The Primitive Hut

Abbe Marc-Antoine Laugier 1713-1769
• Born January 22, 1713 in Manosque, Provence
• Family of upper-class bourgeoisie
• Studied at ages 14-17 at college at Avignon
to become a Jesuit priest, then on to Lyons, Province.
• Participated in public education with the Jesuits
• Developed interest in architecture and began
discovering buildings on his own.
• Spoke publicly to the king and his consorts
regarding religious and political problems
• Wrote the Essai. Easy for people to read and understand.
• Became “l’Abbe Laugier” by appeal and worked on his own
• Worked with embassy and devoted his time to writing
• Wrote Essai sur l'architecture (1753) among others including:
Observations sur l’architecture, Venetian history, Peace of Belgrade,
Art criticism, History of troubadours, Commerce of the Levant,
History of Malta, History of the Popes.
• Died April 5, 1769 in Paris, France
The Enlightenment (The Age of Reason):
1680s to 1790s
• International, intellectual movement likely beginning with the political,
economical, moral and religious struggles in Britain and France.
• Believed in reason (science and thinking), rather than faith or tradition:
The Rationalist movement
• The Enlightenment’s Creed: “Sapere aude!” (“Dare to know!)
– Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is
man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from
another.” Immanuel Kant, 1784
Denis Diderot
Immanuel Kant
“…it is above all important to think.” -Laugier
Jean-Jacques Rosseau
Essay on Architecture
Chapter I: General Principles of
Article I: The Column
Article II: The Entablature
Article III: The Pediment
Article IV: The Different Stories of
a Building
– Article V: Windows and Doors
Chapter II: The Different Architectural
– Article I: What All Orders Have in
– Article II: The Doric Order
– Article III: The Ionic Order
– Article IV: The Corinthian Order
– Article V: The Different Kinds of
– Article VI: How to Enrich the Various
– Article VII: On Buildings without any
Chapter III: Observations on the Art of
– Article I: On the Solidity of Buildings
– Article II: On Convenience
– Article III: On How to Observe
Bienseance in Buildings
Chapter IV: On the Style in Which to
Build Churches
Chapter V: On the Embellishment of
– Article I: On Entries of Towns
– Article II: On the Layout of Streets
– Article III: On the Decoration of
Chapter VI: On the Embellishment of
Chapter I: General Principles of Architecture
• Founded on simple nature. Nature indicates its rules.
– Example: The Primitive Hut
• Tells story of primitive man seeking shelter and building out of
• What this man built became the basis for all architecture
• The Hut is made of the following architectural elements:
– The column
– The entablature
– The pediment
Chapter I: General Principles
of Architecture
The Primitive Hut
•Architecture was founded on simple
•Laugier wanted a "more rigorous"
understanding of architecture and
ornament: look for precedents for
classical architecture at the absolute
roots of history.
•He searched for absolute beauty, which
in his primitive hut came from nature.
Was rooted in functional or structural
basis. (This theory was the basis of
the so-called Rationalist movement.)
•Little basis in archeology or fact, and
tangental basis in historical text
The Primitive Hut
• Like Vitruvius, Laugier places the origins of
architectural forms in nature: the first
dwelling was built in the forest, with
branches and trees.
• This differs from the previous theories of
Vitruvius in one important aspect: the hut is
an abstract concept as much as it is a
material construction.
• The Primitive Hut represents the first
architectural idea.
• Shows beginnings of an understanding of
column, entablature, and pediments. Future
architecture is based on these principles.
Article I: The Column
•Columns must:
–Be strictly perpendicular to the ground
–Be free-standing, to be expressed in a
natural way
–Be round, because nature makes
nothing square
–Be tapered from bottom to top in
imitation of plants in nature
–Rest directly on the floor
•The faults:
–“Being engaged in the wall” is a fault
because it detracts from the overall
beauty and aesthetic nature of columns.
–The use of pilasters should strictly be
frowned upon especially since in nearly
every case columns could be used
–Setting columns upon pedestals is “like
adding a second set of legs beneath the
first pair.”
Article II: The Entablature
•The Entablature must:
–always rest on its columns like a lintel
–In its whole length it must not have any
corner or projection
•The Faults:
–Instead of a beam-like structure it
becomes an arch
•Against nature because:
–require massive piers and
–They become pilasters
–Force columns to give lateral
support; columns are meant to
give vertical support only.
–Not straight, but broken with angles and
•Why? “Never put anything into a
building for which one cannot give a
sound reason.” Nature is so, buildings
should also be.
Article III: The Pediment
•The Pediment must:
–represent the gable of the roof
–never be anywhere except across the
width of a building.
–be above the entablature
•The faults:
–To erect the pediment on the long side
of a building.
–To make non-triangular pediments
•Should not be curved, broken nor
–To pile pediments on top of each other
Chapter II: The Different Architectural Orders
• The Doric Order (in columns):
– Has the most beautiful base, but is difficult to use:
• Doric columns can never be coupled successfully
• Interior angles become difficult because of the bases and
capitals must penetrate each other
• The Ionic Order:
– Almost faultless, lighter and more delicate than the Doric
• The column suffers because nature dictates that the heaviest part
must always be at the bottom, but the Ionic column is heavy at top
• The base is ill-formed and could be eliminated
– Offends against the true principles of nature
• The Corinthian Order:
– The greatest, most majestic order
• Beautiful, harmonious composition
– Architects should stop using anything by the acanthus leaf which “has
by nature the contour and curves which suit the leaves of the
Corinthian capital.”
Chapter III: Observations on the Art of Building
(Laugier’s Commodity, Firmness and Delight)
• Article I: On the Solidity of Buildings
– Building must be solid for long life, much like the ancients did
– Solidity depends on two things: Choice of material and its efficient use
• Article II: On Convenience
– The situation (site) must be considered to include views and ventilation
– The planning (exterior and interior) must be suitable, comfortable, have
good circulation, and always include a courtyard
– The internal communications (servants halls, stairways, etc) must be
located for quick access
• Article III: On How to Observe Bienseance in Buildings
– A building must be neither more nor less magnificent than is
appropriate to its purpose
• “Beauty of buildings depends on three things: accuracy
of proportions, elegance of forms, and choice and
distribution of ornaments.”