1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Definition of Architecture. Elements of Architectural Perfection.

(Part 1)


Definition of Architecture. Elements of Architectural Perfection.

Architecture (Latin architectura, from Greek, architekton) is the art building according to principles which are determined, not merely by the ends the edifice is intended to serve, but by the consideration of beauty and harmony. It cannot be defined as the art of building simply, or even building well. The end of building as such is convenience, use, irrespective of appearance; and the employment of material to this end is regulated by the mechanical principles of constructive art. The end of architecture as an art, on the other hand, is to arrange the plan, masses and enrichment of structure as to impart to it interest, beauty, grandeur, unity, and power. Architecture thus necessitates the possession by the builder of gifts of imagination as well as the technical skill, and in all work of architecture properly so called these elements must exist, and in be harmoniously combined. The combination of technical wit imaginative feature s remove architecture from the precise position occupied by painting, sculpture, and music, but does this more appearance than in reality, since the greatest works of architecture must always be those in which the imagination of the artist is most plainly seen.

Like the other arts, architecture did not spring to into existence at an early period of man’s history. The ideas of symmetry and proportion which are afterwards embodied in material structure could not be evolved until at a least of moderate degree of civilization had been attained, while the efforts of primitive man is the construction of dwellings must have been first determined solely by physical wants. Only after these had been provided for, and materials amassed on which his imagination must exercise itself, would he begin to plan and erect structures, possessing not only utility, but also grandeur beauty. Before proceeding to inquire into the history of architecture, it maybe well to enumerate briefly the elements which in combination from the architectural perfection of a building. These elements have been variously determined by different authorities. Vitruvius the only ancient writer on the art whose works have come down to us, lays down three qualities as indispensable in a fine building, viz., Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas, stability, utility and beauty. In an architectural point of view the last is the principal, though not the sole element; and, accordingly, the theory of architecture is occupied for the most part with aesthetic consideration, of principles and beauty in designing. Of such principles or qualities the following appear to be the most important: size, proportion, harmony and symmetry, ornament, and color. All other element may be reduced under one or other of these heads.

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