There is a saying among the public that old ones never gets old. It preserves its youth as time passes. Today, in an age where 5 minutes of fame are experienced has become a commodity that can be purchased on platforms such as tweeter, and star architects are turning heads on architectural platforms, Vitruvius, the author of the first known architectural writing exactly 2000 years ago, has become more and more popular as the ages pass with his work called '10 Books on Architecture'. He have become increasingly famous by increasing his followers. One of the most interesting parts of Vitruvius`s book is undoubtedly the 'Vitruvian man', which stands out with Da Vinci's drawing. Le Corbusier, the father of modern architecture, perhaps expressed the Modulor which is the human body that he used to express his ideas, with a not-imitated inspiration from Vitruvius 2000 years ago.
Vitruvian man - Le Corbusier's Modulor
At the beginning of Chapter 1 of Book 3, Vitruvius talks about ratio and proportion in temples and the human body. He states that the temple design is based on gaze, and that gaze stems from proportion, and explains that there should be a clear relationship between these proportions, as in a physically fit man. After explaining the ratio relations of the face, hand, etc. with other units of the body, he mention that between the elements of the temple and the general dimensions of the whole. He says that there must be conformity and describes the scheme known as the Vitruvian man with the following expressions:
“The center point of the human body is naturally the navel. Because, when a man lies on his back with his hands and feet open, the tips of his fingers and toes will touch the circumference of the circle drawn by a compass placed on his navel. Just as a circular shape can be obtained from the human body, a square shape can also be obtained. Because, if we measure the distance of the sole of the foot from the top of the head and apply this measurement to the arms opening to the side, it will be seen that the width is equal to the length, just like on perfectly square surfaces.”
Here, Vitruvius transforms the human body into a geometric scheme that includes a circle and a square, and states that the measurements between the proportional parts of this scheme should be used to make a building look most beautiful. The emergence of the Vitruvian man and its purpose of use is to achieve a ratio that will result in beauty in buildings.
He explains that in the periods before him, the rule of a strict symmetry in the arrangement of various elements in perfect buildings was valid and this was achieved by using the proportions of the human body.
Le Corbusier, on the other hand, used the human body as a tool to discipline the construction site and to enable a building to build itself. Modulor is the framing of the body. The geometric shapes used are the steps of this framing, the result of which is known from the beginning. The proportional grid he created in order to discipline the application on the construction site before Modular has become symbolic with the Modulor body. Every measurement engraved on buildings with Modulor serves the construction of the building.
Modulor is a total program. It corresponds to such a broad program that it will dominate the built environment, expel the accidental, and create certainty. It seems to go the opposite of medical measurement: First, it takes an x-ray, then it tries to fix the body in its appearance on that x-ray. Le Corbusier explain his idea with these statements:
“My dream is to introduce a norm, a 'grid of proportions', which will one day be spread throughout the country on construction sites, drawn on the wall or made of iron strip, which will serve as a measure for the endless series of different combinations and proportions throughout the project; the mason, carpenter and joiner will resort to whenever they choose a measurement according to their work; And everything they do, no matter how different and diverse they are, will be united in harmony. This is my dream.”
While Vitruvius tried to capture beauty with his Vitruvian man, Le Corbusier aimed to facilitate production in his Modulor. While Vitruvius' method was to create a concept of beauty that would allow different designs, Corbusier's approach is functional rather than an aesthetic concern like Vitruvius. The aim is to make the structure easier by bringing standards to production. When he started out, Le Corbusier first introduced the proportional grid system and adapted it to the 'Body Without Organs'. Vitruvius, on the other hand, starts from a point that is directly based on human proportions.
Architects with different design approaches such as Zaha Hadid, Richard Meier, Tadao Ando, Calatrava etc. can find a place in the framework drawn by Vitruvius, but the framework drawn by Corbusier does not allows design approaches that will bring different breaths in architecture, as it is easy to produce by selecting a unit and proportioning other building elements according to this unit.
Ronchamp Chapel by Corbusier
Marseille Blocks by Corbusier
Corbusier would not be able to use his Modulor, which would work in a standard residential block in Marseille blocks, in the Ronchamp chapel, a poetic place he created with the reflection of inner feelings. In the handling of the human body by these two architects, who are approximately 2000 years apart, Vitruvius is a place in which every architect after him can find a place. While Corbusier's Modulor is a scene without poetry, it is a scene containing Fordism, which was formed in parallel with other technical developments of the age in which he lived.