Vitruvian Ideal Temples

by Drew Baker : 2006/7


In the 1st century CE, Roman writer, architect and engineer Vitruvius authored the treaties De Architectura (also known as The Ten Books of Architecture). Within its pages are contained specific formulae for building temples based on the guiding principles of firmitas, utilitas, venustas – strength, utility and beauty. Rediscovered in 1414 by Bracciolini, the work became a major influence on the architecture of the renaissance, baroque, neoclassical and beyond.

The forms described, and the methods by which they are constructed as outlined by Vitruvius, have fascinated architects, archaeologists and illustrators for centauries. This composition attempts to realise the Vitruvian principles though a digital medium, utilising VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) and JavaScript to allow the participant to pose the questions “what if?” and “can I?”. It also attempts to resolve some of Vitruvius’ omissions into more complete formulae thorough logical progression and self reference without studying real world exemplar. It is an interpretation of 1st century architectural aesthetics with 21st century technologies.

The composition, therefore, stands not only as a homage to Vitruvius’ writings and vision but also as a tool to allow the enquiring mind to explore the multitude of possibilities presented within his texts.


In addition to the standard functionality of the VRML browser the composition utilises an on-screen HUD (head up display). The HUD allows the participant to directly change the form of the temple in real-time within the rules set forth by Vitruvius.

Each of the active variable bars in the HUD (Temple, Stereobate, Column, Cella, Door and Entablature) can be expanded with a mouse click presenting the relevant settings that can be manipulated within the world. The variable bars and temple components are colour coded for ease of reference.

The “Display” variable bar allows the participant to change lighting schemes, switch between scenic and schematic views and to place a meter square grid within the environment.

Supported by:

Vitruvian Ideal Temples is part of The King’s Visualisation Lab “Making Spaces” project, funded buy the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Information Communication Technology in Arts and Humanities Research Programme.

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