Built by Numbers

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 15, 2010

This exhibition was on view at Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science last summer; it opens at the YCBA in February. The following description comes from the latter’s website:

Compass & Rule: Architecture as Mathematical Practice in England, 1500-1750
Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, 16 June — 6 September 2009
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 18 February — 30 May 2010

Catalogue edited by Anthony Gerbino and Stephen Johnston (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

The spread of Renaissance culture in England coincided with the birth of architecture as a profession. Identified as a branch of practical mathematics, architecture became the most artistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the arts. During this time, new concepts of design based on geometry changed how architects worked and what they built, as well as the intellectual status and social standing of their discipline.

Compass & Rule examines the role of mathematics in architectural design and building technology, highlighting the dramatic transformation of English architecture between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The exhibition brings together some of the finest architectural and scientific material from the early modern period, including drawings of St. Paul’s Cathedral, an astrolabe commissioned for Queen Elizabeth I, and architectural drawings by King George III. Also on view will be nearly one hundred drawings, paintings, printed books and manuscripts, maps, and other unique mathematical instruments that illustrate the changing role of both the architect and the profession 1500 to 1750.

An illustrated catalogue edited by exhibition curators Anthony Gerbino, architectural historian and Senior Research Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford, and Stephen Johnston, Assistant Keeper at the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford, will accompany the exhibition.

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