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Saturday, 8 October 2011

Of the Education of an Engineer

"Architecture is a science arising out of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning; by the help of which a judgment is formed of those works which are the result of other arts. Practice and theory  are its parents. Practice is the frequent and continued contemplation of the mode of executing any given work, or of the mere operation of the hands, for the conversion of the material in the best and readiest way. Theory is the result of that reasoning which demonstrates and explains that the material wrought has been so converted as to answer the end proposed. Wherefore the mere practical architect is not able to assign sufficient reasons for the forms he adopts ; and the theoretic architect also fails, grasping the shadow instead of the substance. He who is theoretic as well as practical, is therefore doubly armed; able not only to prove the propriety of his design, but equally so to carry it into execution.
In architecture, as in other arts, two considerations must  be constantly kept in view; namely, the intention, and the matter used to express that intention: but the intention is founded on a conviction that the matter wrought will fully suit the purpose; he, therefore, who is not familiar with both branches of the art, has no pretension to the title of architect. An architect should be ingenious, and apt in the acquisition of knowledge. Deficient in either of these qualities, he cannot be a perfect master.
He should be a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the sciences both of law and physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies. By means of the first named acquirement, he is to commit to writing his observations and experience, in order to assist his memory. Drawing is employed in representing the forms of his designs. Geometry affords much aid to the architect: to it he owes the use of the right line and circle, the level and the square; whereby his delineations of buildings on plane surfaces are greatly facilitated. The science of optics enables him to introduce with judgment the requisite quantity of light, according to the aspect. Arithmetic estimates the cost, and aids in the measurement of the works; this, assisted by the laws of geometry, determines those abstruse questions, wherein the different proportions of some parts to others are involved. Unless acquainted with history, he will be unable to account for the use of many ornaments which he may have occasion to introduce. ...
Many other matters of history have a connexion with architecture, and prove the necessity of its professors being well versed in it. Moral philosophy will teach the architect  to be above meanness in his dealings, and to avoid arrogance: it will make him just, compliant and faithful to his employer ; and what is of the highest importance, it will prevent avarice gaining an ascendancy over him: for he should not be occupied with the thoughts of filling his coffers, nor with the desire of grasping every thing in the shape of gain, but, by the gravity of his manners, and a good character, should be careful to preserve his dignity. In these respects we see the importance of moral philosophy; for such are her precepts. That branch of philosophy which the Greeks call phusiologia, or the doctrine of physics, is necessary to him in the solution of various problems; as for instance, in the conduct of water, whose natural force, in its meandering and expansion over flat countries, is often such as to require restraints, which none know how to apply, but those who are acquainted with the laws of nature: nor, indeed, unless grounded in the first principles of physics, can he study with profit the works of Ctesibius, Archimedes, and many other authors who have written on the subject.
Music assists him in the use of harmonic and mathematical proportion. It is, moreover, absolutely necessary in adjusting the force of the balistae, catapultae, and scorpions...
Astronomy instructs him in the points of the heavens, the laws of the celestial bodies, the equinoxes, solstices, and courses of the stars; all of which should be well understood, in the construction and proportions of clocks. Since, therefore, this art is founded upon and adorned with so many different sciences, I am of opinion that those who have not, from their early youth, gradually climbed up to the summit, cannot, without presumption, call themselves masters of it. Perhaps, to the uninformed, it may appear unaccountable that a man should be able to retain in his memory such a variety of learning ; but the close alliance with each other, of the different branches of science, will explain the difficulty. For as a body is composed of various concordant members, so does the whole circle of learning consist in one harmonious system. Wherefore those, who from an early age are initiated in the different branches of learning, have a facility in acquiring some knowledge of all, from their common connexion with each other...
For in such a variety of matters, it cannot be supposed that the same person can arrive at excellence in each, since to be aware of their several niceties and  bearings, cannot fall within his power. We see how few of those who profess a particular art arrive at perfection in it, so as to distinguish themselves: hence, if but few of those practising an individual art, obtain lasting fame, how should the architect, who is required to have a knowledge of so many, be deficient in none of them, and even excel those who have professed any one
exclusively. ...
I beseech you, O Caesar, and those who read this my work, to pardon and overlook grammatical errors; for I write neither as an accomplished philosopher, an eloquent rhetorician, nor an expert grammarian, but as an architect: in respect, however, of my art and its principles, I will lay down rules which may serve as an authority to those who build, as well as to those who are already somewhat acquainted with the science."

From "The Architecture", by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio