Houston Hall, University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA, United States

Proportions Symposium

By Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, Philadelphia (other events)

Saturday, November 11 2017 8:45 AM 5:00 PM

Proportion is a key to classical aesthetics, but remains the most misunderstood aspect of architectural design. According to Richard Sammons, an expert in the field of architectural proportion, “without an understanding of proportion and the closely related problem of scale, no architectural endeavor can be successful in the aesthetic sense.”

Join us for a day of theoretical learning and practical workshops on the subject of proportions, led by three internationally recognized practitioners - Richard Sammons, Steve Bass, and Joscelyn Godwin.

Morning lecture sessions:

Beyond Aesthetics - Proportion as a Link to the Cultivation of Consciousness Steve Bass

Proportion is a key to classical aesthetics. But on further investigation many of the same numerical relations that inform classical aesthetics provide a link to the cosmology of Plato and Pythagoras, a system in which all elements of the physical and metaphysical worlds are linked through the medium of proportion. Beyond even that the proportional concept, because it is based on relationships, links seemingly unrelated aspects of existence. In this way the study and use of proportion may provide a way out of modernist alienation, reductionism, despair and terror.

Musical Semicircles in the Architecture of Mauro Codussi Joscelyn Godwin

The buildings of Mauro Codussi (or Coducci, 1440-1504), Venice’s first Renaissance architect, use shapes and formations with a remarkable similarity to the diagrams in Boethius’s treatise on music that was circulating in Venice at the same time. There is no documented evidence or scholarly opinion that Codussi was influenced by these diagrams. However, the humanistic elite who had set eyes on both Boethius’s treatise and Codussi’s buildings (or plans) could not have missed the similarity. The coincidence seems emblematic of the mentality of the time, in which musical and architectural proportions were thought to embody the same archetypes.

Afternoon workshops: Proportional Porticos Steve Bass

The portico is the center and starting point for expanded classical architectural compositions. In this workshop a variety of applied proportional techniques for designing four, six and eight columned porticos using Geometric, Arithmetic and Harmonic Ratio methods will be demonstrated. Participants may, if they wish, bring compass, straight edge, pen or pencil, and paper or notebook, 9 x 12 or 11 x 17.

Theory and Practice of the Monochord Joscelyn Godwin

While geometry makes proportions visible, harmony makes them audible. The monochord is the equivalent to the ruler and compass, demonstrating the basic propositions that underlie the musical system, and their development into intervals and scales. If time permits, we will also do an experiment with paper-folding that demonstrates the rationale and need for tempered tuning.

Presenter biographies: STEVE BASS Steve was born in 1947 and grew up in New York City. He studied architecture at Pratt Institute and traditional arts at the Royal College of Art, London. He has maintained a modest personal practice in architecture for almost forty years. Steve has taught at Notre Dame University, the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art, the Grand Central Acdemy of Art, the New York Open Center and other venues. His book, ‘Beauty Memory Unity - A Theory of Proportion in Design’ is currently in preparation by Lindisfarne Books.

JOSCELYN GODWIN Joscelyn Godwin was born in England and trained as a musicologist at Cambridge and Cornell Universities. He taught at Colgate University from 1971 until his retirement in 2016. Beside his musical publications (including Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, Music, Mysticism and Magic, Harmony of the Spheres, Cosmic Music, Music and the Occult, and The Mystery of the Seven Vowels), he has translated the architectural-erotic epic of 1499, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and written on esoteric aspects of the Renaissance and early modern periods, notably Robert Fludd, The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance, and Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World. Some recent works touch on regional architecture: The Spirit House in Georgetown, New York, Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State, and Symbols in the Wilderness: Early Masonic Survivals in Upstate New York (co-authored with Christian Goodwillie)

RICHARD SAMMONS Richard Sammons has a rich background in traditional period design and is an internationally recognized expert in the field of architectural proportion, having taught at The Prince of Wales’ Institute of Architecture in London, Pratt Institute in New York and The University of Notre Dame in Rome. His contributions include the forward of the book “The Theory of Moulding” by C. Howard Walker, and collaboration on the recently published book, “Get Your House Right”. Sammons began his career in Venice, Italy, at the offices of Antonio Foscari and then with David Anthony Easton in New York. He is a founding director of The Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America, a board member of the Sir John Soane Museum Foundation, and the Merchant’s house Museum.

Registration (includes lunch and light refreshments throughout the day): $109 for Students registered by August 30th/$129 after August 30th $129 for ICAA members registered by August 30th/$149 after August 30th $149 for general public registered by August 30th/$169 after August 30th. Advance registration required. Attendees may also pay by check. For instruction, please contact us at