Hard to obtain, hard to translate: lime and earth construction in early modern Portuguese writings on architecture and fortification

Margarida Tavares da Conceição

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Abstract

Lime masonry and earthwork construction are subjects treated in the earliest written sources related to fortification in the Portuguese
empire. Although these texts are not in the form of an architectural treatise, they do evince a noteworthy concern with construction
techniques. A group of administrative records related to Mazagan (1541) provide us with a first-hand account regarding new methods
of building a fortress, and reveal that good lime, considered more reliable than earth filling for the new ramparts, was difficult to obtain.
Another source is an anonymous manuscript from around 1579, written by a fortificateur playing the role of the architect. Going beyond
Vitruvian guidance, the author merges several sources with his own observations. A significant part of his text is devoted to construction
techniques, including earthworks, and discusses new materials using new words that are sometimes hard to translate. Both cases show a
pragmatic approach and a preference for time-tested knowledge and practical experimentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-67
Number of pages14
JournalOpvs Incertvm Rivista di Storia dell'Architettura
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • architectural treatises
  • Architectural history
  • Portugal and Japan
  • Construction techniques
  • Fortification
  • Mazagan

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