Architecture, City and Mathematics: The Lost Connection

Document Type : Special Issue: AIMC 51


Department of Architectural Fundamentals, Theory and Arts, Faculty of Architecture, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Vilnius LT-1132, Traku st. 1, Lithuania


The connection between architecture and science and sound based on mathematical relations has continued to develop[ since the rise of the Western classical civilization that originated in Ancient Greece. The mysterious Pythagorean cosmology pursued as secret esoteric knowledge was related to the search of rhythm, proportionality and harmony. Even somewhat earlier, Greek mysteries were based on a concord of music and form. This line of reasoning can be raced as early as when the doctrines of Orphism emerged in early Greece to be followed by the concepts of Pythagoras and his followers and eventually the philosophical school of Neo-Platonists. Early medieval thinkers like St. Aurelius Augustine and Boethius revived and continued this ancient tradition; they sustained and developed further the ideas of dependence between architecture and music (as well as mathematics). Their ideas were further elaborated by later Christian thinkers. Architectural principles practiced by architects belonging to the Western tradition were passed further on. The Pythagorean tradition was still alive during the Renaissance and even baroque. This tradition was gradually marginalized and forgotten with the rise of scientific mentality developed in post-Renaissance era. However, the roots of the application of mathematics and geometry to the design of urban settlements have survived. Such principles can be still observed while studying the early patterns of western as well as non-Western civilizations, and thus one can speak about the universal mathematical geometric character of early urban design.


Main Subjects

[1] L. B. Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books, Translated by J. Rykwert, N. Leach and R. Tavernor, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997.
[2] U. Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, Translated by H. Bredin, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1986.
[3] G. L. Hersey, Architecture and Geometry in the Age of Baroque, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000.
[4] L. Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects, New York, Harcourt, 1961.
[5] J. Rykwert, The Idea of a Town: The Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy and the Ancient World (Faber Finds), Faber and Faber, London, 2010.
[6] N. Salingaros, Architecture, patterns and mathematics, Nexus Netw. J. 1 (1-2) (1999) 75 - 86.
[7] A. Samalavicius, Ideas and Structures: Essays in Architectural History, Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications/An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011, 130 p.
[8] K. Williams and M. J. Ostwald, Architecture and Mathematics from Antiquity to the Future, Volume I: Antiquity to the 1500s, Birkhäuser Basel, 2015.
[9] R. Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, London, 1973.