Proportion of stone artifacts

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Many materials are present in Italy, such as the Alps, do not demonstrate the actual higher availability resources such as wood or stone, but documenting architectural influence derived from different types and construction techniques (from the Latin one in stone to the wooden Germanic).

Other examples can be seen in certain Italian islands: Pantelleria, where large amount of effusive rock this is at the basis of construction techniques developed by Arab culture, or in the Aeolian Islands where flat roof and irregular stone pillars linked by lime mortar are clearly Hellenic influence because remember the ancient temples. 

From always the stone buildings are a symbol of power and durability of a people. It is useful to mention the first stone architecture, Zoser at Saqqara, dating 2695 BC (Figure 1).The great pyramid intended the Pharaoh Zoser is located in the Centre of a large sacred enclosure composed of one wall remained intact in some areas south of the plant. The complex is composed of a series of mastabas, stacked on top of each other vertically. The pyramidal structure was probably built with the same limestone resulting from the quarry used for subsequent pyramids of Giza.

The ancient Egyptians considered the stone material as sacred and eternal that is why they built the pyramids for their Pharaohs as dwellings intended to last forever.

Unlike other techniques the stone requires a complete and precise control both extraction phase working phase and throughout the useful life of the artefact. Nowadays the regulations on the life cycle of materials (Life Cycle Assessment) impose that materials be available in locality close to the place where they will be processed and that their final phase of recovery or disposal is properly considered and managed as part of the construction cycle.

The building stone material provides an added difficulty compared to other types of materials more suited to the building industry: the control of proportions.

In the past the stone was use for the construction of artefacts used permanently by users, today the construction techniques are more refined to produce great public spaces as squares. (Figure 2).

It is here that comes into play the architect comes in that needs to succeed in the difficult task of managing proportions of material in relation to the context of use exploiting compositional schemes suggested by history and remembering that the architecture of the city you live walking, moving with public transport, travelling by car, while the architecture of the House you are living sitting at the table, on the sofa or sleeping in bed.

The control of proportion however has always been a goal of architects research since ancient times: the Cretans had already posed the problem to achieve a satisfactory degree of beauty through precise control of proportions during the construction of sanctuaries (30.36 cm module corresponding to one foot) for example the Central Court at Knossos measure 180 to 90 feet. (Figure 3)

According to Plato, born in Athens in 428 BC, all the visible structure of matter is based on the five regular solids that can be put in relation with the natural elements: the tetrahedron (fire), the cube (Earth), the octahedron (air), the dodecahedron (water) and the icosahedron represented the universe as a whole.

Another Greek mathematician Euclid, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt in 300 BC, discovered the golden ratio and declared: "one can say that a straight line is divided according to the proportion extreme and middle when the entire line is to the greater as the greater is the minor part".

The relationship often is present in nature and has been studied in various disciplines including music (like harmonic proportion), art and architecture. The spiral structure of the shell Nautilus pompilius has been deciphered and used by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the famous project of 1937 for the Guggenheim Museum in New York featuring by a upward motion in vertical expansion governed by the golden ratio. (Figure 4)

In the Roman period (first century BC) Vitruvius, in his written “De Architectura” stated:" the symmetry consist in the harmonic agreement of the parts of the work itself between them and in the correspondence between each part individually and overall configuration, calculated on the basis of a part for module". He also stated that the architect during the course of its activities must be in possession of three fundamental characteristics that must be explicit and intrinsic to the project and explained that he wants to achieve:

  • Utilitas (design and functional distribution functions);
  • Firmitas (structural static operation);
  • Venustas (beauty sense and proportion of the building with special attention to its location in the context).

Of course, according to Vitruvius, the architect has the ability to express a synaesthetic experience, i.e. through all senses.

Hero of Alexandria stated: "symmetrical are measurable quantities with a single measure". From this we can infer that the construction technique to which he referred was based on the use of the stone.

In the Renaissance, another important and renowned architect, Andrea Palladio, publish at Venice (1570) "I quattro libri dell'Architettura". He alludes to the relationship between architecture and human proportions considered the pinnacle of perfection attained by nature.

Le Corbusier (Charles Eduard Jeanneret) born in 1887 in the Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, represents the prototype of the modern architect of ' 900. He sees in the machine a perfect ally for architecture so as to define the "machines for living". He developed the Modulor, which are the reports of the Golden number reducing them to rational numbers applicable subsequently in architecture with the intent to create a standard that was at the same time harmonious and functional for daily living needs of his clients. (Figure 5)

Le Corbusier used his Modulor schemas in some projects as the building of government structures for the city of Chandigarh in India.