‘Compass & Rule’ Explores How Math Changed Architecture

From medieval masons’ drawings on stone to precisely delineated 18th-century draftsmen’s drawings, the objects on view in the next exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art reveal the way mathematics transformed architecture in early modern England.

Titled “Compass & Rule: Architecture as Mathematical Practice in England, 1500-1750,” the exhibit brings together nearly 100 items, including architectural drawings, manuscripts, maps, models and scientific instruments. Among the highlights are an astrolabe made for Queen Elizabeth I, a number of Sir Christopher Wren’s drawings of St. Paul’s Cathedral and architectural drawings by King George III.

“The spread of Renaissance culture in England coincided with the birth of architecture as a profession. Identified as a branch of practical mathematics, architecture became the most artistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the arts,” write the exhibit organizers.

The exhibit explores the nascent concepts of design based on geometry that transformed how architects worked and what they built. “These changes enhanced the intellectual status of the architect’s profession and elevated the social standing of their discipline,” note the organizers. In addition to Wren, the exhibit will examine the work of such renowned figures as Inigo Jones, as well as less-familiar military engineers to London’s entrepreneurial instrument makers.

“Compass & Rule” was organized by the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford and the Yale Center for British Art. The latter is the only North American venue for the exhibit, which is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue edited by exhibition curators Anthony Gerbino and Stephen Johnston.

The Yale Center for British Art, at 1080 Chapel St., is open to the public free of charge 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For further information, call 203-432-2800 or visit the website at www.yale.edu/ycba.

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