Regio: Leon Battista Alberti and the theory of region in architecture

Gordana Ana Kostich-Lefebvre, University of Pennsylvania


Leon Battista Alberti explicated his whole architectural theory adhering to the framework of a basic theoretical model in which regio was the first in the series of six universal constituencies of every architectural endeavor whether practical or interpretative. The next constituency was similar, yet narrower in scale—area. Both categories extended beyond [com]partitio—the immediate scope of a project. Alberti was the first to postulate wider architectural context as an architectural sine qua non, thus formulating an architectural canon that has persisted to this day. He therefore instituted the concepts of both modern ‘landscape’ and modern region which was not only his original but a fundamental contribution to the ‘art of building’, planning, landscape and regional studies. Curiously, the issues surrounding his views on region constitute a lacuna in the existing scholarship on Alberti and his time. Although the importance of location and the use of the word regio were not new categories, neither his contemporary nor classical sources, including Vitruvius, postulated region, area and architecture similarly. Alberti's insistence on “region” in architectural thinking encouraged necessary distancing from the immediacy of the work and enabled its contexualization with larger scale projects, city plans, and landscape designs, even regional planning on a wide, typically Renaissance level, never known before. He also introduced the cultural region as a set of particular ethno- and anthropo- values available for participation in the architectural enterprise. This is how Alberti truly elevated architecture to higher levels of human concerns. His regio best fits our concept of “larger context” and “situating”. Nevertheless, the architectural region was not ‘clear cut’ and Alberti treated it in a variety of ways, often blending the traditional and the new. This is a study of Alberti's regio and his contribution to the fields of landscape, regional architecture and regional ‘discourse’, for which he laid the modern foundation. I have explored Alberti's region in two distinct ways: following the meanings of his own, explicit use of regio and through his more elaborate treatment of region in connection with architecture. The latter includes not only his theoretical approach to regio, but also the regio embodied in his projects, as well as that implicit in his own, self-conscious identity. This revolves around his understanding of the Italian, Latin [Roman] and Etruscan. I decided to treat his use of the notion of patria as a special region—separately.

Subject Area

Architecture|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Fine Arts

Recommended Citation

Kostich-Lefebvre, Gordana Ana, "Regio: Leon Battista Alberti and the theory of region in architecture" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3165717.