Vitruvius, On Architecture

LCL 280: 20-21

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qualitates, dixi; itaque nunc singulorum generum in aedificiis conmensus symmetriarum et universos et separatos breviter explicabo.


1Nulla architecto maior cura esse debet, nisi uti proportionibus ratae partis habeant aedificia rationum exactiones. Cum ergo constituta symmetriarum ratio fuerit et conmensus ratiocinationibus explicati, tum etiam acuminis est proprium providere ad naturam loci aut usum aut speciem, adiectionibus temperaturas efficere, cum de symmetria sit detractum aut adiectum, uti id videatur recte esse formatum in aspectuque nihil desideretur.

2Alia enim ad manum species1 videtur, alia in excelso, non eadem in concluso, dissimilis in aperto, in quibus magni iudicii est opera, quid tandem sit faciundum. Non enim veros videtur habere visus effectus, sed fallitur saepius iudicio ab eo mens. Quemadmodum etiam in scenis2 pictis videntur columnarum proiecturae, mutulorum ecphorae,3 signorum figurae prominentes, cum sit tabula sine dubio ad regulam plana. Similiter in navibus remi, cum sint sub aqua directi, tamen oculis infracti videntur; et quatenus eorum partes tangunt summam planitiem liquoris,4 apparent, uti sunt, directi,


Book VI

needs of the body. It remains now to explain in brief, both generally and particularly, the symmetrical adjustment of the several methods of building.

Chapter II

proportion in building

1. The architect’s greatest care must be that his buildings should have their design determined by the proportions of a fixed unit. When therefore account has been taken of the symmetries of the design and the dimensions have been worked out by calculation, it is then the business of his skill to have regard to the nature of the site, either for use or beauty, to produce a proper balance by adjustment, adding or subtracting from the symmetry of the design, so that it may seem to be rightly planned and the elevation1 may lack nothing.

2. For one kind of appearance is seen near at hand; another, in a lofty building; yet another in a confined site; a different one in an open site. And it is the business of a fine judgment to determine exactly what is to be done in these cases. For the eyes do not appear to bring accurate results, but the judgment is often deceived by it: just as when, in the paintings of stages, there seem to be projecting columns, corbelled mutules, outstanding shapes of statues, although the picture is undoubtedly vertical and regular.2 Similarly in the case of ships, when the oars are put straight in the water, yet to the eyes they seem broken: until their parts touch the topmost level of the liquid, they appear straight, as indeed they are, but when

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.vitruvius-architecture.1931