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Special Collection

Objects of Belief: Proportional Systems in the History of Architecture

Collection launched: 20 Jun 2014

Issue Editors Matthew A. Cohen and Maarten Delbeke

Prior to the advent of modern structural engineering, architects and builders considered proportional systems to be necessary tools for determining key dimensions of their works in terms of local units of measure. They also believed that proportional systems conferred upon their works a general condition of order that was integral to their notions of structural stability and beauty. As the conference devoted to this subject, held in Milan in 1951, evidenced, since the Middle Ages the phenomenon of proportional systems transformed and continued in various capacities as a complex framework of belief. On the sixtieth anniversary of that conference, in 2011 a conference at the University of Leiden looked anew at the history of proportional systems, and has in turn led to this special collection. The following papers explore proportional systems as design methods and modes of belief since Antiquity; current scholarly assumptions in light of the historiography of proportion; and the buildings themselves, using new tools and methods that increasingly replace preconception with precision.