Myriam Blais

Invention as a Celebration of Materials


"I'échange, c'est de tradition, doit toujours s'accomplir au cours d'un festin"
(an exchange, as of tradition, always has to be performed during a feast)
<Michel Serres Hermes I. La communication>

In the spirit of meaningful exchange suggested by Serres, this article explores the possibility of thinking about technology as a place for celebration.2 For that purpose, technology is defined here as the prudent use of techniques and implies a careful consideration of both thought and materials. This proposition relies on the sixteenth-century works of Françis Rabelais, doctor and novelist, and Philibert de l'Orme, architect, for their useful suggestions about providing a space for this celebration. Indeed, de l'Orme claimed to have contributed many beautiful and useful inventions to architecture, inventions that were supported by poetical illustrations relating to his interest in technology.3 Rabelais was a contemporary of de l'Orme and, although not an architect, was a privilege witness of the community of spirit that characterized their time. He also discussed architecture and technology through vivid images that help situate de l'Orme's ideas about invention in a larger context.

The first part of my argument establishes the common grounds on which de l'Orme and Rabelais conceived of invention in architecture, especially by defining the "name" and the way of working of the architect. The second part studies specific images that illustrate their views of invention through technology. The third part examines the stories that de l'Orme developed to support the legitimacy of his inventions. I will follow the thread of these stories about invention as they celebrate materials, the architect's "other" in the production of a built work. Underlying all of this is the relation that Rabelais and de l'Orme believed should exist between their work and the people who will address it: "In the art of architecture, undertakings of buildings are made and pursued in hope of dwelling commodiously and maintaining our health in them, of taking pleasure from them and giving it to friends" (PT, 7r).4
By introducing pleasure and friendship into the realm of architecture, de l'Orme proposed that architecture should be part of an ethical situation. Relationships between buildings and people would resemble relationships between people themselves; buildings would be worth constructing if they constituted places for exchange. Accordingly, de l'Orme and Rabelais developed images of exchange and of creative encounter between thought and materials, through technology. Like many sixteenth-century French humanists, they faced an awkward situation, inheriting a copiousness of ancient works in their respective fields. To stimulate and legitimize French architecture and literature, they believed they had to determine which ancient topics were still relevant, and then find a way to translate or reactivate these materials to nourish future works.5 They had to make a "virtuoso use" of ancient sources.6 Virtuosity, in this sense, meant that they needed to understand these topics fully before they could produce images that would span the distance between the original sources and newly invented works. Copiousness (from the Latin copia, meaning abundance, plenitude) was envisaged as part of a creative approach to one's work. It prompted fruitful inventions or new propositions to be found and woven together. It also generated movements of knowledge as well as material and sensuous expressions of this knowledge.7 In order to do so, copia had to be modelled after nature, which multiplies and transforms itself in abundance without ever repeating itself. In this way, copia-abundance was clearly distinct from copia-copy (or repetitive formal imitation). Copia-abundance worked by allusions, playful associations, and analogies, for "the feast of copious words or things [took] place under the sign of fiction."8 This was accomplished under the patronage of Hermes, an image for the "richness of the carrier signs on which depend[ed] the fecund reception of a thought."9


De l'Orme and Hermes

De l'Orme's books have been regarded mainly as technical endeavours. Consequently, their illustrations, especially the striking presence of Hermes crowning both the Premier Tome de l'Architecture's frontispiece (Fig. 1.1 ) and one of the drawings of the architect (Fig. 1.2), have not been studied carefully in relation to de l'Orme's interest in materials. Considering his demand, stated at the beginning of the book, that one should understand "quel nom est Architecte" (what is the meaning of the name architect) (PT, 6v), Hermes indeed becomes a key figure.

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I.I Hermes, situated at the top of the frontispiece; from Philibert de l'Orme, Premier Tome de I'Architecture ( 1567) (Paris: Léonce Laget Librairie-Éditeur 1988).

Hermes generally has been presented as the gods' messenger and interpreter, the connection-maker, the friend of men in their everyday life the god of commerce, exchange, and metaphor. He represents the possibility of a creative relationship between different parties in an exchange. Hermes is especially relevant for technology, because his myth provides an alternative to that of Prometheus. Prometheus was responsible for bringing the arts to mankind by stealing the gods' fire. However, this theft did not go unpunished, since it had been triggered by his wish to compete with the gods. Nevertheless, Prometheus was the figure that man later chose to associate with technology. This inherited concept promoted a belief in unlimited progress and a freedom to trespass boundaries. Hermes's importance, for my argument, rests in the fact that he acknowledges and respects limits and boundaries, and that he is the communication link between their different sides.10

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1.2 The architect, with Hermes above; from de l'Orme, Premier Tome, 5lv.

