or malformed, the proportion of the whole will therefore be lacking. Not only should the parts be in harmony between themselves, but each part has a natural correspondence with the whole, and the spoil of one part means the spoil of the whole.70 These relationships, however, are not relative to just any human body, the architect must distinguish his measures among five additional qualità of the human body: really small, small, medium, large, and gigantic, although Filarete maintains that the only qualities which matter for our discussion are the middle three (i principali).71 Where the building is heavy and bears the greatest weight, for example, the architect should use columns corresponding to large men, i.e. the Ionic.72 In addition to judging the appropriate grandezza, the architect must also know the appropriate ornament or dress for the building, according to what is fitting for it. “As men should be dressed and adorned (vestiti e ornati) according to their dignity,” teaches Filarete, “so ought buildings.” A house built for a lord must not only conform to the ideal proportions of a man, it must be adorned and ornamented appropriate to its qualità, and “should be decorated (ornare) with beautiful and noble carvings”73 Drawing, then is the surest way to capture the qualità of man and translate it into architecture. At the onset of the very first drawing lesson on the Sforzinda cathedral, Filarete demands that his lord take a few days to “learn how to draw”. Our drawing tool of choice has now switched from the compasses to the stylus: his lord needs to practice drawing the human figure. This diversion apparently demands as much attention as the drawing of the cathedral itself, since Filarete illustrates for his lord both the drawing tavola (with a figure drawn by Filarete for his student to copy) and an appropriate drawing tool in the margins of the treatise alongside the various drawings of the cathedral. To draw the human body is a key requisite for knowing architecture, and many other things for that
matter, anticipating nearly a century earlier one of the main tenets of the early Florentine academies.74 Filarete reiterates the importance of knowing how to draw the human body, accurately and without difficulty, so that his lordship can bring forth the proper measures for building at any moment: For now learn only how to make the figura, because within it contains every measure, proportion of columns, and other things...75 In a certain sense, Filarete’s anthropomorphic theory of proportions is actually quite simple, and it is such simplicity that makes it such a fertile space for metaphor and interpretation. His trust in the familiar proportions of the human body probably reflects a certain reliance on common workshop principals, which tend to place a high value on convention and the transmission of knowledge through actual practice.76 For example, Filarete explains that the head of a man is based on the measure of his nose, that from ear to ear a man ought to be three noses wide, and that “we will also follow this rule (ordine).” 77 Yet, his reliance on several occasions on bodily analogy and the authority of Vitruvius helps to elevate what seems to be common shop conventions into a coherent body of architectural theory, a corpus architecturae,78 thus establishing the founding principles for a prudent and critical practice. Filarete’s body of architecture cannot be understood outside of its practical application, and he seems less concerned about constructing a systematic, philosophical understanding of beauty than in simply making a beautiful building. 79
Throughout the building of the Sforzinda cathedral, Filarete stresses the need for his lord to learn the ways of drawing in scale, in the imagining of an ‘edificio disegnato piccolo’. It is only through knowledge of disgeno, in fact, that one can navigate the metonymic space of qualità. He admits that such understanding of the ways of building is ‘molto scabrose’, and therefore requires a detailed geometrical demonstration in order to understand it fully. Very soon after commencing our drawing lessons, Filarete describes how to make a scaled drawing to his lord: I made it [the survey] in this forma first, and you do it like this when you desire to build anything: first I made a square of 150 braccia on every side, as you can see here drawn in front of you, and then I divided it into 15 parts, and every one of these parts is 10 braccia...If you want to clearly understand these diminutions, you need to take [the] compasses and divide one of these parts into 10, and then with these compasses...make a perpendicular line that is three times as long as one of these parts. If you knew how to draw, I would say: make a figure as large [as the perpendicular line] and then consider [the figure as] being as large as this and then you would understand the diminution of the braccia and every other measure...80 In other words, to imagine the actual extends of the cathedral, to imagine what exactly is a 150 braccia square, one has to understand the relationship of the drawing to the human body. This takes place not only through the simple adoption of the arm, or braccio, as a measurement unit, but, in taking on the form of a geometrical proof, Filarete demonstrates how the future building derives quite directly from the size of an actual man.81 To know the actual size of the grid on the building site, one must first draw a scaled human body, which, if his lord knew how to draw, would evidently be 3 braccia tall. Analogous to how the
Filarete’s tavola and stylus :: drawing the body (Francesco di Giorgio, Durer, Filarete)
drawing of the Florentine cupola opened up our architectural imagination, this imagining of the body inside of the drawing suggests that the scaled drawing advances the notion of the drawing itself as a kind of body, having its own capacity for materiality and dimension.82 As a primary didactic instrument in Filarete’s program of drawing education, this demonstration of scaled drawing is our most direct instrument in the oscillation between the body of the building and the body of man. Apparently our young lord sees eye to eye with his teacher, who confirms the power of scaled drawing to penetrate the relationship of body and building, employing colorful language characteristic of the Trattato in response to Filarete: It seems that I have understood you: because all of the measures derive from man according to his forma, in pretending man to be small like this, the measures are thus taken from him. Following this, the drawings of the buildings are made to proportion, even though the drawing would be small and, in seeing it, we are large. If men were as small as these [scaled drawings] are, it would seem as large to them as [the completed building] seems to us when it is walled and furnished, and as many large men would stand in it as small men would stand in the drawing.83 Even today the placement of a scaled human figure in a drawing has the uncanny power to situate the corporal imagination inside of the drawing, instantly converting the drawing into something that the body inhabits. Thus what is remote (in time and place) becomes instantly near, allowing us to relate to the idea within the realm of our own subjectivity, i.e. to imagine the invisible as real.84 Although both Alberti and Vitruvius developed coherent systems of proportion and measure based on the human body, the use of geometrically scaled figures within an architectural drawing represents a remarkable development in the transition toward the practice of architecture as a liberal art. This absorption of corporal language into the application of geometry can be viewed as a certain advancement from previous generations of medieval building theory, which, as we saw, tended to place the scientia of architecture firmly within the practiced realm of geometry on the authority of Euclid.85 Filarete reformulates several aspects of traditional craft, retaining a basis in the workings of Euclid (or misurare), yet elevating the role of fantasticare. In simplistic terms, Vitruvius takes the place of Euclid, but the authority of geometry as an interpretive medium remains. The living body of architecture acquires a material presence within the dynamic projection of the body into the edificio disegnato piccolo, the space of interpretation. The shuffling between the corpi of geometric bodies, buildings, and man find another familiar state in the so-called Vitruvian man, adopted by Filarete as quod erat demonstrandum in the ideal relationship between man and the constructed world.86 However, even through Filarete seems to take great pleasure in finding authority in Vitruvius, his notion of corporality goes one step beyond simply adopting certain bodily measures and proportional relationships.87 The traditional distance between the subjective and objective, between the signified and signifier, nearly disintegrates in the very first book of the Trattato, when Filarete likens the birth of an architectural idea to union of the patron and the mother architect: “But before [the architect] brings [the building] forth, just as the woman for nine or seven months carries it in [her] body, as I have said above, the architect ought to imagine (fantasticare) and think (pensare) and turn it around in the memory (memoria) in many ways, and make various drawings (disegni) in his mind (mente)...and as the woman can also do nothing without the man, so the architect is the mother to carry this in-conception (ingeneramento)..and this being done, the bringing forth of it (partorirlo) or the making a small relief model of it in wood (disegno piccolo rilevato di legname), measured and
proportioned as if it were finished, then he shows it to the father (padre).” 88 Disegno, the space of interpretation, is the result of a bringing forth (partorire), a literal birthing. The human body is not only the source for seeing into a drawing or model, it can actually give birth to disegno itself! 89 For Filarate the human body is both the proper source of measure, as well as the most pregnant metaphor for signification in architecture. It is very likely that Filarete thought of himself as giving birth when, in unfolding the final task in his drawing lessons for the Sforzinda cathedral, he performs a miraculous demonstration in the crowning dome and cupola. No doubt this is the most lucid description in the entire episode, with a coherence and completeness that would impress even the modern construction lawyer, suggesting that he was working from an existing disegno piccolo. Such a model actually existed, produced during his brief tenure as capomaestro for an actual cathedral, the great chiesa in Milan. 90 On November 4, 1452 the Milan Annali show that Filarete was paid for a wooden model he built of the drum and dome with a local carpenter.91 No other mention is made of this model, apparently falling on deaf ears and potentially contributing to his dismissal as capomaestro two years later, having at that point become ‘superfluous’. While its tempting from a historical standpoint to believe that the Sforzinda model followed the lost model from Milan, it is perhaps more fitting to regard this intersection between history and conjecture as further support for the birthing process: in both cases the result of a union between the illustrious Duke of Sforza and Filarete, our mother architect, the cathedrals of Milan and Sforzinda are both disegno, remarkable demonstrations of an architect’s corporal imagination.
Filarete_Euclid and the digital geometer
One of Vico’s premises in the New Science was that “in man’s ignorance he makes himself the measure (regola) of the universe.”92 Lacking faculties of higher reason, through their vigorous sensations early man overvalued his corporal condition, elevating the physical world into the throes of the wonderfully sublime. Arguing fiercely against the hegemony of positive science in the midst of the Enlightenment, Vico’s return to primitive man allowed for a reassertion of the poetic imagination as a valid and productive form of knowledge. Now we find ourselves at a similar disjunction, when the authority of digital methods in the imagining and production of architecture threatens to reduce the original techne-poiesis to that which can only be interpreted through electronic means. With such powerful tools of analysis, remote communication, and automation, have we advanced beyond our corporal condition, moving outside ourselves as the measure of the world? Can we construct an architecture without the proximate body? Our discussion of geometry and body provides a fruitful starting point. Filarete’s drawing lessons for the Sforzinda cathedral demonstrate the potency of synthetic (Euclidean)93 geometry to blur the lines between the signified and the signifier and to open the way for the inventive mind to move freely between material and idea. This dynamism, taken as the flow of the corpus architecturae, structures the realm of interpretation in the reciprocity of techne and logos, the constructing and construing.94 How is it that the corpus/ soma metaphor can become this medium between idea and hand? To begin, with the help of Euclid, Alberti, and Ficino, we’ve determined that it isn’t so easy to distinguish between material and immaterial bodies, that bodies are qualified or otherwise determined as part of a larger situation. Filarate’s drawing lessons have shown the situational nature of body as
The speculative compass of Filarete :: between mind and hand
a basis for representation, construction, and understanding of certain phenomena (qualità) in buildings. As such, the capacity of corpus/soma to traverse between mind and material make it a particularly effective tool for the material imagination. As Serlio, Plato, and the early masons following Euclid have shown, geometry is the medium by which this traversal takes place, becoming the armature or scaffolding for moving across the spectrum of idea and thing. What, then, does this mean for an architecture which is in danger of loosing this space of interpretation, of replacing meaning for specificity? Returning to Vico, we find a direct connection between geometry and the imagination. In his small treatise on method, Vico railed against the intrusion of Cartesian geometry into the more traditional, synthetic (Euclidean), forms of geometry, believing that the analytical method was the basis for a dulling of the imagination: I wanted, therefore, to have geometry taught through forms, not through numbers or species, so that, even if learning did but little to develop the wits, yet it would strengthen the imagination, which is the eye of mother wit, just as judgment is the eye of the intellect.95 In the present state of digitally driven architecture, geometry has lost its generative capacity for meaning and is sought after purely for its instrumental power. For Plato and the neoplatonists, the original authority of geometry was in its ability to represent or discover an idea in the putting together or joining of elements. This procedure is confirmed by Vico’s convertibility between the verum and the factum: that which is made, synthesized, and composed forms the basis for a sharpened wit.96 Filarete, in his demonstration of the cathedral of Sforzinda, puts this notion into actual practice, showing how geometry can act as a fruitful medium in the free movement between mind and hand. The current notion of geometry retains its instrumental capacity, in its power to translate complicated shapes into material entities, but it looses its status as the armature of the material imagination. The beginning of this trend likely parallels the transition toward non-Euclidean geometries in the generation of ‘form’ in architecture, thereby undercutting the historic relationship between corpus and geometry. Non-Euclidean geometries are especially powerful in articulating shapes which fall outside the bounds of the corporal imagination, into that realm of the disembodied mind of pure mathematics. One example of how architects are working in non-Euclidean space is the Gausmann analysis, a complex procedure whereby minute adjustments to a building’s overall geometry can be leveraged at great advantage toward its feasibility as a constructible entity.97 Surfaces generated out of certain nonEuclidean procedures such as NURBS often yield structural characteristics which have no relationship to the constructed, material world. “Out of necessity”, as one prominent digital architect stated, processes like Gausmann must crunch fantastically complex mathematical functions in order to align abstract geometries within the ingression of material realities.98 The dis-embodiment of non-Euclidean space is illustrated by the historic difficulties that geometers have had in discovering means for representing it. We saw in Filarete’s cathedral that disegno and the body were intimately linked, inseparable from the scaffolding of synthetic geometry. Because of the relationship of non-Euclidean geometries to complex mathematics, it is only with computers that the realm of non-Euclidean geometry is able to be represented in architecture with similar transparency as the traditional projections advocated by Vitruvius. Many architects are now questioning the validity of ichnographia, orthographia, and scaenographia in both the imagining and construction of buildings, claiming that they are no longer have efficacy in both the conception and construction of architecture. Indeed, a traditional plan drawing has little or no instrumental power in
the construction of buildings which originate in the non-euclidean imagination of complex computer-generated shapes. Taking the project from file directly to factory makes logical Why, then, does even the most complex modeling software sense in this scenario. 99 retain the fundamental procedure of generating a section or plan cut from a 3D model? Why do magazines continue to print these drawings which tell so little about the building geometry? Ironically, they still have currency in their capacity for seeing the relationship of the building to those who will occupy it. Just like Filarete, we still depend on the fidelity of Euclid as a horizon of meaning in architecture, for situating the body within the building.
