Regola delli Cinque Ordini d’Architettura

In July, 1562, Vignola’s son, Giacinto, sent the Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura to Count Ottavio Farnese. It was certainly one of the very first printed copies, consisting of thirty-two copperplate folio engravings; the texts were not set, but also engraved on copperplates. The leaves were obviously sold separately, and could then be bound to make a book, but also, as the purchaser wished, be put together with other books or with other series of engravings. This explains the very great diversity of the copies we still have of this first edition. Furthermore, very quickly, Vignola modified the plates by giving current Italian names to the various parts represented (“base”, “capitello”, “colonna”, etc.) (2nd stage). In a paragraph added to the preface in smaller letters (plate III), he justifies these additions, saying that the book had reached a wider clientele than expected, unfamiliar with that vocabulary. 
The copy of the Regola at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts is one of the few copies known to this day which are without these changes. Nevertheless, the bookbinder inserted an additional leaf between the title page and the privilege (plates I and II). It is an inverted copy of the plate representing the five orders added to an subsequent anonymous edition, coming out around 1573. Therefore there is a total of thirty-three plates, corresponding to the handwritten numbering in Arabic numerals in the top right-hand corner, added by the buyer. In addition, he or a subsequent owner began to specifiy the names of the parts of the orders, even improving Vignola’s rather unclear indication “colonna” by writing “fusto della colonna” (plates IV and VII). 
The title page of the original edition specifies neither the name of the editor or the location of the printer. It seems that Vignola himself saw to the printing and distribution of his book. In that case, he might have collaborated with Antonio Labacco who had published his Libro appartenente all’architettura “impresso a Roma, in casa nostra” already in 1552. The two books are found frequently bindes; Labacco’s representation of antique buildings and Vignola’s account of the system of the orders complement each other, like Serlio’s Books III and IV. The privilege granted by Pius IV (plate II) was valid for ten years, after which a new enlarged edition had to come out. In the preface of the original edition Vignola had already implied that “altre cose maggiori in questo soggetto” was to follow if his work was received favorably. In the same way, Serlio’s Book IV already put forward examples of additional uses of the five orders (portals, porticos, façades). But Vignola’s death in 1573 ended the project. In all likelihood, he left drawings that he had done with that project in mind. Consequently his heirs had four portals and a chimney piece engraved in copperplate although their format does not correspond to the standards of the plates in the Regola. The heirs added them to the thirty-two engravings of the original edition, probably hoping to forestall the counterfeit copies that were going to follow. 
In fact, the editorial success of the Regola generated pirated copies immediately. The pontifical privilege, also valid for Venice, was ignored there; the printer Bolognini Zaltieri published a new edition as early as 1570, without being afraid to mention his name and the printing date on the title page. An anonymous pirated edition, without a date, appeared at about 1573, probably in Rome. It consists of exact replications of the thirty-two original plates from 1562, except that plate II, with the privilege, was replaced with an overview of the five orders freely inspired from Serlio. It was repeated in all later editions and even the Roman bookseller Andrea Vaccario, who reissued the original copperplates with the note Libro primo, et originale, repeated this engraving. From then on, the “Vignola” was subjected to innumerable copies, completed and developed with additions of all sorts. A recent bibliography consists of as many as five hundred titles, including translations in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, English, Russian, Portuguese and recently also Japanese. 
The global success of Vignola’s plates is based on the fact that they illustrate the book perfectly. These plates enable one, thanks to clear large illustrations, to visualize the shapes of the “five orders”. But at the beginning, Vignola intended something very different. As he specifies in the prologue, he had perfected a method to master the system of proportions of the five orders for his own use “solo per servirmene nelle mie occorenze”. Now he wanted to put it at the service of the public, or at least for professionals concerned by the subject (“quelli che habbino qualche introdutione nell’arte”), the issues being a matter for very experienced specialists. In fact the system of the “five orders” – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite – developed by Peruzzi and Serlio had been established in a general way without anyone creating a single canon which would govern the overall system. Since the measurements taken on the buildings were all different from each other, they resisted any type of standardization. Therefore, ideal proportions of the canon and measurements of details obtained empirically still remained juxtaposed in Serlio’s work, and the final choice was left to the “arbitrio del prudente architetto”. Vignola, a self-taught architect probably first educated by reading Serlio, could not become adapted to this situation. In all likelihood, he tackled the problem as soon as Serlio’s Regole generali came out in 1537, while he was working for Claudio Tolomei’s Accademia della Virtù in Rome.
 The solution he reached was radical: it rests upon a reversal – a revolution in the original sense of the term – of all the methods used up until then to determine proportions. Instead of piling up elements which have shapes defined by isolated proportions and therefore being incapable of getting a measurement of the whole, necessarily indeterminable, he took as his starting point the overall height given a priori, dividing it next into subparts. This approach corresponds inherently to his concept of architectural creation; he gives priority to the system as a whole, to the detriment of the design of specific motifs. Therefore he perfects a single “general rule” governing the five orders at the same time: the entablature must be a quarter of the height of the column, and in the case of a pedestal, it must be one-third of its height. This results in dividing the entire height of the order into 19 equal parts, of which 12 make up the column, 3 make up the entablature and 4 make up the pedestal. In the case of an order without a pedestal, there are 15 parts, 12 for the column and 3 for the entablature. It is only in a second stage that the columns get the particular proportions characterizing each of the five orders. In Serlio’s work and that of his predecessors, the columns “grow” starting from a diameter whose progressive multiplication determines their height; on the other hand, Vignola’s “general rule” starts from a constant height in which division gives one the diameter: one-seventh for the Tuscan, one-eighth for the Doric and so on. In accordance with Vitruvius’s example, Vignola then chose a “module” equal to a half-diameter which is the base of the system. All the other measurements are expressed in fractions or in multiples of this module. The result is an arithmetical model, and with its help each order, harmoniously proportioned, can easily be adapted to any given height, of a façade or an interior. 
From this point of view, Vignola’s Regola is a remarkable intellectual achievement. The reason it was neither understood or appreciated on its own merit, neither yesterday nor today, results from the way the author presented it. Instead of explaining his approach, he settled for a few instructions to guide the work on the drawing table. For each order, two key numbers are mentioned (for an order with a pedestal and for an order without), from which one can calculate the corresponding module. All the rest must be deduced from the plates; “in un’occhiata sola, senza gran fastidio di leggere”, the architect can find everything he wishes. The Regola was devised for practicians and not for readers. This earned it a reputation among theoreticians as being the stupidest of treatises. But the uniform line repeated five times, of a colonnade, an arcade, a pedestal with its base, a capital with its entablature, in no way results from a lack of imagination. It corresponds to the “ceteris partibus” of a scientific experiment; it attracts the eye to what changes from one order to another: the numbers. They are the actual essence of the work founding Vignola’s doctrines. All of which takes nothing away from the suggestive strength of the plates. None had ever seen the orders represented in this way: in folio format with exact gradations (each measurement indicated on the edge can be calipered with a compass on the plate) and an effect of relief rendered by the engraving, with the illustrations linked together with the precision of the parts of a machine. Whereas Serlio’s woodcuts were still devised only in connection with the buildings they referred to, Vignola’s copperplates substitute for the buildings, becoming objects themselves. It is true that one does find references to antique examples like the Doric order of the Theater of Marcellus and the frieze at the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, but their dimensions are subjected to the architect’s rigorous model, who moreover does not refuse to see it: “se qualche minimo membro non havrà cosi ubidito interamente alle proporzioni de numeri… questo l’havero accomodato nella mia regola”. 
This is where the revolutionary foundation of Vignola’s work appears: renunciation of the ideal of antique culture to the benefit of pure rationality. He had in view a drawing technique which was totally objective and arithmatically mastered, and in this sense he believed he would be able to contribute to his contemporaries’ improvement. Thanks to his method, even the “mediocri ingegni” would have been capable of creating good buildings, that is, architecture conforming to his rule. But this very approach contributed to isolate him, as a theoretician as well as a practioner, in relation to the dominant state of mind in Italy. His contemporaries did not ponder the problem in the same terms as Vignola did, the problems that he gloried in resolving. Except for a very few exceptions, the Regola remained an alphabet book for beginners, or a picture book for the “signori”. Vignola’s influence on architectural practice during the period remained negligeable.

By CHRISTOF THOENES (Rome, Bibliotheca Hertziana) – 2013


Critical bibliography

B. Adorni, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Milan, Skira, 2008, pp. 211-221.

E. Bentivoglio, “L’inganno prospettico nel frontespizio della editio princeps della Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura di Giacomo Barozzi”, A. M. Affanni & P. Portoghesi (ed.), Studi su Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Rome, Gangemi, 2011, pp. 83-90.

F. Canali, “Il corpus ‘nascosto’. Individuazione e considerazioni sul corpus lessicale della Regola”, C. L. Frommel, M. Ricci & R. J. Tuttle (ed.), Vignola e i Farnese, Milan, Electa, 2003, pp. 206-218.

F. Lemerle, “Les versions françaises de la Regola de Vignole au XVIIe siècle”, In Monte artium. Journal of the Royal Library of Belgium, 1, 2008, pp. 101-121.

F. Marías, “Vignola e la Spagna : disegni, incisioni, letture e traduzioni”, A. M. Affanni, P. Portoghesi (ed.), Studi su Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Rome, Gangemi, 2011, pp. 379-396.

F. Mattei, “Giambattista Aleotti (1546-1636) e la Regola di Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola della Biblioteca Ariostea di Ferrara (ms. Cl. I, 217)”, Annali di architettura, 22, 2010, pp. 101-123.

G. Morolli, “Il ‘fiore della regola’. Le componenti modanari e il proporzionamento dei ‘Cinque Ordini’ di Vignola”, C. L. Frommel, M. Ricci & R. J. Tuttle (ed.), Vignola e i Farnese, Milan, Electa, 2003, pp. 174-205.

C. Thoenes, “Per la storia editoriale della ‘Regola delli Cinque Ordini’ ”, C. Thoenes (ed.), La vita e le opere di Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, 1507-1573, nel quarto centenario della morte, Bologna, Cassa di Risparmio di Vignola, 1974, pp. 179-189.

C. Thoenes, “Vignolas Regola delli cinque ordini, Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 20, 1983, pp. 345-376 (Ital. tr. : “La Regola delli cinque ordini”, Sostegno e adornamento. Saggi sull’architettura del Rinascimento : disegni, ordini, magnificenza, Milan, Electa, 1998, pp. 77-107).

