Memory Waka

Memory Connection Journal

Current Journal

Previous Journals


De Architectura as Architectural Time Capsule: On Inventing a New Classical Memory

Daniel M. Millette


It is well established that archaeologists, architectural historians, heritage planners, and design theorists are linked within a disciplinary gaze towards the architectural past. The link is one that is founded in the classical tradition that in turn is bounded by Vitruvius’ 10 books on architecture: De architectura. The treatise (a memory container for classical architecture), and its dozens of translations, transcriptions, and eventual transformations, form the topic of discussion for this article. I focus on how the same written script has become the memory container for classical architecture. I also explore the significance of De architectura as vessel of classical architectural knowledge extending from Antiquity to the present. Key to the discussion is the fact that versions of the treatise continue to be used as classical pattern books (or “proof” of accuracy) in understanding: the function of ruins in informing the reconstruction of monuments; the restoration of historically significant spaces; and the contextual intactness of their architectural embodiment. Through the use of an example, the article challenges the unquestioned use of De architectura as keeper of classical architectural memory.