The existence of relatively stable principles in architecture is contested today by a certain number of architectural historians. In fact historical diversity (the Greek temple, the Gothic cathedral, the chapel of Ronchamp …) and contemporary plurality (the houses of Mario Botta, of Siza or of Moore …) sustain the argument.
I am not a historian and I therefore have neither the same obligations nor the same objectives. Teaching in the field of architecture, I do not first of all look for the obvious or subtle differences, but the underlying or structural consistencies.I look at them, I compare them, and in order to teach I learn from them what they have in common and what is relatively stable.
The history of theories of architecture since Vitruvius (80 BC) is characterized by the search for universal principles likely to remain valid without reference to their position in history. It is a tricky undertaking. Alberto Perez-Gomez says, on the subject of notes by Memmo on the teaching of Lodoli in the eighteenth century, who was seeking precisely an aesthetic norm independent of history.
Before the Middle Ages and again from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, theories of architectural aesthetics used Greek Antiquity as a standard with which any new design was to be compared. These treatises have three obsessions: the taxis or geometrical order of grid and tripartition to organize the position of architectural elements and their spacing; the genera or code for sets of elements such as Doric, Ionic, Corinthian …; the symmetry or rhythm and proportions which regulate the relationship of parts to the whole.
Where can we find the sources of truth, whether it be a form or systems of proportion? Vitruvius justifies the form of Greek columns and their capitals in terms relative to human stature (Chapter 4). We are more inclined to share our faith in man with Zanotti who was already saying, in 1750, that if architecture was really to imitate something, it should preferably imitate God, rather than his works.8 That is to say that in the matter of architecture, humanity holds sway for better or worse. It is responsible.
Architectural theorists have always tried to make their statements and the results of their research and thinking last beyond the period in which they have been formulated. To a certain extent they have succeeded, because the study of ancient treatises on architecture still provides one of the founts of wisdom which sustains our own thinking and actions, either because their propositions shape and confirm our own vague impressions, or because they force us to refute them with sound reasoning.
Our purpose is not to carry out an analysis of these treatises; we shall be content to recall one or two particular aspects relating to the premises of this book, notably the balance between art and science.
Vitruvius strove to place architecture on the level of a ‘science’ which integrates the art of building, functionality and aesthetics. The value of the models of Antiquity is postulated. He gives a ‘Darwinian’ explanation of the form of the Greek temple which would have had a wooden structure as its origin. The objective of his theoretical proposition is the establishment of architecture among arts and sciences.
For Vitruvius, and later the Renaissance theorists (Alberti, Filarete, Martini, Serlio … Palladio), the works of Antiquity are the primary reference, not so much as fragments of history but rather as models to be reinterpreted. The ten volumes of Alberti, however, outstrip Vitruvius in terms of clarity and range of subject matter. He devotes considerable space to the layout of sites of towns. If the term ‘science’ is used in this treatise, its nature remains more that of a great master who offers advice and who shares his concerns and experiences: the scientific rigour of Galileo, Descartes and Newton will come later. For Alberti, theory is the objectivizing explanation of a practice based on common sense and experience, ‘the science of knowhow’. It is the same in the four books of Palladio who illustrates his treatise with his own schemes refined for the purpose. The studies of proportions in music and architecture constitute perhaps the most objective aspect of these treatises.
The birth of Cartesian rationalism and exact sciences in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries could not be ignored by architectural theorists. François Blondel said genius alone will not make an architect. He must through study, application, long practice and experience acquire a perfect knowledge of the rules of his art and of proportions and the skill to choose between them.
This quotation sums up well the dilemma of architectural theory in the Age of Enlightenment. ‘The genius’, the artist, is not in question; ‘the rules’ are an allusion to stable principles, especially proportions, which one would obtain from the study of the most beautiful buildings. ‘Science’ refers to the understanding and the orderly organization of rules and their judicious application. The ambiguity comes from the fact that the different rules and ‘eternal’ laws expounded by Blondel and others do not have the same scientific value. The relation between the integers for a certain musical harmony are not to be questioned; the same does not apply in their transposition to architectural proportions. It is in fact difficult to distinguish between conventions of beauty established empirically, and laws which subsist when these conventions are discarded, as is the case in the twentieth century.
