History and Theories of the Built Environment
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History and Theories of the Built Environment


Relativism is a philosophical stand that all perspectives of view are equally valid and that all fact is in comparison to the individual. What this means is that all religious systems, moral truth, forms of art, political alignments and other aspects are truths relative to the individual. In light of relativism, entire groups of perspectives are put into categories (Perrault Claude). Claude Perrault came from a versatile, talented and close-knit family. His works were not only limited to architecture. He had a wealth of knowledge on areas such as medicine, zoology, plant and animal physiology, and mechanical engineering. Relativism is about a general trend or pattern that can be used to predict behaviours and physical appearances of the specimen under study. For example, traditional anatomists depended on ancient patterns in terms of predicting the physiology of different plants and animals.

The Parisian dissections were conducted over many years as specimens became more available, usually by the death of some animal at the menagerie. During this time, Perrault was certainly occupied with bigger problems of comparative anatomy, physiology and botany. He claimed having conceived, on his own, which he later expounded to the Academy, two theories, which, although subsequently shown to be erroneous, were in his lifetime, and for many years to come, highly influential. The theories concerned the circulation of sap in plants and the embryonic growth from preformed germs, which he thought are present in all body parts. He explained that his botanical theory was initially proposed to the Academy in January 1667; it was not, however, considered a circulatory theory.


As a product of a set of vast intellectual and cultural changes in Europe, the Enlightenment ran through the period between 1500s and 1600s, in which changes were experienced. The changes during the Enlightenment period swept through Europe, producing social values that were kept in place to the 1600s and 1700s. The scientific revolution was a major part of these changes. The flawed scientific beliefs that had existed since time immemorial and had been maintained by the church, were torn down by the new methods brought by the European thinkers. To get a replacement for the flawed knowledge, thinkers and scientists had to discover true rules and laws and convey them in order to govern the phenomenon that they observed naturally. The scientific development and revolutionary started during the Middle Ages, although it took centuries with the farmers, enhancing the new developments. In a span of time, the curiosity on the nature of the world had spread to many areas with more innovations taking place. The investigations were highly recommended by the church at that moment, since that meant that people were to get a better understanding of the worldview to the advantage of the church and its flock.

Claude Perrault, well known for engineering the building of Louvre palace’s Eastern Wing in Paris, excelled as an author, anatomist and physician, who also wrote much about the natural history and physics. He was born and raised in Paris, where he also died. Apart from his architectural influence, he translated ten books and journals of Vitruvius from Roman to French; they were works of architecture of Rome. As a natural philosopher and physician with a degree in medicine from the Paris University, he was the earliest members in the French Academy Sciences. The construction and completion of Louvre new wing saw him triumph over his rivals. It led to the establishment of Perrault’s Colonnade, which overlooked Qua Louvre and, thus, widely celebrated. His ground floor was quite simple; it was set off with the paired up Corinthian columns, the model strictly in line with Vitruvius. It had pavilions fitted at the ends, and it was against a shadowed void. The division of fa?ade into five parts brought in a typical French classism to the final touches on the Louvre. Perrault constructed an observatory of St. Benot-le-Betourne and contributed to designing of St-Genevieve and erection of the alter in Church of Little Fathers. All these works were in Paris. His greatest recognition in science saw him the appointed director of a team that performed dissections in various animals. In fact, his death was a result of contracting of a disease, while dissecting a camel. Adding to this, he made a significant contribution in acoustics. He studied the Oeuvres diverses de Physique the et de Mecanique book. In his other book, he considers subjects as the sound media, sources of the sound and sound receivers. In musical acoustics, he observed the relevance of vibration on the consonance and dissonance. His only study, called “De la Musique des Ancients” in the Oeuvres diverses, explained how combinations of various notes produce harmony. It also involves the critical examinations of old manuscripts on the European music.

Galileo and Kepler

The two astronomers, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo (1564-1642), made the stance by the church towards science change abruptly through their questioning of the ancient principles by Aristotle in conjunction to many other accepted truths by people. Kepler‘s planetary law in relation to the planetary movement brought the fact that planets were in the elliptical motion or orbits. Galileo did a lot of recommendable work in the inertia and physics field. They received a considerable criticism from the church for their support of the notion that a polish astronomer Copernicus Nicolaus, who previously had insisted that it is not the Sun, but the Earth that was the centre of the universe, propagated that and not the way the church maintained that the Earth was the centre.

