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The Modesty of Architecture


Lindstrom, R and Malpas, J, The Modesty of Architecture, Political Theory and Architecture, Bloomsbury Academic, D Bell and B Zacka (ed), London, pp. 255-276. ISBN 9781350103764 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2020 Duncan Bell, Bernardo Zacka, and contributors

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Politics and architecture are, in large part, known by their legacies. Among architecture’s oldest legacies is that presented by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and his book De Architectura (known today as The Ten Books on Architecture)—a work that is not, however, merely architectural. Indeed, its writing was specifically designed to support a political legacy as well. With deference, Vitruvius addressed the book to the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, declaring his intent "to deliver down to posterity, as a memorial," an account of the "many edifices" and "magnificent works" that were to Caesar’s credit. Although the book is perhaps best known for positing the architectural trinity of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas (or firmness, commodity, and delight, according to seventeenth-century translator Henry Wotton), it is a story from the introduction to Book II that is particularly pertinent here. A parable of architecture and politics, set in a book dedicated to the same pursuits, it tells of another architect and another great ruler—Dinocrates and Alexander of Macedon—but, as with all parables, its significance goes beyond surface meaning.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:architecture, politics, modesty, moderation, place, chora
Research Division:Built Environment and Design
Research Group:Urban and regional planning
Research Field:History and theory of the built environment (excl. architecture)
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Government and politics
Objective Field:Government and politics not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Lindstrom, R (Dr Randall Lindstrom)
UTAS Author:Malpas, J (Professor Jeff Malpas)
ID Code:138503
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Architecture and Design
Deposited On:2020-04-09
Last Modified:2021-03-25

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