winged Metaphysics: drawing atop the sphere of naturae with square in hand (title page to Vico, Principj di scienza nuova, 1744 ed.)
Translations of Filarete’s text are by the author unless noted otherwise and are cross referenced with John Spencer, Filarete’s Treatise on Architecture, Yale University Press: New Haven, 1965. For Filarete’s original I used the transcription provided by Anna Maria Finoli and Liliana Grassi, Trattato di Architettura, Il Polifilo, Milano, 1972. Translations of passages from Annali della Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano and Santa Maria del Fiore: La costruzione are by the author. 1 Manetti, Antonio, Vita di Filippo di Ser Brunelleschi, notes and trans. by Saalman and Enggass, Pennsylvania University Press (1970), pg. 117. 2 Indeed, Brunelleschi had to develop alternative ways of practice, making models showing only the principle relationships without the ornaments, thus cleverly channeling his idea through various means of representation dependent on the interpreter, i.e. builders vs. patrons. cf. Manetti, 122-125. 3 Some contemporary sources outlining this transformation are: Bernhard Frankton ,”Real as Data”, and Branko Kolarevic, “Information Master Builders”, both from Branko Kolarevic, ed. Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing, Spon Press: New York (2005); Manuel de Landa, “Philosophies of Design: The Case of Modeling Software” in Verb Processing, ACTAR, Barcelona (2001); Indeed, contemporary architectural theory displays nothing short of an obsession with technical solutions to the ‘problems’ of interpretation and construction created by an ever increasing desire for more ‘complex’ formal arrangements. 4 Vitruvius, De architectura, I.i.3, “Significatur proposita res, de qua dicitur; hanc autem significat demonstratio rationibus doctrinarum explicata.” Loeb Classical Library edition (1931). On the “converging of signifier and signified”, see Marco Frascari, Monsters of Architecture: Anthropomorphism in Architectural Theory, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (1991), pg. 15-16; On the notion of signifier-signified in Greek and Stoic thought,
Analysis of complex triangulated surface measured ad piede (Filarete’s hands on a surface map generated by Gausmann analysis)
Plan of cathedral of Sforzinda with dome :: Filarete, Codex Palatino
Plan of cathedral of Sforzinda :: Filarete, Codex Palatino
Plan of cathedral of Sforzinda :: Filarete, Codex Magliabechiano
as inherited by Vitruvius, see Indra Kagis-McEwen, Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture, MIT Press: Cambridge (2003), pg. 71-89. 5 I am adapting the monstrous trope from Marco Frascari, who wrote that “[monsters] are the joint between physical reality and artistic expression. Architecture is not an art but an understanding of arts that enables men to produce tangible expressions. Architecture is the monstrous frame of the “depiction” of life”, from Frascari, op. cit., pg. 17. 6 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 46v (Grassi, 180): “Dimi tutto l’ordine e le misure che vuole uno edificio.” It should be noted that Spencer’s rendering, “Tell me the order and proportions a building requires” (pg. 81), appears to loose some of the corporeity characterized by Filarete’s use of the Italian verb volere, to want, wish or desire. 7 ibid. fol. 47r (Grassi, 182). Alberti also mentions that philosophers and kings of antiquity painted with their own hands, Della pittura, II. cf. Lisa Kanerva, Between Science and Drawings: Renaissance Architects on Vitruvius’ Educational Ideas. Cummerus Kirjapaino Oy: Vaajakoski (2006), pg. 161 8 On the coupling of fantasticare-pensare in Filarete’s Trattato, see Martin Kemp, “From ‘Mimesis’ to ‘Fantasia’: The Quattrocento vocabulary of creation, inspiration and genius in the visual arts”, Viator VIII, UCLA Press (1977), pg. 370-371. 9 Filarete, Trattato. fol. 47v 10 ibid. fol. 47r (Grassi, 182-183) cf. with Vitruvius’ famous triad: firmitas, utilitas, venustas, see De Architectura, I.iii.2. Both Vitruvius and Alberti write on the importance of good foundations. Filarete, probably following good workshop practice, nevertheless designs the foundations in general agreement with the recommendations of his predecessors. cf. Vitruvius, De Architectura, iii.vi, vi.v; and Alberti, De re aedificatoria, pg. 62-65. 11 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 48r (Grassi, 186). For a partial discussion of the implications of Filarete’s centrallyplanned buildings, see John R. Spencer, “Filarete and Central-Plan Architecture” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 17, no. 3 (Autumn 1958), pg. 10-18. On centrally planned churches in general, see Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the age of Humanism, St. Martin’s Press: New York (1988), pg. 16-38. Much has been written by historians about the importance of Filarete drawing centrally planned churches, in the effort to establish Filarete as a ‘pivotal’ influence or ‘transitional’ figure between the Gothic and the Renaissance, as well as an attempt to place him within a context of evolving Greek influence on the Italian peninsula during the 15th century. One could easily argue, however, that Filarete was not transitional at all, nor did he ever think of himself in that way (how could he?). He was simply an architect trying to situate himself within his world, in much the same way as we do today. For at least the first 40 years of his life, he was primarily a bronze sculptor working within the traditional network of botteghe; it seems that he thought of himself as a special kind of craftsman much more than as a man of letters. He knew practical geometry very well, and he could read some Latin and was involved in several very prestigious commissions during his later years as an architect. Filarete traveled widely and practiced architecture among important centers of culture, including Florence, Rome, Bergamo, Milan, and Venice. Several influential thinkers from the East had recently come to Italy, bringing lost manuscripts and a certain exoticism that gripped Filarete from the mid-1440’s up to the end of his life, probably en route to Constantinople (Tigler, 1965). Perhaps he had personally met Ciriaco d’Ancona in Rome, perhaps he didn’t, although for historians it is tempting to make the direct link, since then we can say with more certainty that the drawings of Ciriaco ‘influenced’ Filarete’s bias toward centrally planned churches (Spencer, 1958). It seems just as reasonable, then, that Filarete’s choice of the square ‘temple’ is less of a cultural coup d’état toward humanism (Wittkower, 1988) and more of a preoccupation with a search for corporal harmony within simple practical and geometrical relationships, in much the same way as a builder looks for simplicity of construction within the complexity of an idea. 12 Filarete, Trattato, 48v. Translation by Spencer. 