Structure and Architecture Second edition by Angus J. Macdonald
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Structure and Architecture Second edition by Angus J. Macdonald

Preface to the second edition

The major theme of this book is the relationship between structural design and architectural design. The various aspects of this are brought together in the last chapter which has been expanded in this second edition, partly in response to comments from readers of the first edition, partly because my own ideas have changed and developed, and partly as a consequence of discussion of the issues with colleagues in architecture and structural engineering.

I have also added a section on the types of relationship which have existed between architects, builders and engineers, and on the influence which these have had on architectural style and form. The penultimate chapter, on structural criticism, has also been extensively rewritten. It is hoped that the ideas explored in both of these chapters will contribute to the better understanding of the essential and undervalued contribution of structural engineering to the Western architectural tradition and to present-day practice.


Angus Macdonald would like to thank all those, too numerous to mention, who have assisted in the making of this book. Special thanks are due to Stephen Gibson for his carefully crafted line drawings, Hilary Norman for her intelligent design, Thérèse Duriez for picture research and the staff of Architectural Press (and previously Butterworth-Heinemann) for their hard work and patience in initiating, editing and producing the book, particularly Neil Warnock-Smith, Diane Chandler, Angela Leopard, Siân Cryer and Sue Hamilton. Illustrations other than those commissioned specially for the book are individually credited in their captions.

Thanks are due to all those who supplied illustrations and especially to Pat Hunt, Tony Hunt, the late Alastair Hunter, Jill Hunter and the staff of the picture libraries of Ove Arup & Partners, Anthony Hunt Associates, the British Cement Association, the Architectural Association, the British Architecture Library and the Courtauld Institute. Thanks are also due most particularly to my wife Pat, for her continued encouragement and for her expert scrutiny of the typescript.


It has long been recognised that an appreciation of the role of structure is essential to the understanding of architecture. It was Vitruvius, writing at the time of the founding of the Roman Empire, who identified the three basic components of architecture as firmitas, utilitas and venustas and Sir Henry Wooton, in the seventeenth century1 , who translated these as ‘firmness’, ‘commodity’ and ‘delight’. Subsequent theorists have proposed different systems by which buildings may be analysed, their qualities discussed and their meanings understood but the Vitruvian breakdown nevertheless still provides a valid basis for the examination and criticism of a building.

‘Commodity’, which is perhaps the most obvious of the Vitruvian qualities to appreciate, refers to the practical functioning of the building; the requirement that the set of spaces which is provided is actually useful and serves the purpose for which the building was intended. ‘Delight’ is the term for the effect of the building on the aesthetic sensibilities of those who come into contact with it. It may arise from one or more of a number of factors. The symbolic meanings of the chosen forms, the aesthetic qualities of the shapes, textures and colours, the elegance with which the various practical and programmatic problems posed by the building have been solved, and the ways in which links have been made between the different aspects of the design are all possible generators of ‘delight’. 

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