ARCH TECTU RE
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TO ALL MY FRIENDS
Copyright © 1957, 1974 by Bruno Zevi
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 74-15386
ISBN 0-8180-0024-4 (cloth) 0-8180-0025-2 (paper)
Manufactured in the United States of America
THE REPRESENTATION OF SPACE
NE DAY, sometime in the 1430'S, Johann Gutenberg of Mainz conceived the idea of engraving the letters of the alphabet on little pieces of wood and of putting them together to form words, lines, phrases, pages. He invented printing and so opened up to the masses the world of poetry and literature, until then the property and instrument of a restricted class of intellectuals.
In 1839, Daguerre applied his knowledge of photo-chemistry to the problem of reproducing images of an object. He invented photography and marked the passage from the aristocratic to the collective plane of a vast amount of visual experience hitherto available only to the few who could afford to employ an artist to paint their portraits or who could travel to study works of painting and sculpture.
In 1877, Edison invented a cylindrical apparatus and succeeded for the first time in recording sound on a sheet of tin-foil. Forty-three years later, in 1920, the first radio broadcast took place. The art of music, previously at the exclusive command of limited groups of connoisseurs, was by means of the phonograph and the radio made accessible to the great public.
Thus, a continuous scientific and technological progress made pOSSible the large-scale diffusion of poetry and literature, painting, sculpture and music, emiching the spiritual heritage of an ever increasing number of people. Just as the reproduction of sound has by now almost reached perfection, so the progress of color photography indicates that the next few years will show a distinct elevation of general education in chromatic values, a phase of visual experience in which the average level of understanding is still much lower than it is with regard to drawing and composition.
Architecture, however, remains isolated and alone. The problem of how to represent space, far from being solved, has not as yet been
for its representation and mass diffusion has consequently not been felt.
This is one more reason for the inadequacy of architectural education.
As we have seen, the methods of representing buildings most frequently employed in histories of art and architecture consist of (1) plans,
(z) fac;:ades and elevations and (3) photographs. We have already stated that neither singly nor together can these means ever provide a complete representation of architectural space. But, in the absence of thoroughly satisfactory methods, it becomes our concern to study the techniques we have at hand and to make them more effective than ever. Let us discuss them in detail and at length:
1) Plans. We have said that a plan is an abstraction entirely removed from any real experience of a building. Nevertheless, a plan is still the sole way we have of evaluating the architectural organism as a whole.
And every architect knows that the plan, however insufficient in itself, has a distinct primacy in determining the artistic worth of a building.
Le Corbusier, speaking of the "plan generateur," does nothing to advance the understanding of architecture; quite ilie contrary, he is engendering in his followers a sort of mystique of the "esilietic of the plan," scarcely less formalistic than that of the Beaux Arts. However, his concept is based on fact. The plan is still among the basic tools in ilie representation of architecture. The question is how to go about improving it.
Let us take, for example, Michelangelo's planimetric design for
St. Peter's in Rome. Many books reprint Bonanni's plan (fig. 1), partly because of a