HomeBuilding techniques in writings on architecture between Italy, France and the Low Countries

Building techniques in writings on architecture between Italy, France and the Low Countries

Les techniques constructives dans les écrits d’architecture entre Italie, France et anciens Pays-Bas

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Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 by João Fernandes

Summary

This conference focuses on the connection between architectural theory and construction techniques. The first part deals with the analysis of technical descriptions, their relationship with building practice, their rhetorical value, and their international circulation and adaptation. It comprises case studies from Italy, France, and the Low Countries. The second part approaches the same problem in a comparative perspective and takes the form of round-table discussions structured around three themes: the relationship between technical writings and construction practices, the literary aspects of technical digressions, and the translation and adaptation of Italian treatises.

Announcement

Argument

The scholarly literature on the architectural treatises of the Renaissance is vast and offers thorough analyses of the epistemological, cultural and political aspects of this literary genre. It deals with crucial issues such as the novelty of this theoretical approach in comparison with medieval writings on architecture, the reception of Vitruvius, the formation of their authors, their audience, and their influence on the architectural self-representation of princely patrons. At the same time, academic interest in technical culture is increasing and in the past decade construction history has become a flourishing field of study.

Yet the potential relationships between architectural theory and the technical traditions have not been fully investigated. Only a few case studies have tried to relate the technical descriptions and prescriptions in the treatises with the architectural practice of the period. The evidence from building archaeology that is needed to confront the texts with the executed works is still scarce. With few exceptions, comparative studies of different building traditions are still missing, and the technical prescriptions in the architectural treatises have not yet been subjected to a systematic study.

This conference will focus on certain aspects of the connection between theory and building practice. A first issue concerns the relationship between architectural practices and the technical digressions in writings on architecture – in particular the considerations or prescriptions about materials and construction processes. Through a confrontation (where possible) with built works, the nature of these digressions might be investigated: How much weight carry technical asides such as quotations or topoi borrowed from ancient authors, direct observations of ancient or medieval buildings, descriptions of current or outdated practices, or operational propositions? This first issue raises other, complementary questions. From a literary point of view it seems that philological research is needed to assess the role of these descriptions within the overall structure of the treatise; that is, to determine the rhetorical value of technical digressions in the architectural treatise as a literary work.

Moreover, when Italian treatises circulated in Northern Europe, their technical passages underwent modifications and omissions in the process of translation and re-edition. These adaptations are also telling and raise questions about the effective circulation of technical knowledge. Were the prescriptions about building materials and construction techniques faithfully translated, or adapted to local traditions? This problem – translation or adaptation – not only raises terminological questions, but also calls for an examination of the actual influence of these “foreign” prescriptions on local construction practices. An analysis of cultural transfers (or difficulties of transfer) in the realm of the building site might provide methodological indications on how to read these technical passages.

The first part of the conference deals with the analysis of technical descriptions, their rhetorical value, and their circulation and adaptation, and comprises focussed presentations of case studies from the three regions under consideration – Italy, France, and the Low Countries. The second part will try to approach the same problem in a larger, comparative perspective, and takes the form of round-table discussions structured around three main issues: the relationship between technical writings and building practices, the rhetorical and literary aspects of technical digressions, and the translation and adaptation of Italian treatises. 

Program

Thursday 26 february

Université de Namur, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres

Mathieu PIAVAUX (UNamur), Introduction 

  • Yves PAUWELS (Université François Rabelais, Tours) & Frédérique LEMERLE (CESR, Tours), L’apparition du traité technique au XVIe siècle en France et sa fortune au XVIIe siècle, de Jousse à Perrault 

Respondents: Jeroen GOUDEAU (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen), Hubertus GÜNTHER (Universität Zurich, LMU München) 

Friday 27 february

Brussels, Palais des Académies 

  • Pieter MARTENS (UCL), Introduction: Architectural treatises and building techniques between Italy, France and the Low Countries
  • Pier Nicola PAGLIARA (EPFL, Lausanne ; CISA Palladio, Vicenza), L’expérience constructive dans le De re aedificatoria de Leon Battista Alberti 
  • Francesco BENELLI (Columbia University, New York), Antonio da Sangallo the Younger from the study of Vitruvius to the practice of modern architecture
  • Hubertus GÜNTHER (Universität Zurich, LMU München), Philibert De L’Orme and the French tradition of vaulting 
  • Jeroen GOUDEAU (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen), Construction, materials, and the technique of transmission in the Dutch Republic 
  • Isabelle GILLES (Université de Liège), L’empreinte de la théorie architecturale française sur les usages de la langue à Liège au XVIIIe siècle 

Round tables: 

Caterina CARDAMONE (UCL), Introduction 

Krista DE JONGE (KU Leuven), Traités d’architecture venus d’Italie et techniques de construction des anciens Pays-Bas au XVIe siècle. Un dialogue difficile? 

1. The content of the technical passages and their relationship with construction practices/Le contenu des passages techniques et leur rapport avec les pratiques de chantier

Chair: Francesco BENELLI (Columbia University, NY)

Discussants: Patrick HOFFSUMMER (Université de Liège), Pier Nicola PAGLIARA (EPFL, Lausanne; CISA Palladio, Vicenza), Mathieu PIAVAUX (UNamur)

2. Rhetorical and literary aspects of technical passages in architectural treatises/Les aspects rhétoriques et littéraires des passages techniques dans les traités d’architecture

Chair: Maarten DELBEKE (Universiteit Gent, Universiteit Leiden)

Discussants: Isabelle GILLES (Université de Liège), Hubertus GÜNTHER (Universität Zurich, LMU München), Yves PAUWELS (Université François Rabelais, Tours)   

3. Translating the Italian treatise: terminological problems, adaptation to local practice/Traduire les traités italiens : problèmes terminologiques, adaptations à la pratique locale

Chair: Krista DE JONGE (KU Leuven)

Discussants: Philippe BRAGARD (UCL), Jeroen GOUDEAU (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen), Frédérique LEMERLE (CESR, Tours)          

Organisation: Université catholique de Louvain & Université de Namur 

Registration: Free, but registration is required. 

Programme, Abstracts, Registration Form:

http://gemca.fltr.ucl.ac.be/php/evenements/20150227.php

Places

  • Palais des Académies
    Brussels, Belgium
  • Université de Namur, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres
    Namur, Belgium

Date(s)

  • Thursday, February 26, 2015
  • Friday, February 27, 2015

Keywords

  • architecture, theory, construction history

Contact(s)

  • Caterina Cardamone
    courriel : caterina [dot] cardamone [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Pieter Martens
    courriel : pieter [dot] martens [at] vub [dot] be

To cite this announcement

« Building techniques in writings on architecture between Italy, France and the Low Countries », Colloquium, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, https://calenda.org/318345

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