chapter  1
14 Pages

Architecture as an expressive language

In antiquity, architects relied on the shared language of architecture, embodied in the architectural orders, to convey meaning through their work. The temples of Minerva, Mars and Hercules, for example, were built in the Doric order because its simple, potent form was appropriate to the gravity of these divinities. According to Vitruvius, “Because of their might, buildings [devoted to these divinities] ought to be erected without embellishments.” Temples to Venus, Flore, Proserpine and the Nymphs required the Corinthian order, which was more appropriate to the gentleness of these goddesses. Temples to Juno, Diana and Bacchus were built in the Ionic order, which best represented these divinities: “The determinate character of their temples will avoid the severe manner of the Doric and the softer manner of the Corinthian.” In De Architectura (first century BC), Vitruvius described this correctness of expression as decorum, “the faultless ensemble of a work composed, in accordance with precedent, of approved details.” This fundamental respect for conventions (from the Greek thematismos) was dictated by both custom and nature.1