13 ibid. 48v. 14 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 47v (Grassi, 184): “Alla etternità: in prima noi caveremo uno fosso di larghezza di braccia venti, e questo lo faremo intorno al quadro delle cento novanta braccia; fatto questo, io ne farò poi due altri in croce questa forma delle medesima larghezza...” The text seems confusing on this point, since in rendering the foundations from midpoint to midpoint on the 150 br. square, as Grassi and Spencer contend, they are of little use in the founding of the main piers, which lie on the third points, as drawn by Filarete on fol 49v and explained at the bottom of fol. 48r. I believe Grassi’s diagram of the foundations (pg. 192, Trattato) is a misrepresentation of the text: In order for the foundations to support the main piers, one would have to read the text as follows: “I will then make two more of them in each direction the same width [as the perimeter foundations] in the form of a cross”, i.e. four total walls, not two; placing the foundations at the third points, not at the midpoints as Grassi shows. Spencer supports this misrepresentation in his translation, “...I will make two more of the same width in the shape of a cross.”, Spencer, Treatise, pg. 82. 15 The relationship between the four-sided cross and the Apocalypse appears to be common in the iconography of the medieval church. See: Annali della fabbrica del duomo di Milano, 1887, vol. 1, pg. 209 (25 January 1400). This is translated by James Ackerman in “’Ars sine scientia nihil est’ Gothic Theory of Architecture at the Cathedral of Milan”, The Art Bulletin, vol. 31, no. 2 (June 1949), pg. 100. 16 ibid. fol. 50v. (Grassi, 197): “...e benché si fatica e difficile questo imparare, egli è a similitudine come
la rosa, che ‘l gambo è spinoso e pugne e ‘l fiore è odorifero e bello, così è lo ‘mparare...” 17 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 52v. Translation by Spencer. 18 ibid. fol. 53r. Translation by Spencer. 19 ibid. fol. 53v. Translation by Spencer. [emphasis added] 20 Vasari, Lives, Antonio Averlino and Simone. Indeed, Vasari’s words would ring for several hundred hears before scholars would begin to take Filarete’s treatise seriously. The first systematic study of the Trattato had to wait until 1888, when W. von Oettingen published Ueber das Leben und die Werke des Antonio Averlino genannt Filarete. 21 Francesco di Giorgio was a strong advocate for drawing as a key component in the intellect of the architect. Taking authority in Aristotle, Francesco believed that the intellect originates in the senses, hence the need for the visual (drawing) in the perfection of understanding. Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Trattati di architettura ingegneria e arte militare, a cura di Corrado Maltese, Trascrizione di Livia Maltese Degrassi, Il Polifolo (1967), pg. 444-445. see also 483-4 and 489. Mario Carpo offers an interesting analysis of the role of drawings in the cinquecento treatises in Architecture in the Age of Printing, translated by Sarah Benson, MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass. (2001); see 125-131 specifically on Francesco di Giorgio. 22 Filarete was very careful to separate himself from the mere practical mason, suggesting that the recurring appearance of the square was more than a decision based on its bias toward facility in construction. In several places he offers a scathing critique of masons who call themselves architects, many of whom he saw as proceeding without any knowledge of proper measures and proportions, see esp. Filarete, Trattato, fol. 2r and 2v (Grassi, 12-13). Filarete had a history of disputes with the masons working for him, particularly on the Castello di Porta Giovia. A letter from Filarete to the Duke of Sforza records this dispute with the muratore Pietro da Cirnuscho, stating that the affairs of the muratore are not appropriate for that of an architect. Furthermore, Filarete writes, “...[Pietro] is a muratore, [and] if he would be a master of my art, I would not have any dispute [with him]...”, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Ms. Italien, 1586, fol. 180; a photograph of the letter and a transcription are printed in Michele Lazzaroni and Antonio Muñoz, Filarete scultore e architetto del secolo XV, W.Modes: Roma (1908), pg. 168-169. As if to emphasize this separation, this is also the first known instance of Filarete signing his letters as ‘architectus’ (Lazzaroni, pg. 169 n.1). 23 In addition to the Cathedral of Sforzinda, Filarete provides braccia-by-braccia descriptions of several other squarely planned buildings, including: Sforzinda market church (fol. 76v); church for the Benedictine monastery (fol. 78v); church at Sforzinda’s main hospital (modeled closely on Filarete’s Ospedale Maggiore, Milano, fol. 81v); cathedrals of Plousiapolis (fol. 108r and 119v); castle at the entrance to Plousiapolis (fol. 110r); garden at Plousiapolis (fol. 121r). That Filarete emphasized the natural wholeness of the square is illuminated in a brief exchange between Filarete and his lord, during the preparations of the Minorite monastery near the main piazza of Sforzinda: “Partitosi, mi missi giù e feci questo disegno tutto, e fatto glie lo portai; e veduto volle gli dessi a ‘ntendere tutto e sì mi domandò quanto era questo spazio. Dissi che l’avevo fatto a ragione di trecento braccia per quadro, che credo starà bene e che basterà assai; el quale è questo e l’ho fatto in questa forma vedete, cioè il fondamento. | ‘Io veggo che tu hai fatto uno quadro e spartitolo in tre parti, mi pare e abbine tolte due.’ | ‘Signor sì...’” (Grassi, pg. 290). Also, the forma city of Sforzinda itself is constructed with two rotated squares overlaid on top of each other: “la prima forma sarà due quadri a dosso l’uno all’altro, non iscontrando gli angoli insieme...” (Grassi, pg. 60). 