Karl Bötticher is best known for his landmark theory of architectural tectonics. In the 1840s, Bötticher proposed an integrated system of architectural expression, based first on considerations of plan and structure, and then on the symbolism of structure in ornamental forms. Fearful that philosophical aesthetics was leading architecture into purposeless immateriality and a dependence on extrinsic aims, Bötticher interpreted ornament as the communication of themes intrinsic to building. In a historical sense, Bötticher envisioned a medievalist armature of material and structural forces represented by an explanatory language of Greek ornamental forms. This reformulation of aesthetic ideas, coupled with his related advocacy for the visible expression of iron structure, had great significance for the pursuit of a system of architectural knowledge in modern Germany.

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