De Re Aedificatoria, by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), was the first modern treatise on the theory and practice of architecture and in its time a model of learned Latin writing. Its importance for the subsequent history of architecture isMoreDe Re Aedificatoria, by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), was the first modern treatise on the theory and practice of architecture and in its time a model of learned Latin writing. Its importance for the subsequent history of architecture is incalculable- yet this is the first major English translation based on the original text on which Albertis reputation as a theorist is founded.Joseph Rykwert and his colleagues have been scrupulous in following Albertis original intentions.
Their version is based on the critical text published in 1966 by Giovanni Orlandi. It replaces the only other significant English version, by the Venetian architect James Leoni, whose source was not the original Latin but an Italian translation dating from the sixteenth century.Rykwerts substantial introduction discusses Albertis life and career - as papal functionary, writer on a wide variety of topics, and architect and discusses the De Re Aedificatoria itself - its relation to the De Architectura of Vitruvius, its influence on contemporary and later architectural theory and practice, and its bibliographic history.
The apparatus also includes an index and a glossary of terms. The translators were fortunate to have the help of eminent Alberti scholar Hans-Karl Lucke of the University of Toronto.Alberti set out to replace Vitruviuss authority, which had been undisputed for over a thousand years. In a Latin which was both more elegant and more precise than that of his ancient predecessor, he succeeded in framing a coherent account of the fragmented knowledge of antique architecture as it had survived through the dark and middle ages.
His was the one book which established architecture as an intellectualand professional discipline rather than a craft and gave it a proper theoretical context- by showing how the great examples of ruined antiquity could be emulated in practice, it provided a theoretical basis for the architecture of the Renaissance.Alberti organizes the work of the architect according to solidity, use, and grace.
The ten books begin with a book of definitions- there follow two books devoted to materials and constructional methods- books four and five discuss the uses of the parts of the building and the different building types. The bulk of the second part, books six through nine deal with grace: the problems of designing sacred buildings, the problems of beauty and ornament, of proportions. Book ten takes up problems of restoration, water supply, and minor adjuncts to building.Joseph Rykwert is Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Neil Leach is an architect in private practice in Cambridge, and Robert Tavernor is a practicing architect and lecturer in the Department of Architecture at the University of Bath.