Descartes and Bacon

Science came into the lime light amid the considerable opposition from the church in 1500s and the early years of 1600s. Francis Bacon’s inductive method, Baconian method, in science was an affirmation to Galileo’s early insistence on observation as a necessary element in relation to scientific methods. The inductive sciences stress reasoning and observation as the channels for reaching general conclusions. Rene Descartes (1561- 1626) proceeded with Bacon’s progress in science with his running of gamut to philosophy from mathematics with the ultimate combination of philosophy and mathematics. His combination of geometry and algebra revolutionized the two fields with conclusion. Through his deductive approach, using logic and mathematics to philosophy, he stressed a distinct and clear foundation for thought, which is the basis for solving problems.

Isaac Newton, an Englishman, who lived between 1642 and 1727, built upon the work of his predecessors to completely change the face of mathematics and science. His earlier works in mathematics led to the whole field of calculus. He also conducted physics experiments and mathematics to the extent of revealing a substantial number of natural laws that had already been termed as divine. In his work, Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), he brings on board a uniform force of gravity in conjunction to the establishment of three laws of motion that were of much relevance to the architectural process. A lot had to do with different theories that were developed by Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. The theory was relevant in relation to the architectural theories adopted by the architectures. They helped other people concerned with the built environment to understand the process.

During the period of scientific revolution, philosophy, physics, astronomy, mathematics and earth science experienced innovations with more significance on the scientific exploration methods, which were refined. Scientific revolution was highly significant to architectures. It helped them develop new techniques for their works. The scientific revolution process was much vital to the global architectures that relied on these inventions. The inventions led to the industrial growth that helped in improving the architecture in their developed process. Physics is related to architecture by the way, in which physicists study factors that are linked to the architectural process. Architectures get knowledge on how to improve their works. Many theories support the idea that the physics as a science has a considerable impact on the architectural process. There are studies carried out by physicists that are useful to architectures as they are able to carry on measurements with a high degree of accuracy. Physics helps them in determining the force that is required to be applied to different constructions that take place. Earth science is also relevant to architectures as they are able to analyze factors that affected the construction process. The earth science is helpful in analyzing different soil types that helped architectures in setting up their construction on the right soil types to avoid any defects that may arise up in later.

The interrelation between development of scientific revolution and the Enlightenment consists in the fact that the scientific revolution was an essential part of the Enlightenment. The process of enlightenment was helped by the scientific progress. A vivid example of this was the new theory by Copernicus that saw the old geocentric theory discarded, since it advocated that the Earth was the centre of the universe. This was replaced by the heliocentric theory, whereby the Earth was just one of the planets rotating around the Sun. Another breakthrough of the Scientific Revolution was made by Johannes Kepler in astronomy. He proved that planetary orbits were elliptical. Nevertheless, Kepler could not devise an effective solar system model.

In 1630 Galileo Galilei published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The scholar advocated the heliocentric theory devised by Copernicus, , and denied the geocentric or Aristotelian theory. Galileo used eloquent evidence which stemmed from physics study to support his statements.

In addition, the advancement made in the field of physics and mathematics were truly remarkable. Rene Descartes, one of the prominent scientists of that period, made an essential contribution to geometry, trigonometry, and algebra.

The primary concepts changing social mores marked the beginning of the Enlightenment Period was marked by emergence of the concepts of relativism, individualism, and rationalism. The doctrine of relativism was that truth, moral principles and knowledge only existed in relation to a cultural, social and historical setting, and thus could not be considered universal. Individualism gave special significance to the worth of an individual. Rationalism was a theory according to which one’s actions should be guided by reason rather than emotions or personal beliefs.

