Vitruvian House

Thomas Gordon Smith built a house for his family in 1990 and dedicated it to the Roman architect Vitruvius who wrote the Ten Books on Architecture two thousand years ago. Vitruvius encouranged the emperor Augustus to revive correct forms and principles of Greek architecture. His work has inspired successive generations of architects to revive Classical Architecture for their time. Smith combined Ionic elements from Vitruvius’s symmetria with inspiration from mid-nineteenth century Grecian houses in the United States to create a new example of classicism.

The central temple block has two freestanding columns flanked by four pilasters that articulate the adjacent walls. This arrangement reflects Vitruvius's ideal proportions for an eustylos, or "well-columned", Ionic temple front. The freestanding columns support a limestone entablature to create a portico that provides both circulation and an outdoor dining room.

One-story wings flank the temple block. An abstracted entablature with triglyphs and metopes runs around each wing. The glazed terracotta metopes narrate the labors of Hercules punctuated with reliefs of the skulls of animals involved in each incident, for expample, three dog skulls represent Cerberus.

The central block contains three rooms. The principal bedroom is above the foyer and hall. The foyer leads to the oecus, a large room derived from “center of the house” in Greek. The axis terminates in a Rumford fireplace surrounded by faux-Delft tiles that represent birds of Indiana. The east and west walls have large windows in the pattern of windows from Roman baths. A twenty-two foot groin vault spans the twenty-four foot square room. The vault reflects similar ceilings in Palladio’s villas. It is decorated with frescos depicting architects and their patrons, personifications of the fields of study an architect should understand, and an image of Architettura flanked by two ancient practitioners, Vitruvius and Deinocrates. These two architects represent the polar tendencies of rule and invention in the practice of architecture. The wings of the house accommodate one story children’s bedrooms on the east and the dining room and kitchen on the west.

Building Activity

  • Stuart Smith
    Stuart Smith updated a print reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com