Laugier’s Philosophy of Constructional Truth
In An Essay on Architecture, Marc-Antoine Laugier comes to the conclusion that “in an architectural Order only the column, the entablature and the pediment may form an essential part of its composition. If each of these parts is suitably placed and suitably formed, nothing else need be added to make the work perfect.” He bases this on his concept of the “little rustic hut” that he describes as a perfect shelter built instinctively by primitive man. (13) He is conveying the theory that the beauty of architecture lies in these basic components and that the constructional truth of this basic hut can and should be found in every great piece of architecture.
Laugier is not proposing that this basic constructional truth is the only architectural order. The point he is making is that architects should build whatever they build using the same truths as the primitive man did with his hut; he emphatically does not want architects to leave behind the simple structure of the column, the entablature and the pediment as they add other parts through both necessity and a pursuit for beauty as the architect sees it. (12)
He expounds on each of these basics by pointing out faults that come from deviating from his model without necessity. His philosophy may seem a bit over the top if one believes that his basic truths must be applied without imagination or design, but this is not what he is advocating. For instance, he maintains that a column should generally be standing free, but at no point does he maintain that the column cannot be aesthetically beautiful. His contention is that a column has a function which is one of the basic constructional truths of architecture and to bury it into the walls of a structure violates the very concept of the column. (14) His only objection is with deviations that do not come from necessity but from the whim of the architect. It is his contention that “parts added by caprice cause every fault.” (12)
The philosophy of Laugier rests squarely on his own theory that architecture should be truthful and that truth is beauty.
Laugier, Marc-Antoine. An Essay on Architecture. Trans. Wolfgang and Anni Herrmann. Los Angeles: Hennessy & Ingalls Inc., 1977.