April, 2010
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Vol. XXIII, No. 1

How to Answer the Question: “What Did Architects Do in Ancient Greece?”

Harrison Eiteljorg, II
(See email contacts page for the author's email address.)

What did architects do in ancient Greece?

The conclusion of the CSA Propylaea Project has brought me out of the nitty-gritty of new approaches to survey work and preparing/preserving the data and back to the core issue for me -- the nature of architectural planning in antiquity. My need now is to apply the information gleaned over the course of the project to the question of just what the ancient architect did and how he did it. This question has been central to me for more than 30 years, and I return to focus directly on it with renewed enthusiasm. Some form of publication will eventually result, though I am fully cognizant of the fact that I will not be able to answer this question fully.

Answering such a question inevitably involves many assumptions and occasional leaps of faith because easy questions and certain answers are simply not available. As a result, I am convinced that my efforts will bear more fruit if they are carried out in a public space with ample opportunity for others to offer criticisms, comments, suggestions, and arguments. Precisely because there must be so much speculation and so many necessary assumptions, the contributions of colleagues will be very important.

Debating the best way to proceed, both with my own thinking and in encouraging others to comment, I realized that I would need to move slowly from diverse and often unrelated examples and relatively small ideas to a more comprehensive and complete picture. I realized as well that there would be fits and starts, points that would be relatively straight-forward and factual along with arguments that would require many adjustments before expecting them to lead to a larger understanding. In addition, there will be difficulties tying things together in coherent ways that lead to a clear sense of the whole.

I thought about creating a blog that would open the discussion to others, both opening access widely and permitting anonymity. However, I worried that the audience for a blog might be somewhat self-selecting and that the audience for this process is very small to begin with. A web "site" (site being too grand a word for perhaps as many as a dozen connected pages) seemed a good alternate, but comments would be less spontaneous and could not be anonymous. In the end, I decided that both a blog and a web site should be tried and that they should, to the extent possible, be identical as to content. Therefore, I have begun a blog at propylaea.org/blog/welcome and a web site at propylaea.org/architect. Comments to the blog will be posted to the web site, with permission of the respondent, and emails to the web site will be posted to the blog, again with permission. This solution permits both those who are comfortable with blogs and those who are, like me, more comfortable with web sites and email, to participate and to join in what I hope will be a lively and information discussion. Your participation is very eagerly solicited if this is an area of interest.

I hasten to add here that, since it is my hope to have a publication at the end of this process, all contributors will be acknowledged in any publication as well as on the web site and blog.

-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

One spelling error corrected August 2010; the first line was changed at the same time by deleting the phrase "How to Answer the Question:" and removing the title-style capitalization in the remaining text.

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