The instiutionalization of the engineering and architectural professions – the role of advanced geometry.
Paper in proceedings, 2014

The development of the two professions Architecture and Engineering in our sense is a rather modern phenomenon. It is not until the late 18th and early 19th century that both professions develop and separate. One decisive force for this separation is geometry. The aim of this presentation is to look at the history of complex geometry in regard to this role. Starting with the rediscovery of advanced geometry during the Renaissance, i.a. by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), this presentation tries to point out, that the development of geometry from the 16th to the late 18th century was mainly carried out in the field of military engineering. The most important contributions were made by military engineers, such as Amédée-François Frézier (1682–1773), and derived from their practical work. The step from a applied stonecutting to abstract descriptive geometry was not archieved until the late 18th and early 19h century, in particular by Gaspard Monge (1746–1818) and the polytechnic education pioneered by him at the École Polytechnique. The École Polytechnique was founded after the revolution in 1794, as a republican school. Despite of different types of engineering – civil, industrial and military engineering – being taught there, all of them were based on a very thorough mathematical education, and in particular in the field of geometry. Mathematics and geometry were considered to be the basis of all design, construction and production. It should also be noted that up to 1795 descriptive geometry was considered a military secret and not taught in public. This innvoative and progressive approach in the engineering was in part undermined in parts by the teaching in architecture at the École Polytechnique. Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand (1760–1834), who taught from 1795–1835 at the École Polytechnique and became one of the most influential architectural theorists. He disregarded advanced mathematics and geometry and invented a universal orthographic grid and used rather economic and utilitarian arguments to rationalize the architectural design process. This polytechnic model of both engineering and architectural education spread throughout the world, thereby institutionalizing the two separate disciplines of architecture and engineering. And despite e.g. the interest of early modern architects in 19th century engineering structures or the comtemporary infatuation with advanced geometry, mathematics and geometry continue to be one of the main reasons for the separation of the two disciplines.

history of architecture

history of engineering

history of the engineering profession

history of the architectural profession



Atli Magnus Seelow

Chalmers, Architecture

2nd Symposium Nordic Society for Structures in Architecture

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

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Art History

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