Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rhino and Grasshopper Workshop

First assignment at University of Toronto Masters of Architecture!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

WIP Diablo 2 Amazon CG

Still need to add in atleast 30 flaming arrows firing in the background, finish the lightning effect, refine the shadow and light, finish the background with effects, and yeah... a lot still left to do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sforzinda and Utopia

Although the Quattrocento architects, and Leon Battista Alberti all proposed ideas for comfortable and habitable cities, they were not nearly as fervid as Filarete’s pursuit towards an ideal city. As a result, Sforzinda is perhaps the best example of utopian city planning from the renaissance period. In Filarete’s Trattato di Architettura (Treatise of Architecture), Sforzinda, the ideal city named after his patron reflects the epitome of utopian ideologies of the time. With clear influences from antiquity, Filarete fluently designed his ideal city embodying the views and virtues that philosophers of the past taught. This essay would first talk about the history behind Filarete and Sforzinda. Then through the analysis of the proposal in relations to the utopian concepts of Plato; Pythagorean; as well as modern day utopian ideologies; Sforzinda can then be proven to be an attempt in creating utopia.

Though more famously known as Filarete, it however was not his birth name. Born as Antonio di Pietro Averlino, the name Filarete, was adopted later, meaning the ‘lover of virtue’. While in Rome, he created what was probably his most important work in sculpture; the bronze doors for St. Peter’s basilica (c.1433-45). According to the Oxford Dictionary of Art; the doors show clear resemblance to his mentor Lorenzo Ghiberti’s style. However the craftsmanship was poorly done, in which “Vasari called them ‘deplorable’”[1]. In 1448, Filarete fled Rome under the suspicion of stealing holy relics. After temporarily staying in Venice and Florence, he eventually settled in Milan in 1451. In Milan, he would create his most well-known work, the Trattato d’Architettura, in which Sforzinda, the first symmetrical and centralized city planning of modern day would unravel.[2]

While trying to find a job as an architect in the courts of the Duke of Milan, Filarete wrote a 25 volume treatise on architecture, calling it Trattato di Architettura. It was probably due to the influence of Leon Battista Alberti’s architectural treatise that Filarete wrote his, in hopes of presenting the Duke of Milan with an impressive portfolio. Inside the 25 volumes of Filarete’s treatise, the most famous would be his proposal for the city of Sforzinda, named after his patron Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan at the time. It is because Sforzinda is a completely fictional city, which gave Filarete absolute freedom to create the city, and embody it with the utopian mentality of his time.

Just like the tales told by Marco Polo to Genghis Khan in The Invisible City, Sforzinda was aimed to present the Duke of Milan with an idea of what an ideal city could be, thus serving as a model on how Milan could be improved according to Sforzinda if Filarete was made the chief architect. Also, since the ideal city was named after the patron, it also decorates the duke with honour, just as mentioned in the Collage City by Rower and Koetter, “the ideal city of the Renaissance was primarily a vehicle for the provision of information to the prince; and, as extension of this, it was also an agent for the maintenance and decorous representation of the state.” [3] But before going into the organization and planning of inside the city walls, the shape of Sforzinda must first be analyzed.

The shape of the city takes the form of the city walls, which are essentially stacked square shapes, forming the shape of a star. What strikes one’s interest is the need for such distinctive or iconic shape. Filarete explains in his treatise that such a shape is employed for the sake of defense. Because the walls are angled, it provides great defensive opportunities for the defenders of Sforzinda. Suppose an army was to scale the walls, then they would be exposed to two sides of the wall (as depicted in the image: Defense of Sforzinda), as well as siege engines would not be able to destroy the angled protruding walls.[4] The need for such great emphasis on defense is probably a result of the many battles fought by Francesca Sforza for the Papal States, since Renaissance Italy was in constant war. Because maximum efficiency for the city wall would mean that it had to be concentric, the general plan as shown in his drawings is akin to the traditional structures of medieval cities, where the castle and cathedral would occupy the centre due to their importance. Therefore, by placing the castle in the middle of the city, it would symbolize the absolute power the patron has over the city, for from the centre, the patron would have entire view of his city. However, Filarete takes this idea of centralized power even further by placing the “Tower of Vice Virtue” in the center. Vice and virtue, being on the opposite ends of the spectrum

The idea of the centralized surveillance would be imitated also by Social Utopians during the industrial revolution, such as the idea of the Panopticon, where from the watch tower; the entire complex could be surveyed (as shown in image: Tower of Surveillance). One other project that share similar principles is the Royal Salt-Works at Arc-en-Senans by Claude Nicholas Ledoux. Although the Salt-Works is not entirely identical in form, for it was not an entire circle in the final design, the first proposal was circular. It was initially envisioned as a new ideal city, where the labourers could be easily put under surveillance, as to insure the efficiency and quality of the tasks done. The similarity in social structure between Sforzinda and the Salt-Works, where both are ultimately governed in an authoritarian way, suggests that there is a shared utopian vision.