C. Thoenes, “La Regola delli cinque ordini del Vignola”, J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 269-279.

C. Thoenes,“Vignola teorico”, R. J. Tuttle, B. Adorni, C. L. Frommel & C. Thoenes (ed.), Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Milan, Electa, 2002, pp. 88-91, 333-366.

C. Thoenes, “Riflessioni su Vignola”, Casabella, 710, 2003, pp. 48-57.

C. Thoenes, “Kanon, Zeitstil, Personalstil im Werk Vignolas”, S. Schweizer, J. Stabenow (ed.), Bauen als Kunst und historische Praxis, I, Göttingen, Wallstein, 2006, pp. 255-276.

M. Walcher Casotti, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura, “Chronologie des éditions”, Trattati di architettura, Milan, Il Polifilo, 1985, pp. 539-577.

As technology gets better, will society get worse?

Imagine that two people are carving a six-foot slab of wood at the same time. One is using a hand-chisel, the other, a chainsaw. If you are interested in the future of that slab, whom would you watch?

This chainsaw/chisel logic has led some to suggest that technological evolution is more important to humanity’s near future than biological evolution; nowadays, it is not the biological chisel but the technological chainsaw that is most quickly redefining what it means to be human. The devices we use change the way we live much faster than any contest among genes. We’re the block of wood, even if, as I wrote in January, sometimes we don’t even fully notice that we’re changing.

Assuming that we really are evolving as we wear or inhabit more technological prosthetics—like ever-smarter phones, helpful glasses, and brainy cars—here’s the big question: Will that type of evolution take us in desirable directions, as we usually assume biological evolution does?

Some, like the Wired founder Kevin Kelly, believe that the answer is a resounding “yes.” In his book “What Technology Wants,” Kelly writes: “Technology wants what life wants: Increasing efficiency; Increasing opportunity; Increasing emergence; Increasing complexity; Increasing diversity; Increasing specialization; Increasing ubiquity; Increasing freedom; Increasing mutualism; Increasing beauty; Increasing sentience; Increasing structure; Increasing evolvability.”

We can test the “Increasing” theory by taking a quick trip up north, to an isolated area south of the Hudson Bay. Here live the Oji-Cree, a people, numbering about thirty thousand, who inhabit a cold and desolate land roughly the size of Germany. For much of the twentieth century, the Oji-Cree lived at a technological level that can be described as relatively simple. As nomads, they lived in tents during the summer, and in cabins during the winter. Snowshoes, dog sleds, and canoes were the main modes of transportation, used to track and kill fish, rabbits, and moose for food. A doctor who worked with the Oji-Cree in the nineteen-forties has noted the absence of mental breakdowns or substance abuse within the population, observing that “the people lived a rugged, rigorous life with plenty of exercise.” The Oji-Cree invariably impressed foreigners with their vigor and strength. Another visitor, in the nineteen-fifties, wrote of their “ingenuity, courage, and self-sacrifice,” noting that, in the North, “only those prepared to face hardship and make sacrifices could survive.”

The Oji-Cree have been in contact with European settlers for centuries, but it was only in the nineteen-sixties, when trucks began making the trip north, that newer technologies like the internal combustion engine and electricity really began to reach the area. The Oji-Cree eagerly embraced these new tools. In our lingo, we might say that they went through a rapid evolution, advancing through hundreds of years of technology in just a few decades.

The good news is that, nowadays, the Oji-Cree no longer face the threat of winter starvation, which regularly killed people in earlier times. They can more easily import and store the food they need, and they enjoy pleasures like sweets and alcohol. Life has become more comfortable. The constant labor of canoeing or snowshoeing has been eliminated by outboard engines and snowmobiles. Television made it north in the nineteen-eighties, and it has proved enormously popular.

But, in the main, the Oji-Cree story is not a happy one. Since the arrival of new technologies, the population has suffered a massive increase in morbid obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Social problems are rampant: idleness, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide have reached some of the highest levels on earth. Diabetes, in particular, has become so common (affecting forty per cent of the population) that researchers think that many children, after exposure in the womb, are born with an increased predisposition to the disease. Childhood obesity is widespread, and ten-year-olds sometimes appear middle-aged. Recently, the Chief of a small Oji-Cree community estimated that half of his adult population was addicted to OxyContin or other painkillers.

Technology is not the only cause of these changes, but scientists have made clear that it is a driving factor. In previous times, the Oji-Cree lifestyle required daily workouts that rivalled those of a professional athlete. “In the early 20th century,” writes one researcher, “walking up to 100 km/day was not uncommon.” But those days are over, replaced by modern comforts. Despite the introduction of modern medicine, the health outcomes of the Oji-Cree have declined in ways that will not be easy to reverse. The Oji-Cree are literally being killed by technological advances.

The Oji-Cree are an unusual case. It can take a society time to adjust to new technologies, and the group has also suffered other traumas, like colonization and the destruction of cultural continuity. Nonetheless, the story offers an important warning for the human race. The problem with technological evolution is that it is under our control and, unfortunately, we don’t always make the best decisions.

This is also the principal difference between technological and biological evolution. Biological evolution is driven by survival of the fittest, as adaptive traits are those that make the survival and reproduction of a population more likely. It isn’t perfect, but at least, in a rough way, it favours organisms who are adapted to their environments.

