Weaving Fabrica and Ratiocinatio: An Inquiry into the Knowledge of Architecture in Vitruvian Theory

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Dortdivanlioglu, Hayri
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This study focuses on fabrica and ratiocinatio, two fundamental components of architecture, forming the foundational framework of Vitruvian theory. Despite their significance, the Vitruvian text neither gives clear definitions of these terms nor explains their role in architecture. The extensive literature on fabrica and ratiocinatio has produced various interpretations based on the doctrine of duality between the two concepts. Scholars view fabrica as the activity of performing a craft, while they interpret ratiocinatio as reasoning and argumentation in rhetoric. Their comparison between fabrica and ratiocinatio reveals a fundamental distinction where the former is the activity of manual labor, and the latter is the activity of intellectual labor. This distinction becomes significant for Vitruvian literature to the extent that they define both concepts in oppositions of practice versus theory. Building upon the existing literature, this study questions the relationship between fabrica and ratiocinatio in the Vitruvian theory of architecture. Rather than focusing on the opposition between the two Vitruvian concepts, it seeks interactions between fabrica and ratiocinatio. To that end, this study not only offers a close reading of Vitruvian passages but also analyzes the etymology and use of these two concepts in other fields, including technē and rhetoric, from which fabrica and ratiocinatio have originated. It argues that while the origins of these concepts are opposed to each other as concerning purely practical and theoretical activities of architects, this paper shows that Vitruvius redefines them within his architectural theory. First, Vitruvius defines fabrica with meditatio to show that it is not only a manual but also a mental activity. Secondly, he extends the use of ratiocinatio from rhetoric into architecture by defining it as an activity that provides persuasion and coherence in work through both demonstrating and making. By doing so, Vitruvius sets fabrica and ratiocinatio in action together. They work interdependently. In the last part, this study will examine how fabrica and ratiocinatio interact with each other and work in and through drawing which is an activity of both hands and mind.
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