Tuesday 15 December 2015

vitruvian man

Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic figure swaddled in geometry is an homage to an actual person, an ancient Roman retired general, called Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, whose pursuits after being discharged lent an indelible mark of humanising to the art of building and distinguished architecture from engineering, a romance of ruin and classical influence that has endured for the millennia.
In ten volumes, Vitruvius took a comprehensive approach to construction, effectively elevating a profession that had heretofore not garnered much respect, by demonstrating that the architect must have knowledge in civil-planning, history, agriculture, anatomy, building material, ceremony, measurement, physics and the logistics of utilities—the plumbing. De architectura was certainly drawn from many sources but it is the only surviving insight into Roman technology and aesthetic—their ingenious water supply systems, air-conditioning and manner of surveying. Anecdotally, the books are also the source of Archimedes’ bath-time eureka-moment. The illustrations were unfortunately lost but the manuscripts, discovered in an abbey in Switzerland, helped the spread of the Renaissance to the north of the Alps and prompted the Neo-Classic revival—and da Vinci’s depiction is a direct reflection of Vitruvius’ own scholarship into proportion and how we’re commensurable with ourselves and our homes.