Della Fortificatione della Citta was written by the Humanist-trained jurist Girolamo Maggi (1523-72). The author’s background training is clearly visible in the content of the heavily engineering-themed treatise. Maggi introduces the work (the actual content of the treatise was primarily produced by Jacomo Fusto Castriotto ((1510-63)) by referencing historical events, expounding aspects of humanity and the nature of coexistence. For instance, the topics of family, the household, neighborhoods and urban frameworks are discussed. It is apparent throughout that social concerns take precedence over questions of fortification engineering.
As a reader of the 21st century, it was interesting to see that, even in the mid 16th century, discussions concerning technical planning were closely contextualized with broader social questions. Today, it would be irresponsible to exclude the consideration of social frameworks from architectural discourses. I learned that attention to social context has been practiced longer than I had originally sensed.
It was also interesting that Maggi devoted such an extensive section of the treatise to seemingly more peripheral discussions such as water quality and battle theory. For example, a relatively large section of the third book concerns itself with different equestrian and gunner positions. This, again, demonstrates that the main topic of the work, fortification design and engineering, was contextualized with broader (still relevant) fields of knowledge.
I enjoyed familiarizing myself with the different illustrations in the book. The fortification plans are drawn in a simple manner and appear almost pattern-like. This was very interesting to see as the manner in which architectural plans are drawn today is significantly different. Today, they are much more detailed and lack the character of a hand-drawn/-printed illustration.
A recurring challenged that I faced in getting to know my book was the language barrier. Even after running a section of Maggi’s text through an OCR, much of the text was incomprehensible to me and I was, therefore, never able to fully read a section of the book. It was also disappointing that there was so little information on the internet about this lesser-known book. I think the experience would have been even more profitable had we been able to familiarize ourselves with more well-known texts by more notable authors. This would simultaneously be very helpful for the course “Architekturgeschichte und -theorie I & II,” as we would be able to draw references from historically-prominent works on architectural theory.
In retrospect, though, I think the highlight of this year-long friendship was the trip to Einsiedeln, during which we had the opportunity to have physical contact with a copy of our book. It was a rare experience to be in such close proximity to a book that, typically, we would only be able to view on a digital platform. Although it is great that sources are so easily accessible via the internet, I believe that, for this very reason, it is as important that we maintain physical relationships to books. The trip to Einsiedeln allowed us to foster this connection with our historic documents.