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Vitruvian Man Is A Pterosaur: Notes On The Transformation Of An Architectural Ideal

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Chapter Summary

In De Architectura, written during the time of Augustus, the Roman writer Vitruvius had invoked an established analogy between the proportions of the Greek temple type and 'a finely shaped human body'. In his now-canonical description, the 'strength and grace' of the Doric column recalls a robust man, the ionic column a matronly woman, and the Corinthian a young maiden. As French novelist Honoré de Balzac famously observed, Cuvier had laboured to 'reconstruct worlds based on whitened bones, just as Cadmus rebuilt cities using only teeth'. Emerging from the anatomical sciences, a revised mythology of origins located the origins of the city in the teeth of two animals: one monstrous, and one domestic, reconstituting Vitruvian man as a hybrid creature belonging to the realm of matter and materialism. It may be that the anthropomorphic body-paradigm is no longer valid, as the sudden proliferation of explicitly zoomorphic architecture may suggest.

Keywords: anthropomorphic; Honoré de Balzac; Vitruvian man; Vitruvius



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