In a moving passage that recreates the beginning of humanity, Vitruvius describes how some thickly crowded trees, tossed around by storms and winds and rubbing their branches against one another, caught fire. Men first ran away like animals, terrified by the fury of the blaze. Eventually they approached the quieter fire and realized that it kept them warm. They subsequently added more wood to the fire and learned to keep it burning. As a result of this social event, they stayed together and uttered their first words, learning to name the reconciliatory act that had kept them alive. Thus Vitruvius identifies the origins of architecture with the origins of language. With this initial poetic naming came the poiesis of architecture, the possibility of making. It is significant that for the Roman architect, men did not steal the fire from the gods. This architectural action was an act of affirmation taking place in a space that was, from its inception, social, i.e., cultural and linguistic.


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