Commodity, Firmness and Delight

25 July, 2018

"The brain must use past experience, either its own or that of our distant ancestors, which is embedded in our genes, to help interpret the information light brings into our eyes."

J P Eberhard, Architect and founder of Neuroscience for Architecture

Vitruvius' famous dictum of achieving beautiful architecture through Commodity, Firmness and Delight, is as true today as it was 2000 years ago. As the process of making architecture has undoubtedly changed, so too, have the word meanings.

For Vitruvius, Commodity was the function and usage of the building and the knowledge to organise certain spaces into usable functions. This is still true, but the word commodity today means an economic good or service that can be bought or sold in local or global markets.  It refers to profit and capitalism today.  In Firmness, I believe Vitruvius refers to something well made and of good structure.  Today, architecture in order to stand up needs this too but visually the trend has been to appear the opposite, light and fleeting and floating.  No hands architecture is the modernist ideal.  I believe firmness is needed today more than ever in architecture, a firmness in fighting for the original ideas, a firmness for running a business in a global capital and a firmness for what we believe in.  In Delight, I believe, Vitruvius refers to beauty and the smaller elements harmonizing as a whole.  This is of special interest to me and the Workshop.  A place to read, a place for contemplating or being, a place for a daughter to sit and watch their father arrive home without him seeing with a wall to enable her to sup prise him as he enters the dwelling-  this is Delight.

I believe the words and thoughts of our great ancestors, people like Vitruvius, particularly for Architects, are embedded within our genes.  We need to rediscover them and repurpose them in our work.  This is of great importance to our clients.