Enhanced architectural making: The ideas and works of Philibert de l'Orme and Fran cois Rabelais

Myriam Blais, University of Pennsylvania


This thesis explores the idea that architecture is the place for the celebration of the union of thought and materials. Architectural making has an enhancing value since it represents a pleasurable means towards a festive encounter between buildings and the people who address them. To support this proposition, I investigate the writings of Francois Rabelais, because of their references to feasts, and the implicit explanations on the manner of providing the space for their development. I analyze the treatises, drawings, and buildings of Philibert de l'Orme, because they contain a similar festive imagery which, although covertly complementing the technical aspect of his works, has not yet been studied and accounted for. A striking figure in de l'Orme's imagery is that of Hermes, the god of communication, of interpretation, and the image of movement between thought and materials. Hermes represents a springboard for both de l'Orme and Rabelais to devise their own, yet related, constructive images: their respective mythical architect, or their manner of thinking about invention and imagination, (as with their considering the weaving image; or the elmtree and vine, with de l'Orme). Those images, which suggest an imaginative manner to attend to their respective art, are critically analyzed. After reviewing de l'Orme's architectural sources (Vitruvius, Alberti, Colonna, Gothic and Romanesque architecture), his manner (facon) of working according to the constructive images he and Rabelais have proposed is analysed through both his drawings and buildings. The study shows that de l'Orme's technology is neither neutral nor self-referential. This is an imaginative technology, linked to constructive images that contribute to supporting its development; that is the manner by which materials and thought (thought in the sense of intention, skill, and wisdom) are peacefully united together. Since this manner takes its foundation in the figure of Hermes--a figure that is enjoying a renewed recognition in philosophical and anthropological circles, this study suggests a rethinking of the architect's attitude towards technology in the light of a celebration of both thought and materials.

Subject Area

Architecture|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Blais, Myriam, "Enhanced architectural making: The ideas and works of Philibert de l'Orme and Fran cois Rabelais" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521003.