The idea of celebration and feast characterises Hermes and runs throughout de l'Orme's and Rabelais's works. It also implies that the architect cultivates himself for this celebration. In dealing with technology, the image of Hermes symbolizes techniques being adapted, translated, or interpreted to ensure that the encounter will please and celebrate both parties. In this sense, de l'Orme and Rabelais are concerned with the imaginative handling of distinct materials through skillful work.
The skillful intelligence that guides Hermes's abilities is called metis, a concept personified by the Greek goddess Metis. This conjectural knowledge is an "intellectual operation which lies half-way between reasoning by analogy and a skill at deciphering the signs which link what is visible to what is invisible."11 Metis is a manner of being in the world; an acute eye and a skilful gesture enable an individual endowed with metis to grasp a fleeting occasion and make the best of it. Metis also implies a thorough technical know-how. A person with metis is an astute builder, a prudent craftsman who works to deliver fruitful inventions and useful constructions. Metis is enacted through gestures and demonstrated through effects that arouse wonder.12 Moreover, metis relies a great deal on memory to resolve a difficult situation. In this sense, "memory makes possible a passage to something different, a metaphor."13 It suggests that technology is much more than the implementation of efficient means towards an end. Since memory enables metaphors or tropes to be made, de l'Orme's use of Hermes is consistent with the "virtuoso use" of ancient sources mentioned earlier. It emphasizes the story that an architect invents to use his means in an appropriate way.

Rabelais and Messere Gaster; inventor of the arts

When Rabelais introduces Gaster, the belly, as the inventor of all the arts (QL, 57-62), another interpretation of the architect's "name" is put forward through Gaster's peculiar association with de l'Orme. As Rabelais imagined it, "Gaster invented the art of smashing and destroying fortresses and castles, using engines and machines of war - battering rams, stone hurlers, catapults, the figure [drawing] of which he showed us, and which had not been well understood by the ingenious architects, disciples of Vitruvius, as the King's great architect, Messere Philibert de l'Orme, once admitted to us" (QL, 61) (my emphasis).
This excerpt from the Gaster story recalls a conversation between the narrator and his fictional character, in which the truth of Gaster's statement was confirmed by de l'Orme. Rabelais used de l'Orme's opinion to account for Gaster's, so that Gaster became a sound image of the architect: Gaster and de l'Orme both understand what architecture is, while many "ingenious architects, disciples of Vitruvius" do not. A similarity is established between the way Rabelais thinks of the architect and the way an architect actually practises his art. These images of the architect, through their reciprocal collusion, acquire a mythical value. Everybody, whether architect or not, can understand and appreciate these exemplary images that illustrate and define the "name" of the architect.
Like Hermes, Rabelais is cunning and artful in doing this through wonderment. The fact - or rather the fiction - that Gaster is a belly (in Greek, gaster means either belly or womb, the seat of conception) establishes a resemblance between different things: a belly and an architect. This metaphor becomes a means of knowledge, and the poet is the one who discovers or invents this resemblance. Aristotle drew a comparison between the poet (with the melancholic strength of his belly's inner movements) and the archer (whose success depends on the strength of his shot). He explained that the quality of a metaphor depends on it being shot from afar with strength and success. Hitting a target from this distance, however, relies not on a law of ballistics but on a law of poetics.14 It also provides a few interpretations of the agreement between Gaster and de l'Orme about the "figures" that were not well understood by the disciples of Vitruvius. First, as I have already suggested, technology is considered a metaphorical, inventive, hermeneutical activity. A metaphor is an act, since one has to shoot; it is also a result, since it enables us to perceive what unites two previously distant things. Secondly, Gaster's destruction of fortresses anticipates the architect's wilful use of ruins. In shooting from afar, the architect develops an eye for making a virtuoso use of ruins, relying on an architectural memory to find legitimate and worthy topics. As these images demonstrate, invention is born from those ruins or topics, which actually point to what would be worth remembering. Thirdly, Gaster's devising of engines and machines of destruction highlights the value of one's material imagination, an imagination of depths represented by the very act of destruction.15 This suggests that the appearance of a thing should trigger one's curiosity to know what is hidden within.
This last interpretation comes full circle and meets again with the architect's metis as a producer of effects that arouse wonder and invite an exchange. Rabelais's Gaster story therefore suggests that the fictional story concieved by the poet-architect constitutes a conjectural truth, and that the physical and intellectual circumstances from which a work of architecture is born represent the very richness of architecture: "Thinking leaves nothing tangible at all. By itself, thinking never materializes into any objects. To manifest one's thoughts, one must use his hands. The thinker who wants the world to know the 'content' of his thoughts must first of all stop thinking and remember his thoughts. Remembrance prepares the intangible for its eventual materialization, it is the beginning of the work process, its most immaterial stage."16
Using one's hands (an analogue for technique) aims to materialize thought. Techniques, and consequently the thing made, "re-mind" us.17
It is up to the architect to look for techniques and materials that will support his thoughts. If techniques and materials exist for the sake of thought, a built work will thus be judged by inquiring whether it has been "both truly and well made."18 On the one hand, the truly made is a form of knowledge, insofar as it is a conjectural manifestation of thought. This knowledge is metaphorical, a figure of thought that opens a new world. The well made, on the other hand, represents the architect's crafty, witty, and metis-like manner of working. The value of the truly and well made lies in its pleasurable agreement between the architect's ingenuity and the people who will address a work. The images that support this ingenuity therefore may be part of an ethical relationship. As the word edification suggests, it is a question of responsibility to others in constructing a building as well as oneself.19


The body o f the architect, the elm tree and the vine

To illustrate the "name" of the architect, de l'Orme invented a new body for the architect by grafting extra body parts (or senses of perception) and the wings of Hermes onto a human body (Fig. 1.3). The graft is the mark of one's material imagination, an imagination that gives life to a material cause.20 An image that materializes well, that fits well to the material it adorns, makes an object's surface iridescent. Through it, one can understand its depths.
Consider the architect's winged feet. They correspond to Hermes's ability to fly, swiftly carrying himself from one place to another. Importantly, the lower members of the architect's body are what launch the flight. The transport (or metaphor) that Hermes initiates thus comes from a material foundation that is connected to the ground by the soles of the feet. Poets conceived of the wings of imagination as being located always at the feet.21 Those wings, whose technological image is the arrow (along with the thrust that launches it), recall the Aristotelian archer of metaphor. This provides another interpretation of Gaster's and de l'Orme's ballistics of poetry, which require a humoral movement that audacious gestures convey.22 The body of the architect manifests the exuberant experiences of his inner senses and may be regarded as a gesture, a disclosure of meaning within a world. Indeed, this gesture derives its communicative force by being connected to the body, but it

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1.3 Drawing of the architect; from de l'Orme. Premier Tome, 283r.

achieves meaning by being situated in a particular place.23 In this way, de l'Orme also takes the opportunity to suggest a relationship between the body of the architect and building materials, exemplified by the elm tree standing next to the architect. This suggests a play between the almost homophonic French words "homme" (man) and "orme" (elm tree), a play that would have been common at the time of de l'Orme and Rabelais. The tree was considered an image of man, and both have provided the model for the column throughout the history and theory of architecture (Fig. 1.4 & Fig. 1.5).
The architect's extra body parts and wings swirl around the body, like the vine twisting and climbing around the elm tree. Imagination and invention therefore are supported by material, the material onto which a graft is made. The body of the architect is another exemple of de l'Orme's "virtuoso use" of an important architectural topic - the human body. This body is then rethought, through a metaphorical exercise, to produce a new image: the elm tree and the vine that climbs around it. Traditionally, in the cultivation of vines, the elm tree served as a support for the vine which, in turn, had to espouse the tree in order to grow.

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1.4 "D'un orme naît un homme..." (A man is born from an elm tree);
from Imaginaire végétal de la procréation (Paris. Bibl. Sainte Geneviève, ms 2000, XIII siècle, 172r).