24 Two booklets which describe the procedure or deriving an elevation from a plan using rotating and inscribed squares (ad quadratum): Das Büchlein von der Failen Gerechtigkeit [The booklet concerning pinnacle correctitude] (1486) from master mason Mattihas Roriczer and Fialenbüchlein [Booklet on pinnacles] (1488) from goldsmith Hans Schmuttermayer of Nurnberg. The question of whether the cathedral at Milan should rise ad quadratum or ad triangulum was at the center of the debate between the Lombard masons and their northern architects. Ackerman discusses these procedures in great detail (op. cit. pg. 89). 25 cf. Joseph Rykwert, “Oral Transmission of Architectural Theory,” AA Files 6, May 1984, pg. 15-27. This stands in stark contrast to current practice, where the elimination of traditional drawings is considered a key condition for the new ‘digital master builder’, i.e. ‘to go paperless’. There is a twist of irony in considering that the medieval builders could proceed with very few drawings because there were simple, orally-transmitted relationships which passed (usually secretly) among the master masons mitigating between the order of the building (as the body of the church) and the order of construction. The necessity for the digital master builder results, in part, from the order of the building being too complicated to build through drawings, instead of being too simple to immediately need them. (Kolarevic, 2005, pg. 57-62) 26 Ackerman writes that this notion of coherence forms the basis for the medieval notion of theory, or scientia: “In essence...a given element has no autonomous existence, but gains its form only by virtue of its logical association to the whole. [In the middle ages] scientia may thus be called a theory of consistent relationships” Ackerman (op. cit., pg. 105). 27 From the Constitutions of the Art of Geometry According to Euclid, ca. 1400, reprinted in John Harvey, The Medieval Architect, Wayland Publishers: London (1972), pg. 94 and pg. 191-202. 28 See Ackerman, op. cit., pg. 92. 29 This is a sampling of the masons’ responses, who were nearly unanimous in their adoption of the
Dome of cathedral of Sforzinda :: Filarete, Codex Magliabechiano
Dome of cathedral of Sforzinda :: interpretation by Spencer (1967)
equilateral triangle. The complete deliberation is found in the Annali, vol. 1, 227. Reproduced in Ackerman, op. cit., pg. 111. 30 On medieval iconography in the order of the church, see Richard Krautheimer, “Introduction to an ‘Iconography of Medieval Architecture’”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 5 (1942), pg. 1-33. According to Krautheimer, medieval architectural theory was concerned much less with building practice, i.e. practical geometry (ars), than with the liturgical and symbolic significance of layout, shape, and dedications. This is illuminated through an investigation into copies in medieval architecture, which reveals that there is often very little visual or formal resemblance between so-called copies and their prototype buildings. 31 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 50r (Grassi, 195): “Io gli fo, perché voglio che sieno dedicati a’ quattro Vangelisti, i quali e per li quali la nostra religione si sostiene e mantiene, e sono testimonii d’essa. Così a (quella) somilitudine gli ho messi questi quadri in questa forma più grossi di muro, acciò sia fortezza e sostentaculo di questo tempio, e anche testimonio...” 32 ibid., fol. 50v (Grassi, 196): “La similitudine è questa: come voi mi domandasti perché si facevano le chiese in croce, io vi dissi la ragione che si fanno in croce alla somilitudine del Crocifisso, e così è vero.” On “croce vero” in Santa Maria del Fiore, see Cesare Guasti, Santa Maria del Fiore: la costruzione della chiesa e del campanile, Firenze, 1887, pg. 189. 33 ibid., fol. 50v (Grassi, 196): “Per questa via è così questo edificio, che esendo forte in su’ canti, sarà più durabile assai...” 34 On the interconnection between bellezza and fortezza in 15th century Italy, see Howard Saalman, “Early Renaissance Architectural Theory and Practice in Antonio Filarete’s Trattato di Architettura”, The Art Bulletin, vol. 41, no. 1 (Mar.1959), pg. 97. Bramante, while serving as capomaestro on the Cathedral of Milan in 1490, stated that the cupola should fulfill four criteria: “la prima si è forteza, la seconda conformità cum el resto del edificio, la terza legiereza, la quarta et ultima belleza...”, Annali, op. cit., vol. 3, pg. 62. cf. Vitruvius, II.viii.5: Vitruvius prefers walls built with squared stones (a quadrata), since they hold firm for eternity (ad aeternitatem firmas perficiunt virtutes). 35 I am referring to an often recycled myth that the great cathedrals were a result of a collective, anonymous group of masons (Ruskin, Morris), and who merely followed their divinely inspired building ‘instincts’ (A.W.N. Pugin). Clearly, as the Annali of Milan and the Documenti of Santa Maria del Fiore demonstrate, questions of design and construction were commonly debated and were the result of great deliberation among a wide range of masters and craftsmen, a few of whom guided construction and were whom we might call architects. For a good overview of myths surrounding the medieval architect, see Andrew Saint, The Image of the Architect, Yale University Press: New Haven (1983), pg. 19-50. See also N. Pevsner, “The Term ‘Architect’ in the Middle Ages,” Speculum, vol. 17, no. 4 (Oct. 1942), pp. 549-562; and the more recent article by Franklin Toker, “Gothic Architecture by Remote Control: An Illustrated Building Contract of 1340”, The Art Bulletin, vol. 67, no. 1 (Mar. 1985) pg. 67-95. These myths are being recycled once more in the rise of a new ‘master builder’ who collectively and anonymously brings all agents of construction together by means of the digital information model. See Kolarevic, “Information Master Builders”, Digital Age, 12-20. 36 Saalman, Howard. “Giovanni di Gherardo da Prato’s Designs concerning the Cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence”, The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 18, no. 1 (mar. 1959), pg. 17. Translation and transcription provided by Saalman. 37 cf. Filarete, Trattato, fol. 177r (Grassi, 650): In chapter 23 Filarete teaches the steps in preparing a drawing: “...così come è mestiere prima avere il sito per volere edificare e in esso cavare il fondamento, così ancora noi in prima faremo il sito a voler fare questo nostro disegno.” 