Perrault’s Works

Perrault contributed vastly towards the field of agriculture. Concerning how plants absorb water and mineral salts up the plant, he suggested that two fluids were at work. One, he reckoned, conveyed the nourishment, which had been absorbed from the air, using the branches and the tree trunks as the media of transportation, to the roots. The second medium was responsible for transporting minerals absorbed from the soil up the plant to the branches. These arguments, supported by numerous other experiments, were looked at and improved by the later scientists. One such scientist was Hales, who refuted the Perrault’s general hypothesis. More explained works of fellow scientists overshadowed the Perrault’s preformation theory, which was first stated in 1668. Later, in the 1680s, Perrault began publishing an all-embracing natural philosophy, which included all the earlier theories, in conjunction with other researches in anatomy, animal and plant physiology, and acoustics. Descartes, another renowned scholar, also contributed towards his work. By accepting that the atmosphere is an essential part of the air, Perrault claimed that the assumption allowed him to explain the elasticity and hardness phenomena. The two crucial ideas enabled him to explain almost any other thing from metallurgical phenomenon to the sounds that different musical instruments produced. He also suggested that the peristaltic motion accounted for action of arteries and muscle contraction. His longest essay was devoted to sound or noise. He explained sound simply as an agitation of the air. Sound occurs, when air particles are disturbed. The agitation only affects the ear. The ear has much to do with this process of evaluating this model. He rejected the idea of sound waves and explained instead that sound should be understood as a disturbance that occurs, when air particles are restricted in space.

Architectural Theories

The architectural theory is about thoughts, discussions and writings concerning architecture. Architectural theories are taught is schools of architecture and put into use by the some of the world’s best architects. Architecture theories take many forms, including dialogue, books and paper projects. Often didactic, architectural theorists prefer to stay close or perform their studies from the confines of schools. Architecture has existed since antiquity, and with publishing becoming more common, architectural theories became more and more profound. The theories are found in books, journal and magazines, and include unbelievable amounts of work from architects and critics alike. Consequently, styles and movements were formed and dissolved faster as compared to the relatively earlier modes. With the use of the Internet, it is projected that much more will be discussed in terms of architecture. The Internet is critical in explaining to other people the relevance of architecture in the society. A lot of research materials are available to the Internet users, attempting to explain how architectural theories developed and became significant.


Little information or evidence on the architectural theory as regards the field of antiquity is available. The only available information about antiquity is after the first century, where the works of Vitruvius shed some light on the existence of architecture. It is also essential to note that many works did not survive antiquity, with the burning of Alexandria library, depicting a relevant example. Being a writer, engineer and architect, Vitruvius was an active Roman in the first century. He was a prominent theorist in Rome, with such works as ‘The Ten Books of the Architecture’ and the Latin and Greek treatise on architecture, which being in dedication to the then Roman emperor, Augustus. Although the exact dates are unknown, with some people thinking that the works must have been between the 27 and the 23 BCE, antiquity remains the greatest source of classical architecture that has survived. It is categorized into ten major areas, and it covers nearly every aspect that concerns the Roman architecture from town plans, material, temples, decorations, water supplies and others. Here, the classical architectural orders are defined. It proposes the three main laws that Architecture has to obey, namely firmness, commodity and delight. Vitruvius’s works has profoundly influenced the Renaissance architects like Brunelleschi, Niccoli and Leon Battista.

Middle Ages

During the entire middle age period, the architectural knowledge was transmitted by transcriptions, verbal words and in lodges. Transcriptions were time consuming; therefore, there are only limited examples of architectural theories that were written down. Most works during this period were theological; most transcriptions were of the bible. The Abbort Suger document was a collection of architectural material that was used alongside the gothic architecture. The Villard de Honnecourt’s that included drawings of architecture works from the 1230s. In China, Li Jie wrote Yingzao Fashi, which was simply a collection of codified elements of the Chinese Architecture.


The most prominent architectural theory during this period was developed by Leon Battista Alberti. This work saw Vitruvius placed at centre of the modern age theoretical tradition. After Alberti, the Vitruvian triad validates an excellent architecture to define the purpose. The triad conserved all its validity through to the 19th century. A remarkable transition into the seventeenth century and finally to the Enlightenment phase was possible through the advancement in mathematics and optical studies of Girard Desargues, the celebrated geometer, whose studies emphasized on the projective and perspective geometry.


The Enlightenment age was marked with a considerable progress in the architectural theory across Europe. Recent discoveries in archaeology brought a new interest in the architecture and classical art. The term Neoclassicism, explained through the works of Prussian writer Johann Wilkelmann, was used to mean a new era in the architecture of the 18th century. The drawings inspired the modern building design. Some of the Enlightenment theorists include Julien-David Leroy, Giovanni Battista, James Stuart and Revett Nicholas. A strong foundation of Neoclassicism that was passed down from Marc-Antoine seminal Essay, gave the foundation that would later be followed and used by the modern day architects. He introduced the primitivism and return to Nature. Reactions against the dominance of the neo-classical architecture were first experienced during the 1820s. Augustus Pugin provided moral and theoretical bases for the Gothic architecture, with John Ruskin developing the ethos. An American artist, Greenough Horatio, through his publication The American Architecture, rejected the copying of old styles of building. Instead, he dedicated his time to teaching people the direct relationship that existed between architecture and decoration. Through these developments, the theories opened avenues for functionalism in architecture.

