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OLD ARCHITECTURE IS NOT AS POSH AS YOU'D THINK

LETTERS

Loved Jonathan Foyle's piece about the early bits of the practice of architecture. A bit. Because, like those photographs of Stalin's politburo which were doctored every couple of years to cope with the fact that members had just been executed, so Foyle whites-out a really serious difficulty with Vitruvius' text. Right at the beginning of Chapter III it says: 'There are three departments of architecture: the art of building, the making of timepieces and the construction of machinery.' Hold on, 'the making of time-pieces'? 'The construction of machinery'? Surely some mistake by the antique author. But no.

The whole of Book IX of the 10 books is about astrology and astronomy, sundials and water clocks. Book X is all about constructing water screws, water organs, catapults and the like.

Why do architectural historians, who have all read this wide-ranging definition, always fail to mention the Vitruvian inclusion of tradesman-like functions in what they want the rest of us to perceive as a pretty posh profession?

Sutherland Lyall, via email

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