De Re Aedificatoria  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

De re aedificatoria is a classic architectural treatise written by Leon Battista Alberti between 1443 and 1452. Although largely dependent on Vitruvius' De architectura, it was the first theoretical book on the subject written in the Italian Renaissance and in 1485 became the first printed book on architecture. It was followed in 1486 with the first printed edition of Vitruvius.

Alberti’s Ten Books consciously echoes Vitruvius' writing, but he also adopts a critical attitude toward his predecessor. In his discussion, Alberti includes a wide variety of literary sources, including Plato and Aristotle, presenting concise version of sociology of architecture. Unlike Vitruvius's book, Alberti's tells architects how buildings should be built, not how they were built. De re aedificatoria is subdivided into ten books and includes:

  • Book One: Lineaments
  • Book Two: Materials
  • Book Three: Construction
  • Book Four: Public Works
  • Book Five: Works of Individuals
  • Book Six: Ornament
  • Book Seven: Ornament to Sacred Buildings
  • Book Eight: Ornament to Public Secular Buildings
  • Book Nine: Ornament to Private Buildings
  • Book Ten: Restoration of Buildings

In his survey of desirable floor plans for sacred buildings— "temples" in his phrase— Alberti begins with the ideal form of the circle, which is expressed in numerous examples of Nature. Nine ideal centrally-planned geometrical shapes are recommended for churches; besides the circle he lists the square, the hexagon, octagon, decagon and dodecagon, all derived from the circle, and, derived from the square, rectangles that exhibit the square and a half, square and a third and double square, all of which have enharmonic parallels in music. Chapels add small geometric figures to the basic circles and polygons to give a great variety of floor plans, in which each geometrical figure retains its clear unity and simple ratios that bind all elements of the plans and elevations into a harmonic unity.

De Re Aedificatoria remained the classic treatise on architecture from the 16th until the 18th century.


  • Alberti, Leon Battista. De re aedificatoria. On the art of building in ten books. (translated by Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988
  • Grafton, Anthony. Leon Battista Alberti: master builder of the Italian Renaissance. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000.
  • Wittkower, Rudolph. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (London: Tiranti) 1962; (New York: Random House) 1965. Part I.i "Alberti's Program of the Ideal Church"; , part ii "Alberti's Approach to Antiquity in Architecture"; part IV.iii "Alberti's 'Generation' of Ratios"

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "De Re Aedificatoria" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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