The Four Elements of Architecture


The Four Elements of Architecture

"The Four Elements of Architecture" is a book by the German architect Gottfried Semper. Published in 1851, it is an attempt to explain the origins of architecture through the lense of anthropology. The book divides architecture into four distinct elements; the hearth, the roof, the enclosure and the mound. The origins of each element can be found in the traditional crafts of ancient 'barbarians':

*hearth - fire, ceramics
*roof - carpentry
*enclosure - weaving
*mound - stone masonry Semper, stating that the hearth was the first element created; "around the hearth the first groups assembled; around it the first alliances formed; around it the first rude religious concepts were put into the customs of a cult." Fact|date=February 2007

Enclosures (walls) were said to have their origins in weaving. Just as fences and pens were woven sticks, the most basic form of a spatial divider still seen in use in parts of the world today is the fabric screen. Only when additional functional requirements are placed on the enclosure (such as structural weight bearning needs) does the materiality of the wall change to something beyond fabric.


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