Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas

Solid, useful, and beautiful. Such are the three Vitruvian principles – the filter though which a building can be analyzed to determine its degree of success or failure. How can a building be structurally sound… as well as support its use… while also exhibiting beauty? Can these three seemingly conflicting ideas be melded into one?

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These are the kinds of questions we’ve been asking ourselves lately. We’ve always known that our building cannot just be beautiful or, on the other side of that coin, be all about structure. But this realization has becoming increasingly important to us in that last few days, as we’ve been preparing our proposal for the knowledgeable eyes of Charleston’s Design Review Committee. Architecture is not simply art, but it’s not just the process of building either. The key to the Vitruvian principles is interweaving “firmitas, utilitas, and venustas” together – achieving a kind of symbiosis between all three. The idea of “better together than separate” is essential here.

Vitruvian Principles (Image from

This has been our objective this weekend, especially. We’ve been continually checking our design through the filter of its structure and usage, and vice versa. As the pavilion becomes more and more finalized, it must become more and more practical. Likewise, as the building becomes more practical, it must still be a beautiful piece of architecture for the community to enjoy. It’s been fascinating to watch how the design of the pavilion has morphed into something buildable and functional yet still lovely.

But this is what makes architecture so unique, in my opinion. It is both poetic and pragmatic – beautiful and usable. A real building is starting to take shape here in studio. Combining “firmitas, utilitas, and venustas” has made our pavilion all the richer, and the five of us are excited that we’re finally arriving at this point. Our hope is that the Design Review Committee will feel the same during our presentation this Tuesday.

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