Précis of the Lectures on Architecture

Translated Volume

Précis of the Lectures on Architecture: With Graphic Portion of the Lectures on Architecture

Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, Introduction by Antoine Picon, Translation by David Britt


346 pages

PDF file size: 37.9 MB


Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand (1760–1834) regarded the Précis of the Lectures on Architecture (1802–5) and its companion volume, the Graphic Portion (1821), as both a basic course for future civil engineers and a treatise. Focusing the practice of architecture on utilitarian and economic values, he assailed the rationale behind classical architectural training: beauty, proportionality, and symbolism. His formal systematization of plans, elevations, and sections transformed architectural design into a selective modular typology in which symmetry and simple geometrical forms prevailed. His emphasis on pragmatic values, to the exclusion of metaphysical concerns, represented architecture as a closed system that subjected its own formal language to logical processes. Now published in English for the first time, the Précis and the Graphic Portion are classics of architectural education.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • From “Poetry of Art to Method: The Theory of Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, Antoine Picon
  • Précis of the Lectures on Architecutre, Volume One
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Part I. Elements of Buildings
    • Section One. Qualities of Materials
    • Section Two. Uses of Materials
    • Section Three. Forms and Porportions
  • Part II. Composition in General
    • Section One. Cominations of the Elements
    • Section Two. The Parts of Buildings
    • Section Three. Buildings as a Whole
  • Précis of the Lectures on Architecutre, Volume Two
    • Preliminary Discourse
    • Part III. Examination of the Principal Kinds of Building
      • Section One. The Principal Parts of Cities
        • The Approaches to Cities
        • Tombs
        • City Gates
        • Triumphal Arches
        • The Parts of Cities that Communicate between All the Others
          • Streets
          • Bridges
          • Public Squares
      • Section Two. Public Buildings
        • Temples
        • Palaces
        • Public Treasuries
        • Courthouses
        • Justices of the Peace
        • Town and City Halls
        • Colleges
        • Buildings for Assemblies of Scholars, and So On
        • Libraries
        • Museums
        • Observatories
        • Lighthouses
        • Market Halls and Marketplaces
        • Slaughterhouses
        • Bourses
        • Customhouses
        • Fairgrounds
        • Theaters
        • Baths
        • Hospitals
        • Prisons
        • Barracks
      • Section Three. Private Buildings
        • Private Buildings
        • Private Town Houses
        • Divisions of Different Blocks
        • Apartments
        • The Dependicies of Apartments
          • Kitchens
          • Pantries
          • Stables
          • Carriage Houses
        • Irregular Plots
        • Tenements
        • Country Houses
        • Farmhouses or Rustic Houses
        • Inns
        • The Procedure to Be Followed in the Composition of Any Project
  • Graphic Portion of the Lectures on Architecture
    • How to Acquire in a Short Time True Architectural Talents
    • Summary of the Portion of the Oral Lectures relative to the Graphic Work
      • Lecture One. General Ideas: The Way to Represent One’s Ideas in Architecture to Oneself and to Communicate Them to Others
      • Lecture Two. The Elements of a Building: Walls, Piers, String Courses, and Various Kinds of Opening
      • Lecture Three. Detatched Supports, and the Horizontal Members That Connect Them
      • Lecture Four. Floors and Roofs
      • Lecture Five.
        • Vaults
        • How to Draw Caissons
      • Lecture Six. General Combinations of the Elements
      • Lecture Seven. Composition of the Parts of Buildings by Combining Their Elements
      • Lecture Eight.
        • Composition of the Ensemble of a Building by Combining Its Parts
        • Method to Be Adopted When Composing or Copying
        • Ensembes of Buildings Formed by Combining Rooms Five Interaxes Wide
        • Ensembles of Buildings Formed by Combining Galleries Five Interaxes Wide
        • Ensembles of Buildings Formed by Combining Rooms and Galleries Five Interaxes Wide
        • Combinations of Rooms and Galleries of Which It Is Desired to Increase the Width by Two Interaxes in the Center and at the Corners, without Changing the System That Prevails in the Rest of the Ensemble
        • Ensembles of Buildings Formed by Combining Rooms and Galleries, Some of Which are Five and Some Seven Interaxes Wide
        • Ensembles Formed by Combining Rooms Five and Seven Interaxes Wide with Large Semicircular Rooms
        • Combinations of Rooms Five and Seven Interaxes Wide with Central Rooms on Which They Abut
        • Graphic Formula Applicable to Vaulted Public Buildings, All of Whose Parts Are Intended for the Same or Analogous Uses
        • Application of this Formula
        • Graphic Formula Applicable to Private Buildings, Two Stories High, Spanned by Floorings and Roofs, and with Stories Two Interaxes High
        • Graphic Forumla Applicable to Public and Private Buildings, Several Stories High, Spanned by Floorings and Roofs, with Stories Three or Four and a Half Interaxes High
        • Applications of the Former
        • Applications of the Latter
        • Assemblages of Porticoes, One Interaxis Wide, with Rooms Three and Five Interaxes High
        • Assemblages of Porticoes and Rooms, Two Interaxes Wide, with Rooms Five Interaxes Wide and Courtyards, All Three Interaxes High
        • Assemblages of Porticoes and Rooms Three Interaxes in Width and in Height, with Rooms of Five Interaxes and with Courtyards
        • Other Combinations of the Same, with Rooms of Fifteen Interaxes Span, Reduced to Nine by Means of Porticoes Running around the Inside Walls
        • Magnificent Ensembles Formed, Not by Parts of Buildings, but by Buildings Themselves, Variously Combined
  • Notice
  • Editorial Notes
  • Plates to Précis, Part I
  • Plates to Précis, Part II
  • Plates to Précis, Part III
  • Plates to Graphic Portion
  • Works by Durand
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index

About the Authors

Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand (1760–1834) was a French author, teacher and architect.

Antoine Picon is professor of the history of architecture and engineering at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, Paris, and author of French Architects and Engineers in the Age of the Enlightenment.

David Britt has translated numerous books, including The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity by Aby Warburg.

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