“An exceptional book that casts new light on the design processes of medieval architects”

The Geometry of Creation

This month sees the publication of Robert Bork’s The Geometry of Creation: Architectural Drawing and the Dynamics of Gothic Design, which has already received some glowing endorsements.

It shows, in a series of geometrical case studies, how Gothic design evolved over time. In each case, a series of computer graphics show how a medieval designer could have developed his architectural concept step by step, using only basic geometrical operations.

This is an exceptional book that casts new light on the design processes of medieval architects. Bork has taken the radical and novel step of looking at surviving medieval drawings in the hope of finding the geometrical logic behind their structures and decorations. The results have been spectacular. He can plot the lines the original designers actually used in developing their geometric schemes, and he does so with a sharpness of vision unmatched by any of his predecessors in the field. Bork is able to show a remarkable continuity of design practice in medieval architecture, from Villard de Honnecourt to Lorenz Lechler. Paul Frankl had already said as much, but no one before Bork has demonstrated it in such detail and with such authority.   Paul Crossley, The Courtauld Institute of Art

With his meticulous and creative study of dozens of drawings prepared by the master builders of Gothic cathedrals, Robert Bork makes a convincing case for a dynamic relationship between that Gothic “look” and the processes of creation. Animated by compasses and straightedge, geometric forms – especially squares, octagons and hexagons – seem to take on a life of their own, ordering the principal outlines of the yet-to-be-built church. This book will provide an invaluable resource for all students and lovers of Gothic architecture.   Stephen Murray, Columbia University

Robert Bork’s impressive and rigorous analysis of the most spectacular medieval parchment drawings demonstrates that the shape and proportions of great Gothic churches arose from the assembly of accurately regulated geometrical figures, and that these figures were applied to façade and ground plan designs by routines that circulated widely in the Gothic world. Thus, Bork’s investigation lets us literally see behind the curtain of the medieval builder’s studio. It reveals geometry as the key to a deeper understanding of the way medieval monuments were generated by architects eager to establish their profession as a learned and scholarly discipline. Bork’s discovery of a Gothic “design language” based on the grammar of geometric procedures is fundamental for our interpretation of Gothic forms and their development.    Norbert Nussbaum, University of Cologne

About the Author: Robert Bork is Associate Professor of Art History, University of Iowa, USA.

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