Ryff’s Acanthus

On Field Research in Renaissance Architecture

  • Elizabeth J. Petcu (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


This article proposes a new framework for examining the empirical research of early modern architects. It explores the rise of nature study in sixteenth-century architectural theory and practice through the works of physician and architecture expert Walther Hermann Ryff (c. 1500–1548). The article argues that Ryff’s 1548 Vitruvius Teutsch, the first German translation of Vitruvius’s De architectura, gave architects pathbreaking advice about performing design research in nature. Ryff’s book supported the botanical investigations of architects by aping empirically derived botanical imagery from the De historia stirpium of Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566) and by comparing architectural nature study to the period craze for examining ancient ruins firsthand. In proposing a new mode of architectural empiricism, Vitruvius Teutsch reconciled tensions between abstract theory and hands-on practice in the formation of architectural knowledge.


Renaissance-Architektur, Naturstudien, Empirismus, Botanik, Archäologie