today’s L

Leon Sebastian Alberti’s on the Art of Building

Translated by Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, Robert Tavernor

The MIT Press

Seventh printing 1997


Book One : The Lineaments


I am not really sure how to make a good definition about the word lineaments, but from what i read, it has something to do with design process in your mind: where should it (a building) be located? On what kind of land (slope, flat, etc)? …things like doing SWOT Analysis… how big will it be? What shape should be applied? Where to put elements like walls, columns, openings and how is the roofing system? And so on.


As Alberti explained:

It is quite possible to project whole forms in the mind without any recourse to the material, by designating and determining a fixed orientation and conjuction for the various lines and angles. Since that is the case, let lineaments be the precise and correct outline, conceived in mind, made up of lines and angles, and perfected in the learned intellect and imagination. (p.7)


Then he structured this first book by explaining about locality, area, compartition, wall, roof, and opening.

Before summing them up, i wan to give my opinion about how he structured this first book. I think Alberti had done a clever way to present his writings in the same process as building the building itself. I mean, he began with constructing idea and then planning and after that constructing the building in the same process as on the field (begin with erecting walls and columns then put the roof on top of them and then turn to the openings problems). He has brought us (the readers) from macro view (locality) to the micro view (opening).  


Locality is basicly about site analysis. Air and water were the main considerations. I think that is because back in that time (and also based on his observation on ancient buildings) those two aspects were the most significant things that determined the quality of people’s lives.

While the locality is more general, area is more spesific site. It is no more merely about site analysis, but it is about all the things that is covered by the building. The consideration is more of the building’s function, whether it is public or private or sacred or profane. Then the consideration determined the locality, the size of the building, the lines and curves should be used, the arrangements of the plan…things like that.

Furthermore, Alberti discuss about wall and/or column’s system, roofing with rain and water flow as the consideration, and the last thing was the opening with air circulation, light, and human activities as the considerations.



Alberti explained the whole things with words only, without any illustration at all. I think it is quite confusing for some people who are not very familiar with those things he discussed about. However, considering the time he wrote this book, which was published sometime around 1450 AD, this book was projected more for humanist patrons as an architecture writings than for the architects as building manual.     


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