Abbe Marc-Antoine Laugier 1713-1769



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Abbe Marc-Antoine Laugier 1713-1769

  • Born January 22, 1713 in Manosque, Provence
  • Family of upper-class bourgeoisie
  • Studied at ages 14-17 at college at Avignon
  • to become a Jesuit priest, then on to Lyons, Province.
  • Participated in public education with the Jesuits
  • Developed interest in architecture and began
  • discovering buildings on his own.
  • Spoke publicly to the king and his consorts
  • regarding religious and political problems
  • Wrote the Essai. Easy for people to read and understand.
  • Became “l’Abbe Laugier” by appeal and worked on his own
  • Worked with embassy and devoted his time to writing
  • Wrote Essai sur l'architecture (1753) among others including: Observations sur l’architecture, Venetian history, Peace of Belgrade, Art criticism, History of troubadours, Commerce of the Levant, History of Malta, History of the Popes.
  • Died April 5, 1769 in Paris, France

The Enlightenment (The Age of Reason): 1680s to 1790s

  • International, intellectual movement likely beginning with the political, economical, moral and religious struggles in Britain and France.
  • Believed in reason (science and thinking), rather than faith or tradition: The Rationalist movement
  • The Enlightenment’s Creed: “Sapere aude!” (“Dare to know!)
    • Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another.” Immanuel Kant, 1784
  • Denis Diderot
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Jean-Jacques Rosseau
  • Voltaire
  • “…it is above all important to think.” -Laugier

Essay on Architecture

  • Chapter II: The Different Architectural Orders
    • Article I: What All Orders Have in Common
    • Article II: The Doric Order
    • Article III: The Ionic Order
    • Article IV: The Corinthian Order
    • Article V: The Different Kinds of Composite
    • Article VI: How to Enrich the Various Orders
    • Article VII: On Buildings without any Orders
  • Chapter III: Observations on the Art of Building
  • Chapter IV: On the Style in Which to Build Churches
  • Chapter V: On the Embellishment of Towns
    • Article I: On Entries of Towns
    • Article II: On the Layout of Streets
    • Article III: On the Decoration of Buildings
  • Chapter VI: On the Embellishment of Gardens

Chapter I: General Principles of Architecture

  • Founded on simple nature. Nature indicates its rules.
    • Example: The Primitive Hut
      • Tells story of primitive man seeking shelter and building out of necessity.
      • What this man built became the basis for all architecture
  • The Hut is made of the following architectural elements:
    • The column
    • The entablature
    • The pediment

Chapter I: General Principles of Architecture The Primitive Hut

  • Architecture was founded on simple nature.
  • Laugier wanted a "more rigorous" understanding of architecture and ornament: look for precedents for classical architecture at the absolute roots of history.
  • He searched for absolute beauty, which in his primitive hut came from nature.
    • Was rooted in functional or structural basis. (This theory was the basis of the so-called Rationalist movement.)
  • Little basis in archeology or fact, and tangental basis in historical text

The Primitive Hut

  • Like Vitruvius, Laugier places the origins of architectural forms in nature: the first dwelling was built in the forest, with branches and trees.
  • This differs from the previous theories of Vitruvius in one important aspect: the hut is an abstract concept as much as it is a material construction.
  • The Primitive Hut represents the first architectural idea.
  • Shows beginnings of an understanding of column, entablature, and pediments. Future architecture is based on these principles.
  • Article I: The Column
  • Columns must:
    • Be strictly perpendicular to the ground
    • Be free-standing, to be expressed in a natural way
    • Be round, because nature makes nothing square
    • Be tapered from bottom to top in imitation of plants in nature
    • Rest directly on the floor
  • The faults:
    • “Being engaged in the wall” is a fault because it detracts from the overall beauty and aesthetic nature of columns.
    • The use of pilasters should strictly be frowned upon especially since in nearly every case columns could be used instead.
    • Setting columns upon pedestals is “like adding a second set of legs beneath the first pair.”
  • Article II: The Entablature
  • The Entablature must:
  • The Faults:
    • Instead of a beam-like structure it becomes an arch
      • Against nature because:
        • require massive piers and imposts
        • They become pilasters
        • Force columns to give lateral support; columns are meant to give vertical support only.
    • Not straight, but broken with angles and projections
      • Why? “Never put anything into a building for which one cannot give a sound reason.” Nature is so, buildings should also be.
  • Article III: The Pediment
  • The Pediment must:
    • represent the gable of the roof
    • never be anywhere except across the width of a building.
    • be above the entablature
  • The faults:
    • To erect the pediment on the long side of a building.
    • To make non-triangular pediments
    • To pile pediments on top of each other

Chapter II: The Different Architectural Orders

  • The Doric Order (in columns):
    • Has the most beautiful base, but is difficult to use:
      • Doric columns can never be coupled successfully
      • Interior angles become difficult because of the bases and capitals must penetrate each other
  • The Ionic Order:
    • Almost faultless, lighter and more delicate than the Doric
      • The column suffers because nature dictates that the heaviest part must always be at the bottom, but the Ionic column is heavy at top
      • The base is ill-formed and could be eliminated
        • Offends against the true principles of nature
  • The Corinthian Order:
    • The greatest, most majestic order
      • Beautiful, harmonious composition
        • Architects should stop using anything by the acanthus leaf which “has by nature the contour and curves which suit the leaves of the Corinthian capital.”

Chapter III: Observations on the Art of Building (Laugier’s Commodity, Firmness and Delight)

  • Article I: On the Solidity of Buildings
    • Building must be solid for long life, much like the ancients did
    • Solidity depends on two things: Choice of material and its efficient use
  • Article II: On Convenience
    • The situation (site) must be considered to include views and ventilation
    • The planning (exterior and interior) must be suitable, comfortable, have good circulation, and always include a courtyard
    • The internal communications (servants halls, stairways, etc) must be located for quick access
  • Article III: On How to Observe Bienseance in Buildings
    • A building must be neither more nor less magnificent than is appropriate to its purpose
  • “Beauty of buildings depends on three things: accuracy of proportions, elegance of forms, and choice and distribution of ornaments.”


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