History

PPFF #156: St. Paul’s

Good morning,

The other day, a colleague/friend asked me somewhat in astonishment, a rhetorical question in slightly theatrical faux incredulity ‘did you know St Paul’s Cathedral was built without (the usual architectural) drawings?’. And I vaguely remembered from my yesteryear of dabbling in architecture education that the ancient Greco-Roman buildings were built in such a methodical way that plans, elevations or section drawings were hardly required; only the footprints/’scratching’ on actual sites, detailed templates to replicate, and exact verbal instructions to build the rest – yup, they literally built with words. St. Paul’s is a little difficult one to believe in this regard, perhaps because its construction began in the 17th century. Seeing how it was in the 13th century Renaissance Europe from which our understanding of perspective was developed and perfected, (which is still today’s architects’ modus operandi when developing/communicating ideas), it’s even more surprising. Maybe Christopher Wren wanted to have a go at the ‘verbal’ method to feel connected to the spirit of ancient architectural tradition (entirely fabricated. Please don’t repeat this anywhere. It’s an alternative fact at best).

In any case, this should put us lot in construction-related businesses to shame, as we produce design and construction drawings revision after revision. Even still, actual construction work almost always fails to go according to plan. It’s fascinating how some verbal instructions contained sufficient information to build something. Perhaps it’s just the way we ‘moderns’ use our language; more vague yet freer.

Have a good Friday. Hope that’s clear enough.

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