While the end of the century approached, there were many theoretical activities. In England, the Ruskin's theories saw the emergence of the exemplified arts by the writings of Morris William. This was to form the basis for art Nouveau in the UK. In the continental front, architectural theories led to the dedication towards innovations in architecture and the notion of style. The later generations were to use these models to achieve the architectural realism. However, the proponents of the architectural realism were some time treated with criticism, not of the architectural form, but criticism about aesthetics of the building. These criticisms were inspired by the medieval town planning. This was the 19th century urbanism. Although it was mainly a theoretical dispensation, the architectural impacts were immediate, since the two principles of planning and architecture were dependent on each other. It had a substantially high demand, so that in Germany alone, there appeared five editions between 1889 and 1992. Many translations were made available in major languages across the world. The French edition came out in 1902, the English edition in 1945. These translations were highly significant in ensuring that the architectural process was widespread to all nations in their different languages.

According to Sitte, it was not the architectural style that mattered, rather it was a quality of urban space that enclosed the building. The suggestions were not only limited to Sitte’s work. Later, in the 1970s, his work was studied by theorists and architects. In terms of urbanism and based on artistic notions, Louis Sullivan wrote about his famous saying "form ever follows function". The saying was later used as a functionalism doctrine. This was regarded to biology and the natural order. The notion of a new modern architecture attracted many proponents and theorists. The earliest use of the terminology modern architecture first occurred in print media in a book titled by Otto Wagner. He came up with self-owned examples by the use of art illustrations and didactic lessons to students. Different theorists advanced unique styles to help in enlightening people on the concept of architecture. Others used slogans as principles of the modern movement that later dominated the better half of the 20th century. Others gave the theoretical foundation for International style; the aim was to employ the industrialized architecture in reshaping the society. Different theorists expressed different views concerning architecture. They may not have been on the same page, yet, they all contributed in their own way towards the modern architecture. Some theorists, while rejecting the historic revivalism, were idiosyncratic in their theories, which were depicted in writing.


Contemporary architectural discourse theories are concerned more with the general cultural position and particular thoughts. In fact, that is why more time is spent in the universities, discussing the cultural and philosophical aspects of architecture. Studying buildings and the theories takes almost the same time considerations. The advanced research at postgraduate and doctoral levels emphasizes on topics of philosophy, alongside architectural humanities. They state that philosophy as a science has a lot to do with architectural humanities. In fact, there is a direct relationship between the two terms as they help one learn the relevance of each topic. The architectural process is connected to philosophy as architectures are enlightened on how to carry on their processes.

Some architectural theorists focus on philosophical themes discussions or engage in direct talks with philosophers, called phenomenologists. The theory entailed critique stemmed from post-structural studies. However, this pushed architecture towards the avant-gardism, overwhelmingly repeating the 19th-century artistic outlook. From 2000, this has materialized in architecture in a practical appreciation that a town is no longer a uniform entirety.


The built environment mainly refers to a collection of buildings, irrespective of styles or cultures. Architecture comes into play, when the built environment is mentioned. Architecture is both a process and a plan. Architectural works, in the form of buildings, are viewed as symbols of culture and artistic works. Generally, architecture comprises physical structures and buildings. It entails the science as well as the art. Architecture deals with general activities like planning, design and construction. The process requires a coordination and manipulation of material, technology, shadow and light. Architecture concludes the practical aspects and includes the cost estimation, schedule and building instructions. Thus, there is a direct relationship. By looking at the theories that attempt to trace the history of the built environment, one is in a position to building, and architecture has come a very long way, spanning into centuries. The relationship is complex and tied to each for ensuring that there is a proper knowledge of how the two come into the help with each other. The built environment depends a lot on the architecture. On the other hand, architecture is much dependent on the built environment by many ways as discussed above. Thus, the two go hand in hand with each other.


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