In this difficulty in describing the world of architecture in terms of eternal laws such as those in physics or biology, we discover an area where there are indications of a shift towards sensory or artistic discretion, which characterizes certain tendencies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. ‘Discretion’ is not used here with a negative connotation, but to denote a difference between judgement and scientific analysis. The idea of progress is again challenged by the separation of the arts and science. Charles Perrault suggests that the arts develop and perish, that there is no continuous progress, whereas the sciences progress.
Attempts to bring science and art closer together assumed a particular form in the nineteenth century. The treatises from Durand (1802) to Guadet (1903) reflect the academic rationalism of Beaux-Arts, an authority during this period in the Western world. For Durand, beauty is reached by uniting economy and simplicity. To this end, he drew up a catalogue of models which corresponded to his interpretation of this assumption.13 One of the aims was to make architecture ‘teachable’. Durand said that architecture is both a science and an art, but by art he meant the faculty of applying knowledge.
Guadet said, one hundred years later: ‘Science has its axioms, art has its principles. Of all the arts, architecure has the most rigorous principles … But the principles do not manifest themselves in the same way as the axioms .. .’. By princi- ples he no longer means just the order or genera, but knowledge of the elements of architecture (walls, doors, windows, staircases, roofs …) and elements of composition which are acquired by analogy with the most beautiful models of history. The weakness of such teaching by analogy lies in the tendency to perpetuate the same models instead of a more profound understanding of the essence which they embody.
十九世纪， 森佩尔 Gottfried Semper 和 维奥莱·勒·迪克 Viollet-le-duc 等理论家已经动摇了美术的权威。它们预示着“原则”的衰落和通过工程师的艺术中介的精确科学的到来，这将危及传统的建筑规范，并为技术和形式的变化开辟道路，“剥夺了艺术的选择”。 维奥莱·勒·迪克 从两个不同的方面来看待建筑:(1)理论，它处理的是永久的和始终有效的东西，特别是艺术的规则和静力学的法则;(2)实践，它试图使这些永恒的法则适应时间和空间的变化条件。
The authority of the Beaux-Arts was already shaken in the nineteenth century by theorists such as Gottfried Semper and Viollet-le- Duc. They presaged the decline of the ‘principles’ and the arrival, in force, of the exact sciences through the intermediary of the art of the engineer, which would compromise the conventional codes of architecture and open the way for change in techniques and forms ‘stripped of artistic choice’. Viollet-le-Duc sees architecture from two different aspects: (1) Theory, which deals with that which is permanent and always valid, notably the rules of art and the laws of statics; and (2) Practice, which seeks to adapt these eternal laws to the variable conditions of time and space.
This return to reason paves the way for the reversal of the supremacy of the codified academic architecture of the Beaux-Arts and the birth of those formal inventions which, at the beginning of the twentieth century, were to make a decisive break with historical references in order to find their own revolutionary and authentic path forward.
The programmes and manifestoes of the beginning of this century are particularly eloquent. ‘The aesthetics of the engineer, architecture, two interdependent consecutive things, one in full bloom, the other in painful decline’ said Le Corbusier in 1920. Even if the Bauchaus then gave first place to arts and crafts, the principles of this art have nevertheless fundamentally changed and the sciences have made their honourable entry into the teaching of architecture.
The last quarter of our century has led to a threshold of considerable change in scientific thought. First of all we have witnessed an important development, not only in exact sciences, but also in social sciences, notably in psychology, sociology and history. These form a precarious bridge between the certainties of exact sciences and the approximations of art. Precarious, because for about twenty years the most informed scientists have been questioning the relationship between science and reality as experienced. Phenomenological approaches are multiplying and metaphysics is gradually regaining ground.
Alberto Perez-Gormez在《建筑与现代科学的危机》中指出: 真理——可以通过科学法则证明——构成了人类在“现实”之上做出决定的基本基础，而“现实”总是模棱两可的，只有通过“诗学”的领域才能理解。今天，任何学科的理论通常都被认为是方法论;它已成为一套与技术价值有关的专门规定规则，即以过程而非最终目标，以最小努力寻求最大效率的过程。一旦生命本身开始被视为一种过程，无论是生物学的还是目的论的，理论就能够不顾伦理上的考虑而更倾向于适用性。现代理论以19世纪早期的物理数学模型为基础，并带有乌托邦式的理想，认为人类最关键的问题是不合理的，超出了物质世界的改造和控制。
Malraux said: ‘The twenty-first century will either be religious or it will not be’.
Alberto Perez-Gormez points out: in Architecture and the crisis of modern science: Truth-demonstrable through the laws of science – constitutes the fundamental basis upon which human decisions are made over and above ‘reality’, which is always ambiguous and accessible only through the realm of ‘poetics’. Today, theory in any discipline is generally identified with methodology; it has become a specialized set of prescriptive rules concerned with technological values, that is, with process rather than ultimate objectives, a process that seeks maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Once life itself began to be regarded as process, whether biological or teleological, theory was able to disregard ethical considerations in favor of applicability. Modern theory, leaning on the early nineteenth century model of the physico- mathematical sciences with their Utopian ideals, has designated the most crucial human problems illegitimate, beyond the transformation and control of the material world.
This quotation suggests some of the motivations for May 1968, a reflection of our ambiguous relationship with technological progress stemming from science. It contains a justified criticism which must nevertheless be accepted cautiously. If it is true that great human decisions are no longer taken by consulting a clairvoyant or the oracle at Delphi, it is also true that these decisions are not taken ‘scientifically’. We use science to obtain a better appreciation of that part of reality that we want to grasp; for the actual decisions we refer to our value systems. Our ethics override objective facts more often than we like to admit. Ethics and myth aid and abet each other. Myth, while bringing us closer to life, spreads confusion over what were certainties, but when myth does not leave space for doubt and itself becomes certainty, it might become terrifying.
尽管外表如此，20世纪的先驱们的建筑从来不是“科学的”，即使是像汉斯·迈耶这样的理性和科学方法的坚定信徒。他们中的一些人，在开始用一种纯粹的逻辑或数学的方式来处理形式法则之后，逐渐滑向一种对非理性的控制。年轻的建筑理论家克里斯托弗·亚历山大并没有失去数学天才，他在1964年说，他的最终梦想是成功地用数学捕捉玫瑰的美丽和复杂。他在20年后出版的《形式综合笔记》一书反映了他对绝对但模式语言的探索。同样， 勒柯布西耶在1910年之后的几年里对工程师艺术的迷恋 ，在1957年的成熟作品图雷特修道院中也所向无几。
Despite appearances, the architecture of the pioneers of this century has never been ‘scientific’, even in the case of the almost unwavering believers in a rational and scientific approach, such as Hanes Meyer (see his competition plan for the SDN in 1929). Some of them, after starting to tackle the laws of form in a purely logical or mathematical manner, slid progressively towards a rein- statement of the irrational. The young architectural theorist Christopher Alexander, who was not deprived of mathematical genius, said in 1964 that his ultimate dream was to succeed in capturing mathematically the beauty and complexity of a rose. His book Notes on the Synthesis of Form’ reflects this search for the absolute, but Pattern Language’, published about twenty years later, grasped techniques, myths and realities in a mixture of positivism and phenomenology. In the same way, there remains little of the fascination that Le Corbusier had in the years following 1910 for the art of the engineer in his mature work of 1957, the convent of La Tourette.