38 ibid., fol. 174r (Grassi, 641): “E questi sono e’ due strumenti coi quali tutti i corpi si misurano e fanno...”. 39 On Alberti and geometric corpi, see Elementa in Opere volgare, a cura di Cecil Grayson, 1960. Francesco di Giorgio teaches geometry in his chapter on “geometria e modi di misurare”, from Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Trattati, pg. 177-140. 40 The qualifier “’proper’ use of rule and compasses” is important: just using the instruments does not make the result into a corpo; they must be used in accord with Euclidean principles. See Filarete, Trattato, fol. 174r (Grassi, 640): “...come ho detto, strumenti coi quali a volergli poi fare non si può errare, però che v’è la ragione.” 41 see for example, Filarate, Trattato, fol. 49r (Grassi, 191): “...vogliono essere proporzionati secondo il corpo dell’edificio.”; Guasti, Santa Maria del Fiore, pg. 189: “...non fosse per alchuno modo chagione di fare disfare il lavorio facto del corpo della chiesa.”; Annali I, 227 (15 maggio, 1401): “...ma solamente quanto alla maggior grosezza del corpo dell’edificio.” 42 Colonna, Francesco, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: the strife of love in a dream, translated by Joscelyn Godwin, Thames & Hudson: London (1999), pg. 43. The implication in English is that something which is ‘solid’ is also strong, i.e. fortezza. 43 John Onians has speculated quite convincingly on the use of Plato as the primary source in Filarete’s Trattato, see “Alberti and ΦΙΛΑΡΕΤΗ. A Study in Their Sources”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 34, (1971), pp. 96-114. Filarete could not read Greek and probably had little or no direct access to Plato’s
works. The most direct connection between Filarete and the Neoplatonists takes place through the Sforza court scholar Francesco da Tolentino, better known as Filefo. Several remaining letters attest to a close personal relationship between Filarete and Filefo, and concurrently Filarete seems to have written his friend into the Trattato as the Greek scholar who translates the Golden Book (named “Iscofrance”). A close friend of Ficino, Filefo had a Greek wife and traveled widely throughout the east, including one of the earliest trips to Constantinople taken by the quattrocentro humanists. On Filefo and the influx of Greek scholarship into the Italian peninsula, see Remigio Sabbadini, Le scoperte dei codici latini e greci ne’ secoli XIV e XV, G.C. Sansoni: Firenze (1967); on Filefo see pg. 43-50. 44 Plato, Timaeus, 55c. Loeb Classical Library edition, 1917. 45 ibid., 33a 46 According to Cicero the sphere and the circle have “the property of absolute uniformity in all their parts, of having every extremity equidistant from the center. There can be nothing more tightly bound together.” from Kagis-mcEwen, op. cit., pg. 160. Cicero’s original is from De natura deorum 2.48. 47 Corpus was the standard translation for soma in medieval manuscripts of Timaeus, principally by Calcidius. 48 Ficino, Marsilio, Platonic Theology, translated by Michael J.B. Allen, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass., 2002, vol. 2 (book IV, ch. III), pg. 173. 49 Oettingen presumes that Filarete had read Campanus’ translation of Euclid. Spencer is in concurrence (Spencer, pg. 9 n13), although Grassi believes this still needs further verification (Grassi, pg. 22 n1). Filarete mentions Campanus along with Euclid as among those who have written ‘sottilmente’ about geometry. (fol. 4r.) 50 I thank Professor Branko Mitrovic for a preview of his upcoming translations and commentary on parts of De re aedificatoria. 51 Filarete names Alberti as his source for his geometry lesson: “...il punto è principio di disegno, el quale, secondo che hanno detto gli antichi matematici, e ancora el mio Battista Alberti, il quale n’ha sotto brevità trattato di questo punto, e linee, e superfice, e corpo, e d’altri modi e misure che al disegno s’appartiene” (Grassi, 640). 52 Ficino, op. cit. (book I, ch.II.1) 53 Ficino, op. cit., (book I, ch. III.20). cf. Proclus, Theolgica Platonica 5.30. 54 Reference from Kagis-McEwen, op. cit., pg. 56-57. Senaca’s original is found in Epistulae 102.6-7. 55 The four tropes articulated by Giambattista Vico: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony. These figures of speech, as a form of poetic logic, were the original modes of expression among early people. “These expressions became figurative only later, as the human mind developed and invented words which signified abstract forms, that is, generic categories comprising various species, or relating parts to a whole. Knowing this, we may begin to demolish two common errors of the grammarians: that prose is the proper form of speech, and poetic speech improper; and that men spoke first in prose and later in verse.” These tropes were the basis of “Poetic monsters [that] sprang from combinations of forms and ideas”. Giambattista Vico, New Science, translated by David Marsh, Penguin books edition (2001) pg. 159-163. On the poetic tropes as monsters, see Frascari, op. cit., pg. 14-17. On trope in architectural ornament, see George Hersey, The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture, MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts (1998), pg. 1-10. 56 Plato, Republic. 57 Plato, Meno, 82b-86a 58 Two ideas being ‘in parallel’: a common English metaphor taken from Euclid’s fifth postulate, also known as the parallel postulate. Serlio’s linee occulte and Socrates’ use of geometry in Meno are related but can never intersect, especially from a historiographical standpoint, hence one can draw them in parallel. Interestingly, it is the rejection of the parallel postulate which distinguishes non-euclidean from euclidean geometry, taken up at the end of this paper. 59 cf. George Hersey, Pythagorean Palaces: Magic and Architecture in the Italian Renaissance, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY (1976), pg. 81-87. 60 Serlio, op. cit., pg. 48. 61 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 47r (Grassi, 182) 62 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 101r (Grassi, 384). On Filarete’s grids, cf. Hersey, op. cit. 66-69. 63 Serlio, Sebastiano. On Architecture, volume one, translated by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, Yale Universtiy Press: New Haven (1996), pg.19. This passage is a clear demonstration of Serlio’s propensity toward neoplatonic thinking. On Serlio and neoplatonism see: Serlio, On Architecture, introduction by Hart and Hicks, pg. xxvi-xxvii; and George Hersey, Pythagorean Palaces, Ithaca (1976), pg. 51-59. On Serlio and his favorite neoplatonist, Giulio Camillo Delminio, see: Mario Carpo, Metodo ed ordini nella teoria architettonica dei primi moderni, Alberti, Rafaello, Serlio, e Camillo, Geneva (1993), chapter 6 (pg. 65-82); and Mario Carpo, “Ancora su Serlio e Delminio: La teoria architettonica, il metodo e la riforma dell’imitazione” in Sebastiano Serlio: sesto seminario internazionale di storia dell’architettura, a cura di Christof Thoenes, Electa: Milano (1989), pg. 111113. Note also the parallel relationship between perfetto and forza, recalling the relationship of vero and forte as discussed with the geometry of the cross. 64 Ficino, Platonic Theology, Book I.II, pg. 25. 65 A material, without body, can also possess qualità. Precious stones, for example, are “...le splendide
