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Architects base their practice on many standards. But there is one shared by most that have been unshakable for millennia. During the height of the Ancient Roman civilization, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, otherwise known as Vitruvius, wrote his thoughts on architecture. This notable work is commonly known as ‘Vitruvius architecture’, which he had penned down in his Ten Books.

Modern architects gathered many important insights from Vitruvius ten books on architecture. And the one that has perhaps best stood the test of time is his three criteria for a piece of architecture. This is otherwise known as the Vitruvian Triad: Venustas, Utilitas, and Firmitas. Here, we’ll explore all three.

Vitruvius Architecture’s Firmitas

Firmitas (solidity/strength) is a building’s ability to remain durable after extended use and exposure to the natural elements. Over time, architects have been able to calculate with greater levels of exactitude the expected life spans of their buildings.

Certain materials have greater durability as well as the illusion of durabilities such as marble, concrete, and brick. One can also gauge the extent of Firmitas by examining the age of a building. If a building has lasted several decades without major renovations, it has proven itself to be a reliable and credible structure.

Builders, nowadays, build several larger projects that can last up to 500+ years. This further attests the importance of one of the three major claims of Vitruvius architecture.

Vitruvius Architecture’s Utilitas

Utilitas (usefulness) is a building’s ability to appropriately predict and respond to the needs of its intended inhabitants. Of course, you can gauge the importance of usefulness by witnessing all the program types buildings can acquire – hospital, school, house, office. Each of these programs requires a unique relationship to the site, as well as specifically sized rooms and conditions.

In 1896, Louis Sullivan interpreted the concept of usefulness in architecture with his famous statement, “Form follows function.” He wrote this while considering the near future of skyscrapers. He determined that tall buildings would have to pay special attention to daily use and function if they were going to be critical elements of the urban city.

Vitruvius Architecture’s Venustas

Venustas (beauty) is a building’s relationship to its context’s standard of aesthetics. This element can be made apparent in the use of an attractive building or flooring materials. Other aspects you can consider are — the level of craftsmanship and the attention to detail (how a wall meets a floor, for example, has been a serious concern for architects concerned with beauty).

Venustas used to be a requirement for the majority of newly constructed buildings prior to the 20th century. However, it became less of a focus on building design after that point. Some say this is due to the increase in mass production which requires easy-to-reproduce building elements. 

Others suggest that the general population grew too disinterested in architecture’s potential for beauty. This is because they were introduced to supplementary architectural elements such as elevators and air conditioners. Fortunately, some architects today still put Vitruvius Architecture’s Venustas at the center of their goals throughout the entire design process.

Read more: Your Five-Minute Architecture Education

Application of the Vitruvian Triad in Modern Architecture

It might seem weird that we could still apply these ancient principles of Roman architecture in modern times. However, we do see a lot of similarities between contemporary public buildings and old Roman buildings even today. Here is how the above three elements from that grand treatise on architecture are applicable even in the current era.

Firmitas

As we already mentioned, Firmitas means the need for structural integrity. A building has to be resilient and able to withstand the cumulative effects of environmental and time-related wear and tear.

So, how do we apply this concept in architecture software? It is called resiliency, scalability, and security. Architects use the technologies of load balancing, application distribution, fault-tolerant systems, and security design to build a structure that’s strong, firm, and durable.

Utilitas 

This is yet another important concept introduced by Roman architects in building designs. Every enclosed structure should serve the purpose of usage.

For example, when one designs a hospital, he or she curates a plan, complete with emergency exits and faster routes for doctors arrive promptly when an emergency arises. Again, you cannot apply this same principle while designing a prison. It cannot have any exit for easy escape.

In architecture software, designers address this principle by means of functional and non-functional requirements. This analysis ensures that any building is built to serve only a specific purpose.

Venustas 

Finally comes Venustus, which means that a building should be beautiful. Architects ensure this aspect by using premium, striking materials, excellent craftsmanship, and general aesthetics.

The same is applicable to modern software as well. The definition of beauty, of course, varies from project to project. But any design is considered excellent when it is well balanced, simple (when required), and secure.

Developers design UI which have very tangible measures of beauty. Some examples are consistent fonts, input elements, a well-executed flow for user interaction, or a striking, eye-catching layout.

Yes, it’s still a mystery that how the famous Vitruvian man laid the foundations of architecture such a long time ago. However, it’s still interesting to examine those ancient concepts apply to the modern world even today!

MORE: 8 Questions to Ask an Architect to Find the Best Match 

Vitruvius Architecture’s Golden Rules: The Vitruvian Triad was last modified: July 10th, 2019 by Shane Reiner-Roth
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