Why Read the Classics?


September 2014

Why Read the Classics?

The classics are the books that come down to us bearing the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through.1

Classics from the Haga Sofia, the Pantheon to the Villa Rotonda and villa Savoye are often put to the foreground when we address the topic of historical architecture. But the classical text that were of great influence to these buildings are often neglected. Treatise like Vitruvius books on architecture, Alberti’s De re aedificatória had a major influence on architects in past times. In days when traveling wasn’t as comfortable and safe, the distribution of the treatise on architecture in their original language or translations had an enormous influence on architectural style and practice.

Our new contributor to Writingplace, Mário Krüger has just published the book “Comentários à Arte Edificatória de Leon Battista Alberti” (Comments on Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria. Portuguese translations). The original „De re aedificatoria”, came as an reaction to the books on architecture by Vitruvius. Notwithstanding the fact that Alberti was a big admirer of Vitruvius and the roman architecture, he believed that the original texts of Vitruvius were badly written and confusing. It is assumed that it was not until the sixteen century that the De re aedificatória” was translated into Portuguese by order of King João lll. The „Comentários à Arte Edificatória de Leon Battista Alberti” reflected on this translation to Portuguese and on the influence of the „De re aedificatoria” on the Portuguese architectural culture.

Mário Krüger is Full Professor at the Department of Architecture of the Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Coimbra and researcher at the Centre for Social Studies of this University. He was the coordinator of the research project Digital Alberti, which aimed to draw, in a computing environment and by the construction of a generative shape grammar, the influence of „De re aedificatoria”, on classical architectural heritage in Portugal. He also made a critical co­-edition of this treatise in Portuguese.

The full abstract of Mário Krüger’s book “Comentários à Arte Edificatória de Leon Battista Alberti” can be read here.

1. Italo Calvino, Why read the Classics, in The literature Machine, Vintage Books, London, p. 128

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Mike Schäfer