This procedure required an appropriate pruning of both vine and tree so that neither would smother the other. Hermes again comes to mind as an image of plenitude between vine and tree, as well as between thought and material. Hermes stands in between, where technology (as an appropriate use of techniques) seeks an imaginative reactivation of inherited sources. De l'Orme's vine and elm tree espouse each other, in the space that both unites and distinguishes them. Like Hermes, who acknowledges and respects limits, the architect works to reconcile them. He must possess the sober drunkenness that colours the spirit so that the body may turn crimson. The vine's twisting around the elm tree thus acts like a trope; its garland-like decorating effect is an image of fullness that plays between thought and material. Images growing out from what supports


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1.5 The tree-column; from de l'Orme, Premier Tome, 218r.

them, and their celebration of this support, are of great interest to de l'Orme and Rabelais; these images invoke the hermeneutical bounds and bonds within which invention keeps itself in check. The relation between appearance and technology is thus intricate. Appearance being the proof of existence, the architect's orderly use of techniques makes this appearance manifest, so that the evidence of a building; is not dissociated from the thought and the story that sustained its construction.

Rabelais's pantagruéllion: the kitchen, the table, the bed, and the body

At the end of his Tiers Livre (49-52), Rabelais proposes another image, the "pantagruélion," a magnificent plant named after Pantagruel, the main character of his novels. It was named this way for three reasons:
first, because "Pantagruel invented it: [not] the plant, but a certain way of using it"; second, "by similitude since Pantagruel, when he was born, was as tall as the plant ... and its measure was easily taken"; and third, because "of its virtues and properties," for Pantagruel was the epitome oh joyful perfection and one recognizes in the pantagruélion "as many virtues, as much energy, as many perfections, as many admirable effects" (TL, 51). Pantagruel is Rabelais's undisputed humanist hero. He is given a philosophy, called "pantagruélisme," which accounts for his attitude towards life a life in which wisdom, virtue, and pleasure come together. Pantagruelism makes an exchange possible, and ensures it in advance. This curious, welcoming, and understanding attitude, by which one desires to appreciate truly someone else's intentions, is characterized by a playfulness and a serenity before unexpected events. This again recalls the metis of the architect. Playing with life's surprises or nature's strengths aims for cultural significance, not conquest over them. The conscious exercise of art is part of that adventure. Because Pantagruel's philosophy is associated with it, the pantagruélion's soundness of name points to the validity of the image Rabelais is proposing. It is an image of Rabelais's truthful exercise of his art, and of the variety of truths that are possible, through a variety of manners and works of art.24 Before describing how the pantagruélion got its name, Rabelais explained how it had to be prepared and worked, how its woody part slowly had to macerate, rest, and dry in proper temperatures in order to obtains its fibres, its most valuable and useful parts: "Those who really want to bring out its value do the same as what we have been told of the three Parcae sisters's pastime, of noble Circe's nocturnal activity, and of Penelope's long excuse to her gallant lovers during her husband's absence. In this way, the plant is brought to its inestimable virtues" (TL, 5o).
Rabelais uses the weaving metaphor to explain this process; indeed, the Parcae sisters spin while singing, Circe sings while weaving, and Penelope for the longest time undoes at night what she has woven during the day. In this way, Rabelais emphasizes the materiality of his work and, most important, how to handle this material so that its virtues, not its properties, are made manifest. To unite the woof and the warp, or to weave, means to intertwine opposites by putting everything in its proper place. The textile object represents humanity’s conscious decision making. Moreover, its very appearance always recalls the act of weaving. A textile object also combines the sensible or visible with the intelligible or invisible. It wraps the body that feels and touches it, while it displays a rigorous internal order. In a textile object, ornamental motifs are not severed from their support. Ornament and support appear together through the same procedure, as if the motifs were already dwelling within the woof. Consequently, the support is truly privileged because it helps give form to what it bears. The union of the woof and the warp suggests that there are many possible interpretations (or actual textile objects) that the warp allows the woof to generate.25 Therefore, Rabelais suggests, truthfulness to an art lies in a patient exercise with materials; it is a truth "to" materials and not a truth "of" materials. Referring in this way to the labour of the hands, Rabelais adds a subtle refinement to the realm of technology, which our contemporary understanding seems to have forgotten. Indeed, we usually think of a technique as a savoir-faire, or know-how. For both Rabelais and de l'Orme, it is more precisely a savoir s'y prendre, or know-how-to-handle-something-in-theright-way, with the appropriate twist of hands and twist of thought. Savoir s'y prendre has connotations of complete understanding.26 It is to know how to cling to whatever one wants to understand; savoir s'y prendre suggests perfect grasping. De l'Orme's vine twisting around the elm tree is also an image of this idea: a proper pruning of the vine of imagination is necessary to avoid smothering the tree, and an equally adequate pruning of the tree is needed if the vine is to bear fruit at all. The vine's fate is tied to the tree's, and vice versa.
Through the image of the pantagruélion, Rabelais exposes the underlying scaffolding of his work: "Without it, kitchens would be ignoble and tables unpleasant even when covered with exquisite meats; beds would be without delights although there was gold, silver amber, ivory and prophyry in abundance. Without it, would not the noble art of printing perish? With it, priests are dressed and adorned, and the whole of human nature is covered" (TL, 51 ) (my emphasis).
Rabelais enumerates specific objects relating to basic human activities. He then encompasses the whole of human nature which, as a result of the pantagruélion, has been covered in the first place. An architect's true exercise of his art covers, adorns, and dresses nature - but not literally, as a camouflage does. The Rabelaisian text suggests that the value and utility of work rest on "a rhetoric conceived as a clothing or an ornament, not as a disguise and a lie."27 The relationship that the pantagruélion makes possible between eating and the tablecloth, between sleeping and bedsheets, between language and paper, and between a body and its clothes, is one of celebration. Tablecloths, bedsheets, paper, and clothes establish a space oh contact and exchange, suggesting that a meaningful communication is impossible without that space. Although Rabelais does not name or even describe these artifacts per se, they nevertheless come to mind very vividly as images of the virtues that the true exercise of an art will allow. By the same token, an equivalency of form and content is established between Pantagruel's philosophy and the constructed objects that provide an image of it, like a textile that recalls the act of weaving.
At the end of the same episode, Rabelais writes: "By means of this plant, invisible substances are stopped and detained visibly" (TL, 51). He does not merely describe how, for example, wind caught by sails or windmills can put a ship and a mill to work, the message being that technology permits an easier and more enjoyable life. There are deeper implications of the fact that invisible things are made visible because of the pantagruélion. For Rabelais, wind (and wine, the two words in French, vent and vin, being homophonic) is a symbol of imagination, hence of thought. In the true exercise of an art, "a rhetoric conceived as a clothing," a surface of contact or a resemblance must exist between the clothing and the thing that is clothed. What is thus made visible are the ways in which the architect's imagination appears.28 This is nicely summarized by Michel Serres: "The interior of matter, as soon as one ouvre it (I conjuguate this verb as both to open and to work) becomes an exterior."29 The pantagruélion story, after all, may be an apology for technology, but only if technology is conceived as the thoughtful consideration of techniques. When techniques become a means to grasp things and to take the measure of the mind, they open myriad worlds that not only add to the natural one but also cover it, so that a culture may be made manifest.


