In the sixteenth century a trope solidified: military architecture was not an art, it did not utilize disegno, but rather emerged as an empirical response to the uniqueness of the site.1 If on a flat plane “the site would have to obey art,” in most cases “art would have to obey the site.”2 The Discorsi militari of the Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria della Rovere, provided an early instance of the trope.3 When an architect offered a beautiful design (dissegno bellissimo) for the fortifications of Senigallia, the duke pointed out that a neighboring hill made the city vulnerable. He told the architect that the drawing was indeed beautiful, but only for itself (bello in sé); it was inadequate to suit the defensive needs of Senigallia.

A series of terms coalesced: to create an adequate design for a military structure, an architect required...

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