Proportional Systems in the History of Architecture: A Critical Reconsideration

Professor Matthew A. Cohen’s newest book, “Proportional Systems in the History of Architecture: A Critical Reconsideration,” is due out in May 2018, published by Leiden University Press and distributed in the United States by The University of Chicago Press.

Edited by Cohen and Maarten Delbeke, the book sheds more light on the proportional systems used in architecture, prior to the advent of modern structural engineering:

“Prior to the advent of modern structural engineering, architects and builders used proportional systems to imbue their works with a general condition of order that was integral to notions of beauty and structural stability. These mostly invisible intellectual frameworks ranged from simple grids and symbolic numbers, to sly manipulations of geometry and numbers that required privileged knowledge and arithmetical calculations to access. Since the origins of architectural history, proportional systems have served as objects of belief and modes of iconographical communication. Whether they are capable of fulfilling more tangible functions remains a matter of debate today, but as the contributors to this volume show, these ancient and diverse belief systems continue to infiltrate architectural thinking in subtle and sometimes surprising ways today.”

Matt Cohen is a licensed architect and Professor of Architecture with tenure at Washington State University. He also serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator for Architecture. Professor Cohen received his Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and completed his Ph.D. in Architectural History at Leiden University in The Netherlands. Cohen’s research explores the subtle and complex proportional systems embedded in the 15th century buildings in Florence designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the originator of Renaissance architecture.

Maarten Delbeke (°Bruges, 1970) studied architecture at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at Ghent University, where he obtained his PhD in 2001. After the Scott Opler Fellowship in Architectural History (Worcester College, Oxford), he became a post-doctoral fellow with the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (F.W.O.). In 2005-6 he started teaching at the Universties of Ghent and Leiden. At Leiden he led the research project The Quest for the Legitimacy of Architecture 1750–1850, funded with a VIDI-grant from the Dutch Science Foundation (N.W.O.). In 2014 he became full professor at Ghent University. He is the founding editor-in-chief of Architectural Histories, the online open access journal of the European Architectural History Network (EAHN).