Approaches to Architectural Proportion and the ‘Poor old Parthenon’

Mark Wilson Jones

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Acclaimed as a pinnacle of western civilization, a shining example of the Greeks’ genius and their concern for beauty, the Parthenon is a natural subject of inquiry into architectural proportion. We associate its aesthetic appeal with precision, technique and rigor as well as subtle artistic inflections that in its straining for perfection make it not mechanical but human, almost divine. Yet in spite of a plethora of analyses of the Parthenon there is little scholarly agreement about the ancient design procedures involved, or the unit of measure utilized. The primary purpose of this contribution is to highlight aspects of the design of the Parthenon of striking and surprising proportional coherence—surprising only in the sense that they have so far eluded detection. The modular method utilized (in effect an ancestor of the method Vitruvius bequeathed us a different variant) is compatible with each of the main metrical units previously advanced. Measurements and discrepancies are tabulated for the reader to evaluate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProportional Systems in the History of Architecture. A Critical Reconsideration
EditorsMatthew A. Cohen, Maarten Delbeke
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherLeiden University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9789400602885
ISBN (Print)9789087282776
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2019


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