Technological evolution has a different motive force. It is self-evolution, and it is therefore driven by what we want as opposed to what is adaptive. In a market economy, it is even more complex: for most of us, our technological identities are determined by what companies decide to sell based on what they believe we, as consumers, will pay for. As a species, we often aren’t much different from the Oji-Cree. Comfort-seeking missiles, we spend the most to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. When it comes to technologies, we mainly want to make things easy. Not to be bored. Oh, and maybe to look a bit younger.

Our will-to-comfort, combined with our technological powers, creates a stark possibility. If we’re not careful, our technological evolution will take us toward not a singularity but a sofalarity. That’s a future defined not by an evolution toward superintelligence but by the absence of discomforts.

The sofalarity (pictured memorably in the film “Wall-E”) is not inevitable either. But the prospect of it makes clear that, as a species, we need mechanisms to keep humanity on track. The technology industry, which does so much to define us, has a duty to cater to our more complete selves rather than just our narrow interests. It has both the opportunity and the means to reach for something higher. And, as consumers, we should remember that our collective demands drive our destiny as a species, and define the posthuman condition.

Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School and the author of “The Master Switch.” This is Part II in a series on technological evolution. Part I was “If A Time Traveller Saw A Smartphone.”

By TIM WU - THE NEW YORKER, Thursday February 6, 2014


If a time traveler saw a smartphone

Are we getting smarter or stupider? In “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” from 2010, Nicholas Carr blames the Web for growing cognitive problems, while Clive Thompson, in his recent book, “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better,” argues that our technologies are boosting our abilities. To settle the matter, consider the following hypothetical experiment:

A well-educated time traveler from 1914 enters a room divided in half by a curtain. A scientist tells him that his task is to ascertain the intelligence of whoever is on the other side of the curtain by asking whatever questions he pleases.

The traveler’s queries are answered by a voice with an accent that he does not recognize (twenty-first-century American English). The woman on the other side of the curtain has an extraordinary memory. She can, without much delay, recite any passage from the Bible or Shakespeare. Her arithmetic skills are astonishing—difficult problems are solved in seconds. She is also able to speak many foreign languages, though her pronunciation is odd. Most impressive, perhaps, is her ability to describe almost any part of the Earth in great detail, as though she is viewing it from the sky. She is also proficient at connecting seemingly random concepts, and when the traveler asks her a question like “How can God be both good and omnipotent?” she can provide complex theoretical answers.

Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveler would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a “singularity”— a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.

The woman behind the curtain, is, of course, just one of us. That is to say, she is a regular human who has augmented her brain using two tools: her mobile phone and a connection to the Internet and, thus, to Web sites like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora. To us, she is unremarkable, but to the man she is astonishing. With our machines, we are augmented humans and prosthetic gods, though we’re remarkably blasé about that fact, like anything we’re used to. Take away our tools, the argument goes, and we’re likely stupider than our friend from the early twentieth century, who has a longer attention span, may read and write Latin, and does arithmetic faster.

The time-traveler scenario demonstrates that how you answer the question of whether we are getting smarter depends on how you classify “we.” This is why Thompson and Carr reach different results: Thompson is judging the cyborg, while Carr is judging the man underneath.

The project of human augmentation has been under way for the past fifty years. It began in the Pentagon, in the early nineteen-sixties, when the psychologist J. C. R. Licklider, who was in charge of the funding of advanced research, began to contemplate what he called man-computer symbiosis. (Licklider also proposed that the Defense Department fund a project which became, essentially, the Internet). Licklider believed that the great importance of computers would lie in how they improved human capabilities, and so he funded the research of, among others, Douglas Engelbart, the author of “Augmenting Human Intellect,” who proposed “a new and systematic approach to improving the intellectual effectiveness of the individual human being.” Engelbart founded the Augmentation Research Center, which, in the nineteen-sixties, developed the idea of a graphical user interface based on a screen, a keyboard, and a mouse (demonstrated in “The Mother of all Demos”). Many of the researchers at A.R.C. went on to work in the famous Xerox PARC laboratories. PARC’s interface ideas were borrowed by Apple, and the rest is history.

Since then, the real project of computing has not been the creation of independently intelligent entities (HAL, for example) but, instead, augmenting our brains where they are weak. The most successful, and the most lucrative, products are those that help us with tasks which we would otherwise be unable to complete. Our limited working memory means we’re bad at arithmetic, and so no one does long division anymore. Our memories are unreliable, so we have supplemented them with electronic storage. The human brain, compared with a computer, is bad at networking with other brains, so we have invented tools, like Wikipedia and Google search, that aid that kind of interfacing.

Our time-traveling friend proves that, though the human-augmentation project has been a success, we cannot deny that it has come at some cost. The idea of biological atrophy is alarming, and there is always a nagging sense that our auxiliary brains don’t quite count as “us.” But make no mistake: we are now different creatures than we once were, evolving technologically rather than biologically, in directions we must hope are for the best.

Tim Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School and the author of “The Master Switch.” This is the first in a series of posts he will be writing about technology and intelligence.

 By TIM WU - THE NEW YORKER, Monday January 13, 2014


Pleasure vs Happiness

You don’t have to be a philosopher, given to abstruse reflection on concepts, to recognise that pleasure and happiness are not the same. There are wicked pleasures, destructive pleasures, addictive pleasures, despicable pleasures: but there is no such thing as wicked, destructive, addictive or despicable happiness. The happy person is in possession of the chief human good; happiness makes no inroads into our freedom; it brings love for others and joy to all who encounter it. It is as far from pleasure as health is from intoxication. And its root is self-approval – the knowledge that what you are it is also good to be. Hence Aristotle’s definition of happiness, as ‘an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue’.

