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Measure, metre, irony: reuniting pure mathematics with architecture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2002

Robert Tavernor
Affiliation:
School of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom; absrwt@bath.ac.uk

Abstract

The human body once provided the fundamental measurements by which to gauge human creations – but the metric system offers ‘mere number without concrete being’. A synthesis is needed.

Measure: mens (L – mind), mensurare = measuring/measure

Metre: metron (Gk), metrum (L – measuring rod), mètre (Fr) = metre

Irony: eironeia (Gk – simulated ignorance), eiron – dissembler and simulator of power = irony

No civilization has existed without measures, and each has described measures in a manner specific to its needs. To exist at all, measures must be practical and useful, and most have their origins in everyday experience. At some stage in the development of a civilized society measures will be refined, standardized and regulated and represented physically. To endure and be accepted by hundreds, thousands, even millions of people – across great civilizations and around the globe – measures must reflect and extend the authority of leaders. Measure is therefore a statement and record of the changing balance of power and independence. It is an expression of culture.

Type
theory
Copyright
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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