The historical approach confirms its thesis with written material: already in the Renaissance period, mathematical proportion served as the basis of architectural design. This result creates continuity up to modern times.
The anthropological approach reconstructs an iconic and tectonic continuum, arriving at discontinuity with regard to today: the Middle Ages and the Renaissance designed sacred buildings quite differently. They followed a kind of theory of the relativity of forms. These were all densely interwoven with a polar principle of design and represented ethical norms, the harmony of the universe. Mathematical proportions and geometry were only secondary stylistic characteristics which had little to do with the deeper philosophy of this architecture.
Evidently, these different results are related to the different methods applied. The approach of the art historian defines a small section of the whole, supporting this with historical material. Historically this is legitimate, but the other approach proves that the historical method is extremely reductive. How reductive it really is, may be shown in the following. The art historian's method is based on style, which forms the basis of its scientific system. Individually, or collectively, it implies the existence of characteristic features in the art of one period or geographical area. Thus, systematically, Wittkower's study historically supports a hypothesis provided by the history of style: mathematical proportion was an important stylistic characteristic of Renaissance architecture. Thus, not only as a thematic abstraction (mathematics), but also as a mere >characteristics< of (the art historian's) method of differentiation, it can easily be defined and supported by historical sources.
We have already pointed out that this is legitimate in terms of art history. But with respect to architectural teachings, it is a catastrophe. In addition, Wittkower packages his study in an obviously more attractive title, >The Basis of Architecture in the Age of Humanism<, thereby referring to an exterior value system.
However, the mechanisms have now become clear: the scientific art historian’s method is incompatible with art, with architecture. It judges architecture and art by analyzing and differentiating it, and thus cannot represent the factual, because this is "illogical", "irrational". But in order to extract something from this strange world to supply all the scientific people hungry for art and the knowledge about it, the field of vision has to be narrowed down considerably. The results - based on these scientific methods - are "believed" by modern society (just like in the Middle Ages) because they tally with its own outlook. But this is, in fact, a complete reduction produced by very superficial scientific methods! >Mathematical proportion<, >characteristics of style This is valid for many theses in art history. Based on formal, thematic, or terminological reductions they often miss what is essential, setting the wrong direction. They are also - in a strict sense - not scientific, but mere conventional evaluation, pseudoscience. Their basic term, aesthetics, is merely an Eurohistorical deduction, therefore extremely limited and highly problematic when the discussion considers man in general. And, moreover, as we have demonstrated, the scientific history of arts is incompetent with regard to the object of its studies. <21>
Quite different, the anthropological method. By relying on architectural anthropology, that means, definition of all that is and has been built, its object becomes objective. It discovers essential structural complexes, which it compares with certain sources and discusses complex analogies or homologies. In the present case, we have come across a structure closely related to architecture which, at the same time, is congruent with the philosophical and religious concepts of the time. Even more, we discover a continuum which goes beyond periods of styles, which perceives space quite differently and designs with it quite differently. We perceive a design system which conceives harmonious units by the synthesis of categorially opposed areas. We feel that this principle of >ontological proportion< was constitutive for the whole domain of pre-modern architecture, but that it disappeared widely with the dissemination of modern rationalism. The process of style formation, or, on the other hand, of creativity, is shown in an unusual light: it becomes the product of a conflict between two incompatible systems, or, of an interdisciplinary misunderstanding. A very simple pattern: there, the "irrational" Middle Ages (which we are unable to understand), here the Renaissance and Humanism (with rational architecture). We are on the right track.
The huge mistake: modern architecture is not human. It is conceived rationalistically, technologically, and functionally, it is a gigantic aesthetic machine. Humans are related to it only in fragmentary ways, as a quantified typological schema of "human measurements", e.g. in the sense of Neufert, and at the end of the building process as the users, as the >dwelling-machine-workers< as >consumers of space<. Man is forced to 'function'! In brief: Wittkower's book is misleading.
In view of this process of impoverishment, essentially triggered off by art history, the discovered architecture of >ontological proportion<, is simply colossal!