“Plato’s suggestions in the Republic and the Laws for a well-governed city, social regulation, and educational reform were the ultimate roots of all Renaissance utopias…”[5] From the Republic by Plato, he believed that in order to achieve utopia, there must be an order to the cosmos, and within the cosmos, law and order that governs each person. First of all, there are three essential levels to society; the authority, the soldier, and the producers. The authority would rule and write the laws, the law soldiers would enforce the law and defend the state, and the producers would provide goods for the state. If any of the roles was badly performed, then the state would ultimately be lead to its undoing.[6] Likewise, when writing about Sforzinda, Filarete carefully outlines the city even going as far as to design the detail of the garments of its citizen, so that each societal class is well represented.

Surprisingly, the programming inside of the city was relatively empty. Aside from placing where the cathedral and castle would be, the next thing that Filarete seemed to be intrigued by was the design of the labyrinth, or garden as he would call it. “The garden was laid out as is described here. First of all [it was] a square of three thousand braccia (approx. 26-27 inches) and divided into seven parts, one hundred land braccia wide…It says that there was a square of one thousand braccia on each side which was reduced to a circle. This, in turn, was laid out like a map of the earth. All the streams flowed in and flowed out from the centre of this.” From Plato’s Timaeus, the shape square represents the element of earth, which would be elaborated further later in the essay.

“The story of the classical utopia of c.1500 scarcely requires inordinate explanation. A city of the mind, ultimately compounded of Hebraic apocalyptic and platonic cosmology, its ingredients are never far to seek; and, whatever other pre-disposing causes one might choose to find, fundamentally, one will still be left with either Plato heated up via the Christian message of the Christian message cooled down via Plato. Whatever qualifications may be added, it will still be Revelation plus The Republic or the Timaeus plus a vision of the New Jerusalem.”[7] Rowe and Koetter argue that the concept of utopia at the time of Filarete is one that embraces the harmonious relationship of the cosmic to the world and to the body as described in the platonic cosmology. According to Plato’s The Timaeus the term “cosmos” means “the physical world”, while the other world being the “eternal world”. Plato describes the physical world as one that has a bodily presence; therefore the two elements that make up of this world are earth and fire. Because the symbol of the earth is square, it is arguable that the reason why the form of Sforzinda was described by Filarete as stacked squares was to mean that his ideal city is one that embodies the world. “The part of the treatise which refers to Sforzinda contains nothing which actually indicates Filarete’s intention to build his city in imitation of a schema representing the world.”[8] Because Plato’s concept of the cosmos borrows heavily from Pythagorean’s concept of the world, it is then inevitable that Sforzinda also reflects Pythagorean’s ideas.

“The Pythagoreans believed that the only true realities existed in the realm of numbers and geometric forms… Accordingly, the perfect geometric forms of triangle, square and circle, visible in the heavenly orbits and in the natural world of crystals, became symbols of the eternal realm beyond matter.”[9] The concentric shape as well as the square shaped labyrinth-garden further defines this idea of the cosmos in the design of Sforzinda. “Ficino became aware of the labyrinth through neo-Platonic sources. God, for Ficino, is in the centre of four circles arranged concentrically like a labyrinth, another reminder of the cosmos.”[10]

Sforzinda would probably never be built, and that Filarete may have written his treatise simply for the purpose of impressing Duke Sforza. On the other hand, the similarities shared between Sforzinda and the utopian train of thoughts compels one to suggest otherwise. With the embodiment of Platonic philosophy in utopia, as well as showing clear influence towards the Socialist Utopian projects much later in the ages proves that, whether intentional or not, Sforzinda has attained the recognition of many scholars and architects. In a sense, the original goal set out by Filarete has been achieved, in which the influence has carried through even into current day urban planning.

[1] IAN CHILVERS. "Filarete." The Oxford Dictionary of Art. 2004. 22 Apr. 2011<>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter. Collage City. Cambridge, MA. The MIT Press. 1978

[4] S. Lang. Sforzinda, Filarete, and Filelfo. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol.35. The Warburg Institute. 1973.

[5] Grendler, Paul. Utopia In Renaissance Italy: Doni’s “New World”. Journal of the History of Ideas. Vol.26. No.4. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1965.

[6] Jill, Frank. Wages of War: On Judgment in Plato’s “Republic”. Political Theory. Vol.35. No.4. Sage Publications, Inc. 2007

[7] Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter. Collage City. Cambridge, MA. The MIT Press. 1978

[8] S. Lang. Sforzinda, Filarete, and Filelfo. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol.35. The Warburg Institute. 1973.

[9] Miller, 1976

[10] S. Lang. Sforzinda, Filarete, and Filelfo. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol.35. The Warburg Institute. 1973.

Monday, May 2, 2011