The successive actualizations of Vitruvius’s triad

Since its re-discovery during the Carolingian renaissance, Vitruvius’s “De Architectura” has been successively reedited and translated, each time adapting its focus and scope to the zeitgeist of different historical contexts, but keeping its intention in the transmission of the Hellenistic view of the world in that originated it. While keeping this intentional framework, Vitruvius’s notions were either expanded, transformed into collections of examples, typology manuals or abstract guidelines that always embraced the specific cultural, sociological and technological needs of their times.

Thus, the synthetic Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas exemplifies very well how the structure of Greco-roman and Hellenistic thought has indelibly permeated western culture at all scales, and how its Platonic conceptual framework was considered, at least up until the Enlightenment, as a superior instance of civilization.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that western thought has such strong classical roots means that we are still working within the framework of the last complete set of actualizations of Vitruvius’s criteria produced during the Enlightenment, which was simultaneously the last historical manifestation of renewed interest in classical culture and the starting point of Classical modernity.

Le Corbusier. Muslim Modulor, 1955