Primal Weaving: Structure and Meaning in Language and Architecture


In Book II of the ancient architectural treatise, De architectura, Vitruvius gives a mythical account of the conjoined origins of architecture and language: “[I]n ancient times,” he writes, “men were born like wild animals in the forests, caves and woods, and spent their lives feeding on fodder” (37). One night, while a fierce storm ravaged the woods where these ancient humans lived, a mighty fire broke out. Faced with the flames, the men and women fled in terror. Some, however, recovering from their initial fright, and sensing the warmth emanating from the blaze, moved closer to it and began to throw more wood on it. Using sign language, those feeding the flames communicated to the others the virtues of the fire.

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