Pleasures are of many kinds; but those most dangerous to us come from consumption. When you consume a thing you also destroy it. For a brief moment you are pleased to hold it in your hands, but your pleasure spells its doom. Down goes the hamburger or the glass of wine and in its place there comes the stale feeling of satiety – or, if you have reached the stage of addiction, the slavish craving for more. People have always recognised that, to exalt the pleasures of consumption into the goal of human life is to deprive human life of its goal. Yet the great mistake continues. And there are other pleasures too which, while they do not consume their cause, involve a momentary reward the aftermath of which is either staleness or addiction. The screen in every hotel bedroom tempts the guest to these easy pleasures – easy to feel, hard to escape. And all around us in our society we see the price that people pay for their addictions: a sense that no pleasure is forbidden, but all pleasure is stale.

Out of this feeling there comes the celebrity culture. The illusion arises that someone, somewhere, must be having real fun, not just the illusory fun that fizzles out as soon as it is lit. And we turn our eyes to those places where this real fun seems to be most evident – places where fame, wealth, good looks and sexual excitement abound. And we are filled with envy. Here is the meaning of life, and it is they, not I, who possess it. Hence people in the grip of ‘celebritis’ begin to hate the people who obsess them. They look for the proof that the celebrity is, after all, the broken, wretched, unloved creature that they wish him to be. And that way they come to experience another kind of pleasure – the pleasure in another’s willed misfortune, which is about as unsatisfying a pleasure as any we know. St Augustine reminds us that envy and malice have a sword: but it reaches its target only if it first passes through the body of the one who wields it.

 Wherever we find the cult of celebrity, therefore, we find deep unhappiness. ‘Fun’ has become the highest good, but fun is always out of reach, available only in that other and unattainable world where the stars are dancing. Meanwhile envy and resentment colour the world below, and there is no relief save the pleasures of consumption.

    If you want proof that our world is like that, then you should look at modern art – the thousand by-products of Duchamp’s famous urinal that have ended up in Tate Modern, and which are proof of the celebrity status of the people who produce them. Here are the monuments to a world from which beauty has been banished, and in which sensation rules in its stead. This is not art but packaging: loud supermarket colours, shocking themes and gross images like the deformed and spat-upon humanoid dolls of the Chapman brothers – all telling the same story that there is no meaning in the world, but only fun, and fun is a bore. Here is the proof that there is no such thing as real fun; fun is an illusion in all its forms.

 For all those who share my scepticism towards the life of consumption and the cult of celebrity, and who turn away from fun, I recommend a visit to Tate Modern. It is a sobering reminder of the things that the gallery does not contain, such as happiness, beauty and the sacred.  Those are things that we value, but which we cannot consume. And because we cannot consume them they offer us consolation and a lasting refuge. Consider beauty – the beauty of flowers and landscapes, of birds and horses, of the things we see, touch and smell as we walk in the countryside. We are entirely at one with these things. We have no desire to consume or destroy them. We look on them with gratitude, and they reflect our emotions back at us, seeming to bless us as we bless them. This is an elementary experience which we find hard to put into words. But we know that it is not fun, that it does not depend on fame or wealth or self-indulgent pleasure. It involves reconnecting to our core humanity, finding ourselves at peace in the world and at home here.

Beauty has many forms, of course, and natural beauty is only one of them. There is the beauty of art and architecture, of music and the human form. But in all its varieties beauty has a remarkable quality, which is that it offers consolation without consumption: your enjoyment does not destroy the beautiful object but simply amplifies its power. The enjoyment of beauty is never addictive, however intensely it affects us. And when we come back for more it is not out of craving or need, but rather as a homecoming to ourselves, and in order to understand what we are.

The beautiful and the sacred are connected in our feelings, and both are essential to the pursuit of happiness. I think it is no accident that, in a life of consumerist pleasure and trumpeted ‘fun’, the habit arises of desecrating the human form and the life that inhabits it. The cult of celebrity is a substitute for religious faith, and also an inversion of it. It offers desecration in the place of sanctity, envy in the place of reverence, and fun in the place of bliss. But it satisfies no-one. The odd thing is that the avenue to happiness lies open before us and yet so many people do not take it.

By Roger Scruton - A version of this paper appeared in The Spectator magazine - 28.3.2013


Jean-Louis Harouel, Culture et contre-culture – Paris, 1998

« Niant la validité du patrimoine artistique et littéraire, qui est la substance de la culture, et n’offrant à sa place que la négativité, le modernité est fondamentalement une contre-culture. »

« La modernité artistique apparaît à bien des égards comme une immense crise d’adolescence, dominée par le narcissisme et la régression. »

« L’explication de la modernité ne réside pas dans un processus de progrès mais dans un phénomène de fuite. La modernité est un sauve-qui-peut général devant la tradition picturale perçue comme délégitimée par le progrès technique et principalement par l’image technicienne.»

