Architecture is inspired by the tectonics of the human body and how it helps in the discovery of the integral logic that may finally translate into the design, shape and structure of a building. Considered a peak of nature’s perfection? the human body is acquired by architects throughout the years as a tool of design. Designed and built, by and for the human body? architecture aspires to be a man-made form of perfection. What builds debate among these architects is “What Body”. Why in all retrospects of architecture has the diversity of the human body narrowed down to a specific gender and race i.e. a white male? Analyzing the views and arguments of architects like Le Corbusier, Vitruvius, and Lance Hosey has shown a wide difference in the perception of architecture in relation to the human body. Though this gender and race specific ideology has morphed into the principles of architecture over centuries, it has evoked despair with architects. Using architectural examples, I propose to analyze this ideology and compare as well as contrast the views and notions that accompany it. By providing the critical analyses of widely known theorists and architects, a true idea of what and how architecture is being described will be pronounced. Do the proportions of the Vitruvian man or the Modulor man truly define what architecture is meant to be or has it been designed to adhere to an architect’s preference?
The human body and Architecture
The human body as we know it plays an important role in the designing, building and producing of architecture. The human body has been contextualized by architects in different ways to elude from their own forms and decisions. What most architects in today’s world fail to provide is explanations and they also often fail to decipher the expressionism of architecture and form. Throughout the history of architecture, anthropomorphism has been criticized as well as conflicted upon. The notion of using the proportions of the human body as a tool for architects to design their forms was brought upon by Vitruvius, Le Corbusier and Lance Hosey. The human body was being used as a metaphor of sorts to finally compose into a symbolic object that would define architecture via measurements, proportions, and figures. Our way of analyzing elements of nature with man-made constructions is by using artifacts large or small, geometric or organic, aesthetic or functional. In our beliefs, the human body is beauty that pleases the eye and functionality that exceeds unimaginable limits. What excites the minds of designers is present in the classical orders of antiquity. The use of the white male as a subject of perfection, strength, and magnificence, such as a Doric column with the diameter 1/6th of its height. Similarly, the use of the female body as an example of beauty and slenderness, such as a Corinthian column with the diameter much smaller at 1/8th of its height. Often these columns are replaced with actual human figures which directly exemplify the human body in architecture.
Marcus Vitruvius the creator of the Vitruvius man, and the famed author of De Architectura, wrote about architecture, the human body and mechanisms. Architects throughout the history looked up to his knowledge in his books. His treatise was fragmented into ten separate books providing all the gen that he had to offer. In his third book, he brought out one of his greatest creations, the Vitruvian man. He described this perfection of a man using the design and construction of temples: