The Education Of The Architect

Vitruvius The Ten Books On Architecture

Brief Detail Overview:

The only full treatise on architecture and its related arts to survive from classical antiquity, the De Architectura libri decem (Ten Books on Architecture) is the single most important work of architectural history in the Western world, having shaped humanist architecture and the image of the architect from the Renaissance to the present. This new, critical edition of Vitruvius’ Ten Books of Architecture is the first to be published for an English-language audience in more than half a century. Expressing the range of Vitruvius’ style, the translation, along with the critical commentary and illustrations, aims to shape a new image of the Vitruvius who emerges as an inventive and creative thinker, rather than the normative summarizer, as he was characterized in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.


Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect and engineer flourished in the first century B.C., he was also the known author of the oldest and the most influential work on architecture in existence. For hundreds of years, the specific instructions given in his ‘Ten Books on Architecture’ were followed faithfully. Even major buildings in the world portray the widespread influence of his precepts. In accordance to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vitruvius was known as the ‘chief authority studied by architects, and that his every point to his precepts were considered as full and final. Bramante, Michaelangelo, Palladio, Vignola, and earlier architects were conscientious students of Vitruvius’ works’. This summarises his book is one of those rare works that have been supremely important in the creation of the greatest art masterpieces.

Vitruvius clearly describes classic principles of symmetry, harmony, proportion in architecture in numerous areas, such as: the design of senate house, temples, construction of theatres, even the proper style and proportions for private dwellings. His methods gave durability, beauty to polished finishings etc. allowing one to understand from his many topics about the methodology and beliefs behind the Roman architect.

The Education Of The Architect:

The contents of this book has been cleverly translated in the standard English, prepared carefully over a period of several years by Professor M. H. Morgan of Harvard University.

From one of Vitruvius’ many topics discussed, The Education of The Architect is the opening chapter to his book. Seventeen points are discussed describing the importance within its content about understanding the education of the architect. The points are disclosed as principles of art in the Roman architects view. The first three of the ‘principles’ he dictates have been briefed and listed below to allow a glimpse into this wonderfully, entertaining descriptions of aspects of the life and beliefs of the times:

1. Architects should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgment that all work done by the other arts is put to test.’ He claims the knowledge is symbolic, symbolising as the ‘child of practice and theory’.
• Practice: the continual, regular norm of employment. It is vital for practice to take place.
• Theory: however, portrays the ability to explain productions of dexterity on principles of proportion
2. It continues with claiming architects aiming to gain manual skill with the aid of scholarship would not have been able to reach positions of authority which would correspond to ‘their pains’, and those who only went ahead gaining theories and scholarship were obviously ‘hunting the shadow, not the substance’. Comparatively, those gaining through knowledge of both have met their objectives far sooner and are able to carry authority with them.
3. ‘In all matters, but particularly in architecture, there are these two points: – the thing signified, and that which gives it its significance.’
• Vitruvius states that once the subject is signified, and the essence of it that gives its significance portrays a clear demonstration on the scientific principles. Therefore, a professional who claims to be an architect should be well knowledgeable in both of these directions. He summarises that the education of the architect is only valuable when he is both gifted and amenable to instruction.
• Without natural ability and not subtracting instruction or instruction without the natural ability would then make the perfect artist. The architect should be ‘educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens’

Understanding The Education Of The Architect so far from Vitruvius’ principles implies there are no short cuts, and if parts of the principles are omitted the architect steadfastly requires to be fully equipped in theory and practice in order to attain the substance of authority with scholarship, or be cast as ‘hunting the shadow’