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The Modesty of Architecture

Lindstrom, R and Malpas, J ORCID: 0000-0003-4378-8937 2020 , 'The Modesty of Architecture', in D Bell and B Zacka (eds.), Political Theory and Architecture , Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 255-276.

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Politics and architecture are, in large part, known by their legacies. Among architecture’soldest legacies is that presented by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and his book De Architectura(known today as The Ten Books on Architecture)—a work that is not, however, merelyarchitectural. Indeed, its writing was specifically designed to support a political legacyas well. With deference, Vitruvius addressed the book to the Roman emperor, CaesarAugustus, declaring his intent “to deliver down to posterity, as a memorial,” an accountof the “many edifices” and “magnificent works” that were to Caesar’s credit. Althoughthe book is perhaps best known for positing the architectural trinity of firmitas, utilitas,and venustas (or firmness, commodity, and delight, according to seventeenth-centurytranslator Henry Wotton), it is a story from the introduction to Book II that is particularlypertinent here. A parable of architecture and politics, set in a book dedicated to the samepursuits, it tells of another architect and another great ruler—Dinocrates and Alexanderof Macedon—but, as with all parables, its significance goes beyond surface meaning.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Lindstrom, R and Malpas, J
Keywords: architecture, politics, modesty, moderation, place, chora
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2020 Duncan Bell, Bernardo Zacka, and contributors

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