« Dans l’univers de la modernité artistique, peu importe ce que réalise vraiment l’artiste. Il suffit qu’il rejette le faire artistique traditionnel. »

« L’accès à la culture passe fondamentalement par l’écrit. »

« Au nom du dogme égalitaire, la volonté politique d’aligner la démarche de tous les enfants sur celles des moins doués scolairement provoque le bannissement de l’école de la démarche didactique classique et des savoirs constitués, monstrueux refus de formation intellectuelle et de culture à des millions d’enfants appartenant à tous les milieux sociaux. »

« Notre époque ne renie pas la Vénus de Milo, Memling, Vinci ni Véronèse. Cependant, elle célèbre de la même façon les poubelles de plastiques du pop art. »

« Notre époque pratique le péché suprême contre l’esprit en appelant du même nom l’art et ce qui tue l’art, la culture et ce qui tue la culture. »

« En matière de culture, l’avenir de l’homme, c’est essentiellement le passé. »

« Un être sans mémoire, sans pensée, sans conscience, sans âme, tel est l’homme que tend à produire l’univers technique, notamment à travers le divertissement de masse. »

Quinlan Terry

It is not because he receives few commissions that Quinlan Terry should be included among the architects we call underrated — quite the reverse is the case. It is because his work, in common with that of traditional architects, receives little attention from the architectural press, which for the most part reports only Modernist work. Now aged 71 and at work on numerous commissions, his classically inspired work in Britain and the US has included a cathedral, an infirmary, interiors at 10 Downing Street, a library and college court at Cambridge, residential and office buildings, and many country houses and villas. It might be supposed that such an architect would by now have received at least some slight formal recognition for his contribution to the public good. Perhaps it might be too much to expect that he would receive a peerage (never mind the Order of Merit), like those purveyors of heart-warming glass and steel towers, Lord Rogers and Lord Foster. But to have no public recognition at all is hard to understand.

Terry’s Richmond Riverside is a huge development, which nonetheless harmonises with local Georgian buildings in both style and scale, proving that you can build in an historic town without wrecking it. As a result of this project, he was invited to build Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, near the College of William and Mary attributed to Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most revered places of American history. Remarkably, he was also called upon to build in the immediate proximity to Wren in London, though this time in the face of opposition, allegedly, from the leading British Modernist architect Lord Rogers. The commission was for a large new infirmary at the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, next to Wren’s celebrated buildings of the 1680s. Terry’s ­infirmary features a Tuscan portico, the simplest of the classical orders, chosen in deference to Wren’s grander Doric on the main hospital building.

The infirmary is now nearing completion, while two of Terry’s very different projects are still rising: offices at 264-67 Tottenham Court Road, London, and Queen Mother Square at Poundbury, Dorset, for the Duchy of Cornwall. The former shows that a deeply modelled façade, articulated with classical orders and with huge windows divided by traditional glazing bars, can escape the chill character of the typical glass office block. The latter, his three-sided Queen Mother Square with its sheltering arcades of Tuscan columns and high tower, is a residential and commercial development on a monumental scale, ­providing a social urban focus that will help turn Poundbury from a large village into a small town.

One of Terry’s many other positive achievements is the employment he has brought to a vast range of builders, craftsmen, carvers, modellers and painters, working in different types of stone and statuary marble, as well as brick, wood, plaster, lead, copper, and metalwork in bronze and iron. He has also revived different treatments of brick — rubbed, gauged, stained and tuck-pointed — and is unusual among current ­architects for the trouble he takes with what we might call floorscapes, whether in parquet or marble. His ingenious patterns of lozenges in contrasting colours are inspired by the floors — not usually mentioned in guide books — of Venetian churches designed by Palladio and Longhena.

As a student at the Architectural Association in the late 1950s, Terry was told he would fail if he continued to submit any more classical designs. Things are not much different in schools of architecture today, where the establishment still follows the dictates of Adolf Loos, who argued in Ornament and Crime (1908) not only that “lack of ornament is a sign of spiritual strength”, but that it also accounts for the quality of Beethoven’s music, which would never have been written “by a man who was obliged to go about in silk, velvet and lace”. This is surely an absurd view.

Terry’s solid but beautifully detailed buildings provide solutions to the environmental problems that increasingly preoccupy the modern world. He claims that longlasting buildings constructed in locally sourced, traditional materials are more sustainable than those built from steel, the forging of which uses enormous amounts of energy, and glass, which is joined with plastic seals that last no longer than five years. The purpose of architecture, he believes, is to build a beautiful building, which will last for hundreds of years and everyone enjoys. The problem today is that architects build thin walls with thin materials that cost the earth in carbon emissions. Moreover, the buildings don’t last; they have to come down after 40 years and their materials are not generally recyclable. Steel frames and cladding are what cause the need for air-conditioning, whereas in the case of masonry construction, “you can live with it when the oil runs out”, says Terry. His ­conclusion is that “a skyscraper is an environmental nightmare”. It is almost impossible to overrate the importance of Terry’s opinions and of the buildings in which he demonstrates their truth.

By DAVID WATKIN - July 2008



Giulio Romano in a London tunnel

I thank Francis Terry for allowing me to tag this video downloaded from his firm’s website: that portrays him executing, within a day, a mural painting in London’s Leake Street Banksy tunnel.

The first time I saw this video I was seized with almost uncontrollable laughter, but also with a sense of deep admiration for its creator: not only for the talent as an artist, which is undoubtedly apparent, but also and moreover for having conceived it.

