Ten Books on Architecture (De architectura)

Ten books on Architecture (De architectura) are still relevant today even though they are couple of millennium old. It is widely held that the books were written at the time of Augustus (height of Roman power). This is a very sustainable building design handbook, remember all heating and cooling was achieved by passive techniques. The book had a huge impact on the Renaissance period (invention of printing press helped spread the book throughout Europe) and served as a direction for lot of Renaissance architects like Brunelleschi.

Book One – The education of the Architect
Vitruvius makes the case that Architects have to be trained in multiple field through practice and theory and if they do not train in those aspects for a long period of time, then they will never be worth much.
– History to understand culture and tradition and design accordingly
– Philosophy to be high minded and honest.
– Music to understand rhythms and harmonies
– Theatre to understand acoustics
– Medicine to understand climate, air, site and water effects on human comfort.

Vitruvius talks about Order, Arrangement, Eurythmy (Beauty), Symmetry, Propriety and Economy in Architecture. Placement of the rooms should be based on wind direction and daylight.

Selection of the site for a city, public building and homes is discussed as is discussed the layout of the city to break cold winds.

Book Two – Building Materials
Vitruvius talks about different construction materials on how to make them, where to procure raw materials and how to use them.
– Brick
– Sand
– Lime
– Pozzolana
– Stone
– Timber
– Highland and Lowland Fir

Book Three – Symmetry, Proportions and Columns
Vitruvius talks about the human body, its proportions and the different temples. Roman empire was heavily influenced by the Greek civilization and it shows in the writings. Vitruvius talks about the different parts of the column and there proportions.
– Base
– Capitals
– Entablature
– Entasis (Curvature)
– Podium

Book Four – Three Orders and their application in Temples
Vitruvius talks about the three different orders their origins and their proportions, ornamentation and their use in temples. He talks about the different temples and their design with the use of the different orders.
– Ionic
– Corinthian
– Doric

Book Five – Design of the Public Buildings
Vitruvius talks about the design of different Public buildings, including how the Greeks used to design their buildings.
– Forums
– Basilica
– Treasury
– Prison
– Senate House
– Theatre
– Baths
– Palaestra (school)
– Harbors
– Shipyards

Book Six – House Design
Vitruvius talks about designing the house to meet the cultural, climate and site differences. He goes on to discuss the different rooms, their sizes and proportions.

Book Seven – Plastering/Stucco
Vitruvius talks about the materials required for plastering the techniques and application of stucco on floor and walls. He talks about the different plastering and decorating techniques for different applications including damp locations and vaults.

In the last part of the chapter Vitruvius talks about the using marble and different materials to get colors in plastering.

Book Eight – Water
Vitruvius talks about water, how to locate it. Verify if the water is good, store it using cisterns and transport it using Aqueducts.

Book Nine – Astronomy
Vitruvius talks about the sun, the path of the sun through the different zodiac signs and planets. Vitruvius moves away from Architecture and more towards being the scientist.

Book Ten – War machines
Vitruvius is writing for Augustus and talks about the different war machines including hoisting machines and other utilitarian machines like the water wheels, water mills and water screws.

To learn more about Vitruvius visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvius
Further thoughts on Ten Books on Architecture (though not from an Engineering perspective) can be read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Architectura
The book can be downloaded for free from the following location in many different formats http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20239

Five Classical Architectural Books

The following five books are the classical Architectural books that in my opinion had a significant impact on the practise and direction of Architecture. They are a must read for anyone who is involved in Architectural field.

  1. The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius
  2. Space Time and Architecture by Siegfried Giedion
  3. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi
  4. Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi
  5. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs