Vitruvius and “form and function”
In today’s revisionist history thought experiment: Vitruvius prefigures the “form versus function” debate.
My writing session this morning focused on massaging some introductory paragraphs to the “form and function” section of the manuscript. Vitruvius’ triad (strength, utility, and beauty) holds within itself the timeless debate between form and function. An idea clicked for me this morning: if you assume that strength (firmness) is nonnegotiable, then you encounter this dilemma between utility and beauty, roughly mapping over the concept of form and function. I am not trying to say that “form and function” was exactly what was in Vitruvius' mind when he defined utility and beauty, but it is fascinating how this debate in architecture has a kind of prototypical prefiguring in Vitruvius' classic work from antiquity.
Given that Vitruvius took his inspiration from nature — referencing such things as birds nests —he would appear to have put more stock in the admittedly subjective question of beauty than does the average starling.