Advertisement

Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 119–134 | Cite as

Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on Gottfried Semper

  • Ute Poerschke
Research
  • 777 Downloads

Abstract

In a lecture of 1853, the architect and architectural theorist Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) explained a work of art as a mathematical function. The lecture was published for the first time in 1884 and the equation for the work of art was presented there as YF(x, y, z , etc.). Since then, several widely differing manuscripts, translations, and interpretations have appeared. The following essay describes Semper’s equation, the variations and explanations he gave in his writings, and the interpretations by others that have followed up to the present. It discusses Semper’s attempts to connect architecture with infinitesimal calculus, his mathematical background, and his desire to give architecture a scientific foundation through methods of systematic comparison and classification.

Keywords

Gottfried Semper functionalism nineteenth century algorithms calculus differential equations infinity 

References

  1. Bernoulli, Johann. 1914. Die erste Integralrechnung: eine Auswahl aus Johann Bernoullis mathematischen Vorlesungen über die Methode der Integrale und anderes. Gerhard Kowalewski, ed. and trans. Leipzig: Engelmann.Google Scholar
  2. Börsch-supan Eva. et al (1976) Gottfried Semper und die Mitte des 19.Jahrhunderts. Birkhäuser, BaselGoogle Scholar
  3. Cuvier Georges. (1818) Essay on the Theory of Earth Robert Jameson, trans. Kirk & Mercein, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Euler Leonhard. (1988) Introduction to Analysis of the Infinite. John D. Blanton, trans. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Euler Leonhard. (2000) Foundations of Differential Calculus. John D. Blanton, trans. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Frege, Gottlob. (1891) 1980. Funktion und Begriff. Eng. trans: Function and Concept. Peter Geach and Max Black, trans. Pp. 21–41 in Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, 3rd ed., Peter Geach and Max Black, eds. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Hauser, Andreas. 1985. Der ‘Cuvier der Kunstwissenschaft’: Klassifizierungsprobleme in Gottfried Sempers ‘Vergleichender Baulehre.’ Pp. 97–114 in Grenzbereiche der Architektur, Thomas Bolt, ed. Basel: Birkhäuser.Google Scholar
  8. Herrmann, Wolfgang. 1976. Semper und Eduard Vieweg. Pp. 199–237 in Eva Börsch-Supan, et al., Gottfried Semper und die Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Basel: Birkhäuser.Google Scholar
  9. Herrmann Wolfgang. (1978) Gottfried Semper im Exil. Birkhäuser, BaselGoogle Scholar
  10. Herrmann Wolfgang. (1981) Gottfried Semper: Theoretischer Nachlass an der ETH Zürich; Katalog und Kommentare. Birkhäuser, BaselGoogle Scholar
  11. Herrmann Wolfgang. (1984) Gottfried Semper: In Search of Architecture. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  12. Herrmann, Wolfgang. 1990. Sempers Weg von der Mathematik zur vergleichenden Baulehre. Pp. 73–81 in Bildfälle: Die Moderne im Zwielicht, Beat Wyss, ed. Zurich: Artemis.Google Scholar
  13. Hvattum Mari. (2001) Gottfried Semper: Between Poetics and Practical Aesthetics. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 64: 537–46Google Scholar
  14. Hvattum Mari. (2004) Gottfried Semper and the Problem of Historicism. Cambridge Univ. Press., Cambridge, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jahnke Hans Niels. (1999) Geschichte der Analysis. Spektrum, HeidelbergzbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Laudel Heidrun. (1991) Gottfried Semper: Architektur und Stil. Dresden, Verlag der KunstGoogle Scholar
  17. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. 1989. Philosophical Papers and Letters, 2nd ed. Leroy E. Loemker, ed. and trans. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  18. Mallgrave Harry Francis. (1996) Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  19. Mallgrave, Harry Francis, Joseph Rykwert, and Gottfried Semper. 1983. London Lecture of November 11, 1853. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 6: 5–31.Google Scholar
  20. Semper, Gottfried. (1834) 1991. Dresdner Antrittsvorlesung 1834. Pp. 221–34 in Heidrun Laudel, Gottfried Semper: Architektur und Stil. Dresden: Verlag der Kunst.Google Scholar
  21. Semper, Gottfried. (1851) 1989. Die vier Elemente der Baukunst. Eng. trans: The Four Elements of Architecture. Pp. 74–129 in Gottfried Semper, The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings. Harry Francis Mallgrave and Wolfgang Herrmann, trans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Semper, Gottfried. (1852) 1989. Wissenschaft, Industrie und Kunst: Vorschläge zur Anregung nationalen Kunstgefühles. Eng. trans: Science, Industry, and Art. Pp. 130-167 in Gottfried Semper, The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings, Harry Francis Mallgrave and Wolfgang Herrmann, trans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Semper, Gottfried. (1855) 1984. Theorie des Formell-Schönen. Eng. trans: The Attributes of Formal Beauty. Pp. 219–244 in Gottfried Semper, In Search of Architecture. Wolfgang Hermann, ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Semper, Gottfried. 1859. Ueber die bleiernen Schleudergeschosse der Alten und über zweckmässige Gestaltung der Wurfkörper im Allgemeinen: Ein Versuch die dynamische Entstehung gewisser Formen in der Natur und in der Kunst nachzuweisen. Frankfurt: Verlag für Kunst und Wissenschaft.Google Scholar
  25. Semper, Gottfried. (1860) 2004. Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischen Künsten; oder, Praktische Aesthetik; Ein Handbuch für Techniker, Künstler und Kunstfreunde Vol. 1: Textile Kunst. Eng. trans: Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts; or, Practical Aesthetics. Harry Francis Mallgrave and Michael Robinson, trans., Harry Francis Mallgrave, ed. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.Google Scholar
  26. Semper, Gottfried. (1869) 1989. Ueber Baustile. Eng. trans: On Architectural Styles. Pp. 264–284 in Gottfried Semper, The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings. Harry Francis Mallgrave and Wolfgang Herrmann, trans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Semper, Gottfried. (1884) 1979. Kleine Schriften. Ed. Hans and Manfred Semper. Mittenwald, Mäander.Google Scholar
  28. Semper, Gottfried. 1966. Wissenschaft, Industrie und Kunst und andere Schriften über Architektur, Kunsthandwerk und Kunstunterricht. Hans M. Wingler, ed. Berlin: Kupferberg.Google Scholar
  29. Semper, Gottfri (eds) (1989) The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings. Harry Francis Mallgrave and Wolfgang Herrmann, trans. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Stockmeyer Ernst. (1939) Gottfried Sempers Kunsttheorie. Rascher, ZurichGoogle Scholar
  31. Wussing Hans. (2008) 6000 Jahre Mathematik: Eine kulturgeschichtliche Zeitreise , 2 vols. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations