Burke’s argument is interesting in two ways: first, it challenges the philosophy of universal harmony; and, second, Home decoration ideas it challenges the graphic representation of humans in simple geometric terms. Burke recognized that the human body, in all its complex-
This illustration from Robert Fludd’s Utrisque Cosmiof 1619 shows the then prevalent humanist belief that man and his proportions were a direct reflection of the divine order of the universe. To illustrate that point, the human body is projected directly onto the cosmos; the proportions of the two are the same.
Comparison chart of anthropometric analyses of human dimensions. On the left is the most commonly known interpretation of human proportions in Vitruvius’ De Architectura by Leonardo da Vinci in 1492. By placing the so-called Vitruvian Man’s body in two perfect geometries, the circle and the square, a similar perfection is suggested for the human body. Second from left is Le Corbusier’s 1948 system Le Modulor, which also tied the body to an idealized mathematical progression of measures not directly related to human dimensions. Second from right is a different attempt to provide a more rational basis for dimensions and to accommodate natural human variances. Adapted from Henry Dreyfuss’ 1959 The Measure of Man and Woman, it gives human dimensions in varying percentile ranges. At the far right is an anthropometric dimensional chart depicting a wheelchair user, which extends the notion of human variances to include the needs of the physically challenged ity, does not, in fact, follow set rules of divine proportion. He continued: “No species is so strictly confined to any certain proportions, that there is not a considerable variation amongst the individuals; and as it has been shown of the human, so it may be shown of the brute kinds, that beauty is found indifferently in all the proportions which each kind can admit, without quitting its common form.”38 Freed from the dictates of divine proportion, the wide variation in human shapes could be seen, and perception of man’s place in the world could be based on more than a series of abstract ratios and numbers. Nonetheless, proportional systems with different origins and explanations have remained with us. One example is Le Corbusier’s postWorld War II Modulor system, which claimed to be a “harmonious measure to the human scale universally applicable to architecture and mechanics.”39
The system of functional dimensions taken directly from the human body existed simultaneously with the idea of the universal man. These dimensions were the dominant units of measurement before rigid standardization occurred. Man (and sometimes woman) was the direct physical means by which the world was measured. The names of the early units – for example, the foot in English, the French pouce (inch, from the word for thumb), and the Italian braccio (yard, the measurement of an arm) – all grow from a direct relation between the human body and the surrounding physical environment. Even when the nomenclature was shared the actual dimensions were not and tended to vary from locality to locality. One town’s foot was not the same as that of the neighboring town (see illustration on page 62).
These anthropic measurements evolved to define the dimensions of our world, and they directly affect our comfort by allowing us to function and to build our environment. The names and units of the dimensions survive in modern standardized systems and continue to imply bodily interaction: foot still suggests both the standardized unit and the space a person’s foot occupies on the ground.