Plan and section elevation of cathedral of Sforzinda by Grassi (1972)
sanza corpo...” (Grassi, 75) 66 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 5r. Translation by Spencer, pg. 11. 67 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 6r, Translation by Spencer, pg. 12-13. 68 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 2v (pg. 14, Grassi): “E acciò che bene s’intenda da ogni parte e donde dirivarono, io vi narrerò in prima la misura de l’uomo, e membri, e proporzioni.” 69 ibid. fol. 2v “Quando l’uomo è bene formato e che corrisponda bene l’uno membro coll’altro, allora si dice essere bene proporzionato.” 70 ibid. fol. 2v “Ben sai che quando avesse spalle bistorte e membra contrafatte, allora è male proporzionato...” 71 Filarete reminds us: “If you should find yourself next to one of the giants, do not take your measures from him”, fol. 3r. 72 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 56v. Translation by Spencer, pg. 97. Filarete refers to the column orders themselves as qualità, with each column order corresponding to an appropriate size of man: the smallest at nine heads tall to one head wide (Ionic), the medium (Corinthian, 8:1 heads), and the largest, at 9 heads to 1 (Doric). His theory of column proportions is taken up in book VIII. On Filarete, the column orders, and qualità, see Onians, Bearers of Meaning, pg. 162-165. 73 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 48v, Translation by Spencer, pg. 84. On Filarete’s qualità and the social classes, see John Onians, Bearers of Meaning, Princeton University Press: Princeton (1988), pg. 165-170. 74 Knowledge of anatomy and the drawing the human figure constituted a principle component in the curricula of the early academies, formalized most clearly in Vasari’s Accademia del Disegno, founded in 1563. See Karen-edis Barzman, The Florentine Academy and the Early Modern State, Campridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2000), pg. 161-172. On Vasari’s disegno as a form of universal knowledge, see as a Robert Williams, Art, Theory, and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Italy, 1997, pgs. 29-72. 75 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 54r (pg. 209, Grassi): “Non per ancora, imparate pure a fare la figura, perché in essa contiene ogni misura e proporzione di colonne, e anche d’altre cose...”. “Figura” is a common term employed by Filarete in referring to the human body, particularly in describing the body in its entirety, as in “la figura de l’uomo”. cf. fol. 3v. “...io ti misurerò questa figura de l’uomo a membro a membro...”; fol 3v. “Vetruvio dice come il bellico è il mezzo della figura de l’uomo...” 76 cf. KISS principle: keep it simple stupid; frequently invoked at the WAAC workshop. The KISS principle highlights one of the virtues of putting architects into the workshop, especially in a didactic setting such as that arranged by Filarete with his lord in the drawing of the Sforzinda cathedral. Related are certain standards known as ‘rules of thumb’: Idiomatic English captures this relationship between the familiarity of the human body with the utility of convention in many practical undertakings. 77 Filarate follows in many ways the recommendations of his fellow sculptor and part-time architect Ghiberti, whose anthropormorphism unified common workshop practices with a strong Vitruvian authority in I commentarii, book III. 78 See Kegis McEwen, op. cit., introduction. 79 Filarete’s notion of qualità, of propriety, stands in stark contrast to the erudite principles of Alberti’s concinnitas (De re aedificatoria) and recto ratio (De statua). Alberti describes concinnitas as the “absolute and fundamental rule in Nature” (Alberti, op. cit., pg. 303). Buildings following this principle are a complete and consonant body, judged according to outline [finitio], number [numerus], and position [collacatio] (Alberti, pg. 302-303). On Alberti’s concinnitas see: Rykewert, Leach, and Tavernor’s overview in Alberti, op. cit., pg. 422; and Branko Mitrovic, Serene Greed of the Eye, Deutscher Kunstverlag: Munich (2005), pg.110-118; In De statua Alberti attempts to replace such vague notions of small, medium, and large with a rational understanding of the body based on measure and mathematical relationships. See De statua, 6, in L.B. Alberti, On Painting and Sculpture, Cecil Grayson, ed. (1972). On recto ratio and Alberti’s treatment of human proportions in De statua, see: Joan Gadol, Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance, University of Chicago Press: Chicago (1969) pg. 76-91; Jane Andrews Aiken, “Leon Battista Alberti’s System of Human Proportions” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, vol. 43 (1980), pg. 68-96. 80 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 47r, (pg. 182, Grassi): “Io ho fatto in questa forma in prima, e così farete voi quando alcuna cosa volete edificare; io ho fatto in prima di cento cinquanta braccia uno quadro per ogni verso, come voi vedete qui disegnato in questa faccia, e poi l’ho partito in quindici parti, e ognuna di queste parti è dieci braccia. Voi potresti dire: come è possibile che sì piccola cosa sia dieci braccia? Così come questo quadro è cento cinquanta braccia e par sì piccolo, così sono queste dieci ciascheduno. Se volete ben comprendere queste diminuzioni, bisogna che voi pigliate queste seste e partite una di queste parti in dieci, e poi con quelle seste che avete partito fate una linea perpendiculare che sia lunga tre di quelle parti. Se voi sapessi disegnare, io direi: fate una figura tanto grande e poi considerare essere grande quanto quella, e allora comprenderete la diminuzione delle braccia e d’ogni altra misura.” 81 Filarete’s ideal man is modeled from Adam, Trattato, fol. 3r. Grassi provides a detailed analysis of the relationship between Filarete’s ideal proportions and the iconography of Adam, Trattato, pg. 20 n2. Accepting the common convention that a braccia was equal to two feet, Filarate’s 3 braccia tall figure brings him in line both with Vitruvius (a man’s height is equal to six of his feet) and his workshop predecessor Ghiberti, as well as Alberti,
