Concept: Architectural Education
“Instituzione pratica dell’ architettura civile per la decorazione de’ pubblici, e privati edifici” is a textbook addressed to both draftsmen and artisans. The illustrations in the book show children working on geometrical drawings and measuring building parts, then rushing from the ruin of an ancient temple and finally engaged in drawing and studying, towered over by what appears to be an allegory of architecture. The books division in two volumes, text and figures, indicates the use for academic studies. It includes numerous formulas for geometric operations and exercises, entitled with “practica”. Bernini also provides, as he argues, models and rules for building components “brevi, ma chiare, facili, e insiem’ utilissime”.
The structure of the book is given by what Bianchi regards as the three essential skills every architect should master. The first, preparing an architectural project on the basis of mathematics, is answered with a chapter on geometry for the practical use. Designing on the model of the most magnificent antiquity, the second capability, gives the motto for the three following parts of the book. Here Bianchi deals with the orders and other architectural elements like doors and windows and how they can be used for decoration. Furthermore, Bianchi gives examples of private and public buildings. The last capacity can be understood as the guiding principle of the book: basing architectural practice on the most rightful rules and insights of mathematics and history.
The section on geometry starts with basic definitions, then presents theory and exercises on the construction and division of various forms and figures, concluding with the measurements of planes and solids. The chapter shows a repeated structure: a learning task in italics, sometimes explanations also in italics but in a smaller font, a practice section with empty lines for figures to be filled in and a table. Corresponding to this section are illustrations at the end of the book, densely packed with forms, solid figures, also including a map of Italy.
The focus of the book lies on the construction of several building parts. Is starts with a general introduction of the orders then presents each of the five in detail. The pilasters, superpositions, so called half-orders and other components are treated in a separated part.
With the orders Bianchi again follows a clearly structured pattern, as we can see with the Tucson order. Frist the order is contextualised, mentioning among others Vitruvius, then a module enables to calculate elements in the right proportion. In the following sections Bianchi treats the design of each element in detail, here the base, capital, socle, entablature and cornice. This is followed by specific modifications of the order such as rustication in case of the Tuscan. These remarks are illustrated at the back of the book with exact cut and section drawings explaining the order in detail and showing how to place it into a facade. These instructive drawings include measurements and inscriptions.
“Solo adunque è mio intento per capo di rischiarare su le più guiste regole e nozioni, che rileveremo dalle Matematiche, e dalla Storia la gioventù, ed abilitarla così a quel buon gusto, di cui invasa la fantasia si formi all’occorrenza uno spirito vivo, e penetrante per inventare, ornare, discernere il meglio, o sfuggire certi diverti pur troppo famigliari in questo genere, preferendo le più graziose maniere di fabbricare, qual’or non si possa a tutta perfezione, almen però con fortezza, con meastà, con simmetria al maggior decoro della Religione, alla magnificenza de’Grandi, alle felicità degli Stati, cui è diretta in tutte, e per ciascuna sua parte l’Architettura.” (Bianchi, 1766: 17)