Questioning Ancient’s Authority
on Modernism and Architecture History
Descartes: Starting with Doubt
What is modernism? The idea of modernism goes back to at least three hundred years ago and it is somehow connected to the architecture of Versailles. Before Versailles architecture of antiquity was based on the mythological world. Vitruvius’s De Architectura, the bible of architecture, is based on mythology and emphasizes the necessity of divine proportions and geometry. He introduced divine body proportions within a square and a circle.
Architecture theory was something separate from practice. Architects were trying their best to achieve an approximation of the perfect divine geometry. Antiquities and mythology were about truth; the era of no reasoning or the rationalized which is generally stretched to the seventeenth century and Rene Descartes presenting the idea of doubt.
He argues that our senses are deceiving and suggests the escape from the mythological world. At this time Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei also question ancient’s authority. In the seventeenth century Claude Perrault, author and architect, translates Vitruvius’s book of architecture and adds annotations to it. Later he claims that ruins of antiquities do not match the Vitruvian proportions and therefore their divinity is questionable.
Fall of 2009