Graffiting in Banksy’s tunnel

I do not personally know Francis Terry, hence I can only speculate as to his thoughts and intentions. Nevertheless, it seems to me that in his intentions there was no arrière-pensée of some conceptual nature. Now, I do not want to intellectualize what perhaps has been done simply as a divertissement, as a capriccio; at the same time I believe that the brilliance and strength of this video lies exactly in its conceptual essence. Because it is staging, with great evidence, what Pier Paolo Pasolini had long ago defined as: “the scandalous revolutionary power of Antiquity”. The simple idea to cover, at least for a while, some normal graffiti with signs that, skilfully laid out, recall the ancient world, is ripping the veil of everyday’s banality so that a different perception of things all of a sudden bursts in.

How very disturbing, within the normal order of things, the appearance of this painting might have been can be clearly understood simply by watching the little blue riding hood that, acting like a dog with a tree, while Francis is still painting, feels the compelling need to normalize the situation by spraying something pink. As a matter of fact, as Francis has confirmed to me by sending the following picture, his painting’s life-span was short since two layers of graffiti soon covered it…


Graffiti are, generally and usually, defined as: “expressions of juvenile discomfort”, “signs of riot against the Man, the System”, “strategies for reappropriation of urban space”, “new art forms”, etc. Whatever they are, it is a fact that they – particularly in Italy (probably since we have many of them), but in the rest of the Western world also – are especially venting rage against monuments of the past. On the contrary, they show an incredible respect for technology, which is one of the most powerful symbols of the contemporary System. With the exception of trains’ and subways’ wagons – that by now belong to industrial archaeology, therefore to the past too – it never occurred to me to see, for example, an SUV, a Ferrari, or a mega-yacht covered with graffiti. As well, I do not recall seeing any graffiti on high-tech buildings, or on contemporary artists’ art works.


Italian Graffiti

This is what makes them appear not so much anti-System as they would like us to believe. Rather the other way round: quite organic to it. Therefore, seeing some graffiti covered up by a trompe-l’oeil architecture that would have pleased Giulio Romano has a nice effect. Giulio Romano says: thank you.

Moreover, the unexpected appearance of such painted architecture within the chaos of a contemporary city, even though ephemeral as a butterfly’s life-span, is encouraging. It offers the hope that one day, perhaps not too long from now, that kind of architecture might converge again with the construction of our cities, as it did quite successfully not too long ago. So, if the theory of chaos has some grounding, and the imperceptible flutter of a butterfly can really provoke a hurricane on the opposite side of the world, perhaps the painting in the Leake Street tunnel can be seen as something more than a simple divertissement, than an innocent capriccio.

©Stefano Fera, July 2012

Vigno… QUOI???

During the period in which we were completing the drawings for this digital re-edition of the Regola delli Cinque Ordini di Architettura, it occurred to me to pass by one of the better-stocked architectural bookstores in Paris: Le Moniteur, in the beautiful neoclassical Place de l’Odeon. I knew that the section on ancient and traditional architecture was very limited, near non-existent. Nevertheless I thought I had seen there a few years before, the reprint of a XIX century book: Le Vignole des Ouvriers, by Charles Pierre Joseph Normand, and so set about asking them if they still had it. The store manager – a middle-aged lady affecting the manners of a social-democratic bluestocking – answered back in a bored and condescending way: “Vigno… QUOI??? Jamais entendu ce nom…” (Vigno… WHAT? Never heard this name…)


Vigno… WHAT? A wannabe starhip sadly landed in the outskirts of Vignola, the hometown of Jacopo Barozzi, half way between Modena and Bologna, Italy

Unfortunately the situation is not much better in Italy, even in Vignola, the actual town in Emilia where Jacopo Barocci, or Barozzio, or Barozzi, was born, and from which he derived his toponymic appellation: our request to the town administration to join in and support our initiative had fallen in the pneumatic void of the most complete indifference: neither the Major, nor the President of the Fondazione di Vignola deigned us with the semblance of a response. Even though the foundation has, amongst its goals, the very noble one of promoting “civic society enhancing the territory’s artistic heritage; supporting education, scientific research and cultural activities”, encouraging, of course, like everybody in words: “projects and initiatives finalized to innovation”.



The old house traditionally considered to be Vignola’s birth place transformed into a cross breed between a Swiss chalet and an pseudo-archaeological remain

Luckily, nowadays, true innovation allows one to do things without the old bombastic institutional systems to “encourage innovation”. Normand’s book came to us through Amazon, and thanks to the free and easy accessibility of the net our work can now enjoy diffusion on a scale that was unthinkable only a few years ago.

However one still wonders why such a contemporary damnatio memoriae, why such a denial? Why is Vignola’s treatise, which since the time of its first appearance in 1562 until the mid of XX century has had an incredibly large diffusion, with more than 500 re-editions in different languages; why – with the exception of a small elite of scholars and specialists – is this book, on which several generations of artists, architects and craftsmen were educated, now totally banished, blacklisted, denied and disclaimed, even in its homeland?

As proved both by the brash answer of the Parisian bookseller as well as by the arrogant denial of the Italian institutions, the “dévignolisation” advocated by Le Corbusier is now a done deal, mission accomplished, chapter closed.
In almost the entirety of the art and architectural schools all over the world, the teaching of the orders has been suppressed and the language of ancient architecture is strictly forbidden. Once the dévignolisation was achieved, the lecorbusierisation has taken over in the most authoritative fashion. We live today in the age of “compulsory modernism”. Which is something that sounds rather paradoxical when one thinks that the ideological statute and the theoretical grounding of contemporary social-democratic modernism can be synthesized by the famous ’68 motto: “c’est interdit d’interdire” (it is forbidden to forbid).
Nevertheless, in all the “modern” polytechnic schools students are encouraged to design buildings of any shape: the shape of a gherkin, of a phallus, of a mixer, of a Coca-Cola bottle, of a rocket, of a rock, of a cloud, of a butterfly, you name it… They can use as a reference whatever they want, but if they dare to look at the Five Orders of Architecture they are going to be in trouble. The academicians of Modernism will accuse them of being academic, and by hook or by crook will force them to desist.
I must confess that the submissiveness, the conformism and the lack of dialectical spirit of the majority of today’s students never ceases to amaze me.

But it is not just a matter of fashion and style: ancient versus modern, classicism versus anti-classicism. Vignola never enjoyed a good reputation even at the time of triumphant classicism. Notwithstanding the official reverence that was attributed to him within Academia, he was never considered to be a chic guy; not even during the XIX century. On the contrary, he was sometimes seen as a sort of “useful idiot”. And this because the intelligence of his treatise has often been misunderstood, belittled, even denied, because of its own facility and effectiveness. Because his method was sound and successful in the training of the less cultivated ones, of the amateurs, of the beginners.

As a matter of fact, when reading his words one can understand Vignola himself intentionally aimed this. He sounds fully aware that his “many years’ labor”, from an editorial point of view, is just an “operetta”, a little work, as he calls it with a good dose of sprezzatura. But he is as much aware and proud that his book, with its 32 plates only, and with its synthetic, almost laconic notes, is offering for the very first time a “short, easy and rapid rule” that allows “even a mediocre talent, with at least some taste for this art” to understand everything and conveniently use this part of architecture, otherwise difficult, just “at a single glance, without the trouble of much fatiguing reading”.
It is true Vignola focuses only on a very well defined, yet limited part of architectural theory. One thus understands the reductive definition as “libro delle colonne” (columns’ book) with which, since its first appearance, the book acquired its fame. A fame that was so incredibly vast, and international, it can undoubtedly be considered as the very first best-seller in the history of architectural literature.

Nevertheless, as long as beginners and amateurs were popes, kings, princes and those “gentlemen architects” eager to enrich their urban palaces and country mansions with the stigmata of Antiquity, the book kept its reputation as a treatise. The consideration attributed to Vignola and the influence that he exerts throughout the whole XVIII century can be clearly understood by reading the text on architecture in the Encyclopédie by Diderot & D’Alembert. As a comment to the first plate rendering with an effective synopsis of the five orders, one can in fact read: “Ces cinq ordres sont conformes aux mesures de Vignole, l’un des dix commentateurs de Vitruve, & celui qu’on a suivi en France le plus généralement”. (These five orders are true to measures by Vignola, one of ten Vitruvius’ commentators, and the one who has been most generally followed in France).

But as bourgeoisie supersedes nobility, and as columns and capitals start being employed to ornate the façades of theatres, schools, tribunals, hospitals, railroad stations, etc., Vignola’s reputation collapses, and his book becomes something else. It becomes the ABCs, the spelling book of architecture, i.e. the first abridgement on the subject to be put in the hands of any basse classe beginner: students from state technical and artisanal schools, or even from after work and night schools. This is what dispossesses Vignola’s book of its treatise blazon. This is the reason why it progressively appears to be emptied of its intellectual content. First considered a sort of second rank treatise, it progressively becomes a handbook, an operating instructions manual addressed to the lower grades of the métier.


One of the large terra-cotta Corinthian capitals on the XIX c. façade of the Santi Nazario e Celso church in the centre of Vignola

The above-mentioned Normand’s book, Le Vignole des Ouvriers, whose title programmatically announces that the opus is primarily dedicated to workers, witnesses this fact. Thus the subtitle is even more explicit, since it diffusely explains: “méthode facile pour tracer les cinq ordres d’architecture (…) a l’usage des Appareilleurs, Tailleurs de pierres, Maçons, Menuisiers en bâtiments et autres, Charpentiers, Serruriers, Plombiers, Treillageurs, et généralement tous les Etats qui ont rapport à l’Art de bâtir” (easy method to trace the five orders of architecture (…) for the usage of fitters, stonemasons, masons, carpenters, cabinet makers, locksmiths, plumbers, trellis makers, and generally to all the métiers related to the art of construction).
This aspect of Vignola, his working class character, his blue collar vocation, is exactly what makes him so likeable and congenial to us; even more, not just agreeable, rather indispensable to all of us who share a creative interest in antiquity, because the teaching of the orders has been precluded to our generations. Modernism has made us illiterate, beginners, dilettantes in the field of ancient architecture. When we compare ourselves to the architects of past generations we must admit that our sensitivity for antiquity is quite the same of those ouvriers, of those charpentiers, serruriers, plombiers, treillageurs to whom Normand was addressing his book.
For this reason Vignola bares today a fundamental importance, perhaps even superior to what he had in the past. Because when we want to educate ourselves on this matter, we are forced to proceed as autodidacts, by hazardous attempts, counting solely on our forces. Those who could have instructed us with competence, erudition and direct training are long since gone. They can only speak to us through their work, built and printed. Among those few, Vignola’s Regola is undoubtedly and by far the most effective, clear, simple, and self-explanatory one. To the point that it almost does not need words to be understood, since as himself proudly says in the closure of his short text: “… il resto si vede” (… the rest can easily be seen).

© Stefano Fera, March 2012