Architectural Space in Ancient Greece by C.A. Doxiadis

Architectural Space in Ancient Greece by C.A. Doxiadis ; Translated and Edited by Jaqueline Tyrwhitt

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Cambridge, Ma. : MIT Press, 1972. Hardcover. 184 pages ; Illustrated ; 29 cm. $12.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Bookplate on front free endpaper. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.


Doxiadis is best known as an architect-planner, as a consultant with an international clientele, as something of a prophet whose outlook is focused on man's worldwide future. But here, in his first major study, originally published in German in 1937, Doxiadis looks back into the past, to the architectural roots of his native Greece.

The author works out a theory that accounts for the seemingly unordered layout of the buildings in ancient Greek sacred precincts, proposing that the spatial relationships between the buildings were strictly determined according to a plan. Vincent Scully has written that "Doxiadis' theory remains the most challenging one which has yet been advanced. What we may derive from it as most useful is its implication that the system of arrangement, if such in fact existed, was intended to appear to be no system at all ... and the eye was allowed to move beyond ... toward those landscape elements outside the temenos which were essential components in the meaning of the site as a whole."

Doxiadis examines in detail nearly thirty sites, charts their layouts, and presents relevant linear and angular measurements. He finds not only that the structures were built in very close relation to the landscape but also that their disposition with respect to one another was determined by a natural system of coordinates, or what we now call the polar coordinate system. In other words, man himself provided the basis for the organization of the space, and his ideal position in the layout was the point of origin of the system. The point of origin — there was at least one such point in every layout and often several — was usually the main entrance to the precinct. From this vantage point buildings were rhythmically spaced for maximum visibility in accordance with a mathematical system based on angles of vision and radial distances.

Doxiadis finds that the system took two forms. The twelve-part scheme, which is generally associated with Doric buildings, involves the angles of vision that are multiples of 30°; these sites always contain an open direction. The other, the ten-part scheme, is usually found in precincts in which buildings are of the Ionian order. Here the sight angles are multiples of 36°, and closed views, or the impression of closure, are common. The exceptions to these schemes are also noted.

Most of the sites investigated — among them Samos, Cos, Priene, the Acropolis in Athens, Delphi, and Olympia — date from the sixth through the second centuries B.C. Greek mathematical and philosophical thought of this period, ranging from the pre-Pythagoreans to the post-Socratics, is brought to bear on the question of the ideal embodiment of geometrical and numerical entities in architecture, including the golden section and geometric and arithmetic progressions.
Numerous site plans and about forty halftones complement the text. The full references include many recent sources. The trim size of the book itself is proportioned by means of the golden section.

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