Victoria Meyers, principal at hanrahanMeyers, came to the University of Hartford to speak in our department lecture series on April 8, 2010. She mentioned Vitruvius in passing, relating that his first book was devoted to weather and solar geometry. She pointed out that as Vitruvius was the first architecture theorist, then the first treatise on architecture ever written notably deals with a building’s local climate. As Meyers’ work consistently takes advantage natural light, this is of great interest to her. What interests me is to probe the validity of Vitruvius as the ur theorist of built space.
Most Americans receive a Euro-centric education and generally do not stop to wonder if their beliefs hold true for other cultures, for other peoples, in other parts of the world. I once asked Peter Eisenman if his analytical drawing techniques would prove useful with Eastern architectural prototypes, and he replied yes, citing the Japanese ken as a geometric measure with fixed internal ratios, just like those of classical architecture. Had he actually considered the point before? When one speaks of the first of some thing, or the oldest, its important to consider the entire history of the world, not just Western history. China’s culture is far older than antiquity, with some scholars dating Chinese script to the Neolithic period. Isn’t it more rational, then, to assume that it is in the East where the earliest treatise on architecture can be found?