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The Architectural Image and Early Modern Science:
Wendel Dietterlin and the Rise of Em
pirical Investigation

 Wendel Dietterlin, Allegory of Building and Architectural Images, etched illustration in Dietterlin’s Architectura de postium seu portalium ornatu vario (Strasbourg: Bernhard Jobin’s Heirs, 1595), Zurich, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1226, Pl. 14, 

Research Theme

A key element of my research engages the intersecting image-making practices of early modern architecture and science, or, in early modern terms, "natural philosophy". I am interested in how architects and natural philosophers co-developed ways to identify and create norms, hierarchies, and structures in art and nature.

Forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press

The Architectural Image and Early Modern Science: Wendel Dietterlin and the Rise of Empirical Investigation explores the rise of architecture as a vehicle for scientific discourse. I chart that phenomenon across the work of artists, architects, and scientists in northern Europe and the Viceroyalty of Peru between the eras of Dürer and Rubens, anchoring its pivotal moment in the 1593-8 Architectura treatise of Strasbourg artist Wendel Dietterlin (c. 1550-1599).


I argue that Dietterlin and his peers revived the Vitruvian concept of architecture as both art and science by bringing artistic and scientific techniques of visual research such as nature study and perspectival representation to architectural practice through a new genre: architectural images. I further show that the rise of architectural images rendered architecture a hotbed of empiricism, or the idea that knowledge derives from sensory experience, and thus made architecture indispensable to the emergence of empirical science in modernity. The book traces those developments from northern Europe to viceregal Peru, where it examines how Inca and Ychsma architectural sculptors contested Dietterlin’s ideas about form and matter by asserting their own architectural ontologies.


The Architectural Image and Early Modern Science establishes that the new, empirical imagery of architecture in Dietterlin’s world shaped the image-making practices of early modern architects and scientists in Europe and colonial Latin America, and that this rapport proved instrumental to the global emergence of architecture and science as the mutually imbricated arts we know today.


The Architectural Image and Early Modern Science has been supported by the German-American Fulbright Commission, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Princeton University Institute for International and Regional Studies.

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