We have hit on a design principle which is quite different from the modern one. Space is not taken as homogenous and abstract but is still closely related, both formally and qualitatively, to materia and is consequently harmonized in units of polarly contradictive areas. The structural order is now described quite differently. Horizontally: outside the access space and the facade, inside the entrance and the main hall or room, similarly with regard to rooms the entrance part and the place(s), etc. Further vertically: columns and arch, doors, portals, and windows, each of them ontologically proportioned, roofs with superstructures and decorations, thus elevated, and finally the foundation and the dome, ontologically identical to heaven and earth. They all are composed to become a systematic whole, the universe; among themselves, they are all harmonious and identical.
This is valid not only in a constructive sense but also with regard to the world view of the people who lived around their buildings: their cognition possesses the same structure! <22> Their way of thinking recognizes objects from small to large, and vice versa, in categorially polar opposites (coincidentia oppositorum), potentially disharmonious, but dominantly with a harmonious option. Objects we consider as being different today, are one in this view, given the condition of harmony. Being structured harmoniously with regard to (ontological) proportion, architecture becomes teaching, becomes a model for the harmonious totality of the world, or, in a hierarchial sense, the "staircase" to heaven.
For humans, this means that he/she daily moves in an objective structure of knowledge, of wisdom, which continually remains in dialogue with him/her. There always is a stable partner, who speaks, narrates, and questions him/her, by homologizing the here and now, the local, the personal, with the other, either equal or higher, lifting thought into the generally valid, the universal dimension. With this system humans are never left alone. It integrates them into a >we<, into a >we all<, into the image of humans in general.
We have already mentioned that this outline of a philosophical architecture should not be hastily related to the Middle Ages (or any other stylistic period). The anthropological approach allows us to differentiate between the tectonic structure and the secondary aspects of its meaning. To put it another way: Christian ontology, as a historically founded "anthropology" (the creation of man) or theology (God and creation), was somehow "packed" into this tectonic structure. The continuity of the architectural tradition was made to support Christian ontology. The Renaissance then, as we have shown, replaces the Christian contents and furnishes the same "container" with its new ontologies.
On the other hand, architecture of this dimension presented an enormous density, mainly because of its intimate mixing with the abundance of Judaeo-Christian imagery. Simultaneously it was, both philosophically and religiously, model and expression of a structure considered to be the truth at the time. But what is essential here is to present a type of architecture which is fully embedded in the manner of thinking of a certain time. <23> Evidently this architecture - whether medieval or Renaissance - was not abstract, reduced to mathematical calculations! Space was still qualitatively bound to the world, to humans, and their narratives.
Obviously, modernism never quite managed to erase this pre–modern substance. The historical centres of our cities shape our identity as citizens, not the chaotic agglomerations at their outskirts. The economy too, is concentrated in the historical centres for various important reasons connected with the pre–modern character. And, last but not least, city tourism, e.g. in Europe, thrives on them. Many planners would be well–advised to keep these facts in their mind when speaking of modern urban programs.
Let us assume that the tectonical structure which - though largely emptied of the Christian ontology - survives as pre-modernism in our city centres and subconsciously stipulates an archetype of continuity in today’s dynamic changes. Consequently, one could ask why these forms prove to be such a tremendous stability in our modern minds. The answer is that evidently they still mean something to us. And, in view of this, if we used the anthropological concept of space, with which contents of a new ontology would a new architecture, now composed of polar units, have to be 'stocked'?
In case new sources should confirm <24> Carpaggio's evolutionary image of a four-phased ontology of space, architecture itself - on a higher level - could become a new modern 'myth', explaining >creation< not only in a modern scientific sense but also as restricted to humans. These are sufficient reasons to justify a deeper interest in its forms and its dialogues with humans.
Maybe a future "theory of relativity" of architectural form will merge autonomously with a new ontology of the future. Humans will then - after having transcended their present dazzled world views, which have been powerfully cut to pieces for centuries - manage to rediscover the true trees of life and thus find their way back to the real conditions of human life. The key is simple: they will have realized the crucial significance of architecture and space FOR HUMANS!