Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte

Plant Concept Design

(File 140-110)

Page 1

        Concept Design Introduction

The breathtaking view of Castel del Monte, the perfect geometric forms, and the exquisite masonry work did not just happen. They are not the creation of some skilled mason. The castle is the fruit of sophisticated design and planning that rivals our modern building endeavors. The castle represents the highest expression of scientific knowledge at the height of the Middle Ages. Castel del Monte is foremost an engineering expression of medieval architecture that used geometry as the science to resolve structural problems.

The inspiration for this castle was a breakthrough vision for the solution of cross vault structural issues framed within the geometry of the octagon. It was a godsend in the religious symbolism of the Middle Ages. The idea for the castle started as a concept design in the initial inspirational phase at the court of Frederick II. The concept design was then modified slightly in a second phase to resolve space issues at the towers, but preserving the forms and producing the final dimensions as now measured.

The plant design is a procedure where geometry was used both to define the plant forms and to calculate their measures. More surprisingly, the series of geometric manipulations follow a derivative geometric process that leaves a trail of geometric relationships among all plant dimensions. The architect had to define only one measure, the size of the plant octagon, and all other plant measures are defined derivatively by the geometric interrelationships.

The collection of these geometric interrelationships, stated mathematically, form a mathematical model, which has been the tool to decode the plant design of Castel del Monte. History has left us no documents on this castle, but we have the castle as a blue print and the mathematical model to study the design.

This presentation examines the theorized geometric design process in the first phase, the Plant Concept Design. The result is a convincing design, showing exquisite sophistication and remarkable geometric cohesiveness. The concept design is the first defining step that gives the overall forms and dimensions for the castle plant layout.

It seems, however, that there was a second step in the design (the Plant Modified Design). The forms where geometrically modified in small, hardly noticeable ways to resolve a space issue at the towers, remaining true to the key design results of the concept design. The resulting design defines features such as the spandrels discovered by Heinz Götze and finalizes the forms and dimensions of the plant layout at the design stage.

The final plant design matches the actual plant layout in the forms, dimensions and all structural details. The forms and dimensions of small details like the spandrels are predicated with a precision of few millimeters, as shown in the presentation of the mathematical model (Design Math Model). Together with the rationalization of a design process that defines them, the study provides evidence that this indeed must have been the design process followed by the medieval architects.

It is not possible to understand the second design phase without appreciating the first phase where the concept for Castel del Monte is rendered through a fascinating geometric play.

Enjoy the presentation.

Domenico Lanera

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