De Pictura, I.19 (a man is three braccia tall). In De statua, Alberti’s exempeda (the wooden ruler fashioned to measure the vertical heights on the body) is always divided into six parts, no matter the height of the man. An interesting parallel is Filarete’s insistence on the perpendicular line through the human figure, a key theoretical component in Alberti’s rationalization of the body, cf. De statua, 13. 82 Recommendations for preparing the drawing and the drawing surface are repeated by Filarete throughout the Trattato. 83 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 47r (pg. 182, Grassi): “E’ mi ti pare avere inteso perché tutte le misure dirivano da l’uomo secondo la sua forma, si ché, fingendo l’uomo essere così piccolo, così sono poi le misure che da lui si tolgono e così alle proporzioni si fa e’ disegni delli edificii che, benché questo disegno sia piccolo a vederlo noi che siamo grandi, se gli uomini fussono piccolini come questi, gli parrà grande questo come a noi pare e sarà quando sarà murato e fornito; e tanti uomini quanto starà in questo, tanti ne starà in quello piccolo di quelli uomini piccoli.” 84 cf. Jan Patocka, Body, Community, Language, World, translated by Errazim Kohak, Open Court: Chicago (1998), pg. 55-56. Filarete relates a similar procedure when he unveils the forma for the city of Sforzinda, fol. 13v. 85 Euclidean geometry arrived in western Europe, ca. 1120 when an Englishman, Adelard of Bath, provided the first translation of the Elements from the Arabic into Latin. See John Harvey, The Medieval Architect, Wayland Publishers: London (1972), pg. 94. The embrace of Euclid appears to be a much more common phenomenon north of the Alps than on the Italian peninsula, as exemplified by English Masonic manuscripts such as “The Constitutions of the art of Geometry according to Euclid” (ca. 1400) which praised Euclid through passages like: “Then this worthy clerk Euclid taught them to make great walls and ditches to hold out the water, and he by Geometry measure the land and parted it in divers parts...” (Harvey, pg. 197). 86 Filarete recognizes the inherent difficulty in placing the center of both the circle and the square at a man’s navel. Not surprisingly, he favors homo ad quadratum (fol. 3v, Grassi, 20-21). Ghiberti in Book III of I commentarii expresses similar doubts about the center of the circle at a man’s navel. 87 Filarete adapts the proportional systems of Vitruvius throughout the Trattato. Grassi has traced these connections well in Trattato, pg. 16 n2 and pg. 20 n2. Generally, in understanding various systems of measure, Filarete seeks a unity between the authority of the ancients, his own observations, and common workshop practice. For instance, like Vitruvius, Filarete derives all units of measure from the body, laying out their principle relationships between themselves (e.g. one cubit = two heads); however, unlike Vitruvius, Filarete makes some account for variations among the local size of men and even among materials (i.e. a braccia in wool is longer than a braccia of velvet). cf. Vitruvius, III. 88 Filarete, Trattato, fol. 8r. 89 The exact translation of disegno in the 15th century is somewhat elastic and highly dependent on a contextual reading. Depending on how it is qualified, disegno can signify a drawing, a model, verbal instruction, or a building plan in general. However, in almost all cases, disegno is one of the chief rhetorical tools of the architect in his struggle to navigate the space of interpretation between idea and building. It signifies a representation. 90 Filarete served as capomaestro on the Milan cathedral from early 1452 to 1455, Annali vol. 2. 91 Filarete was paid for a wooden model of the dome on November 4, 1452, Annalli, vol. 2. 92 “L’Uomo per l’ indiffinita natura della mente umana, ove questa si rovesci nell’ignoranza, egli fa sè regola dell’ Universo.” Vico, Prinicipj di scienza nuova d’intorno alla comune natura delle nazioni, Napoli (1744), pg. 72. 93 Just as the Intuit supposedly have 50 different names for snow, geometers have many names for geometry To the modern geometer, Euclidean geometry is specific in its acceptance of Euclid’s five postulates. Analytic geometry is a step-child of Euclid, accepting the five postulates, but depending on the supposition of Cartesian space. 94 On techne and logos, see Marco Frascari, “A New Angel/Angle in Architectural Research: The Idea of Demonstration”, Journal of Architectural Education, Nov. 1990, pg. 11-19. 95 Giambattista Vico, On the Study Methods of our Time (De nostri temporis studiorum ratione), translated by Elio Gianturco, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY (1990), pg. 104 96 On the reciprocity between verum and factum see Giambattisa Vico, De antiquissima italorum sapientia, traduzione di Gaetano Garofalo, (1969) pg. 54-54 text and notes. 97 From C.F. Gauss, inventor of differential geometry. This procedure was pioneered by Frank Gehry’s office as a method for insuring the developability (i.e. the capacity of flat material to take on compound curves) of the metal surface in the Experience Music Project in Seattle, WA. An analogous process has been employed by architects for centuries in understanding how flat surfaces behave under the demands of complex curves: bending and folding paper. 98 “Out of necessity” statement made by James Glymph, in Kolarevic, pg. 65. On the ingression of materials see Patocka, op. cit, pg. 146. 99 On file-to-factory, see Mario Carpo, “Folding to Non-Standard 1993-2003” Architectural Design, vol. 74, no. 3 (May/June 2004), pg. 121; and Carpo, “Nonstandard Morality: Digital Technology and Its Discontents”, Architecture between Spectacle and Use, Anthony Vidler, ed. (2006).
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