The wooden inventions

In 1561 de l'Orme published his Nouvelles Invention pour bien bastir et à petits fraiz, a treatise describing the manners he devised for building roofs, vaults, and floors out of small pieces of wood. De l'Orme claimed that these new wooden constructions (Fig. 1.6), born from a desire to

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1.6a Examples of wooden inventions; from de l'Orme, Nouvelles Inventions (1561),

11 v. Paris: Léonce Laget 1988).

cover large spaces despite a scarcity of large trees, were of his own invention: "I believe that ancient architects never thought of making such great-spanned roofs and other incredible works by means of the invention I am describing here: at least, there is nothing about it in our books on architecture" (NI, 34v).
We are familiar with the commonplace that an invention is born from desire and/or necessity. However, considering how de l'Orme constructed his material images (congruent with Rabelais' own poetic exercises), and considering the intentions underlying the production of his works (so that pleasure be both given and taken from them), one should examine his inventions with these two aspects in mind. As de l'Orme explains, "ancient people would have taken great pleasure in being able to cover their theaters and amphitheaters [with this invention]. They used to cover them with cloth or other things, so that the sun would not hurt people" (NI, 34r).

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1.6b Examples of wooden inventions; from de l'Orme. Nouvelles Inventions (1561), 1Ov & 11v. Paris: Léonce Lager 1988).

Like Rabelais before him, de l'Orme turns his invention into an analogue of cloth. It is expressed rather plainly, recalling almost literally one of the uses that Rabelais had already assigned to his pantagruélion, "to cover theatres and amphitheatres against heat" (TL, 51). Rabelais's and de l'Orme's previous agreement an a viable way of thinking about invention is now evoked with the latter's process of invention, as an instance of the architect's true exercise of architecture. De l'Orme goes on to add that "one can use this invention as one does with stonework. There is no work or figure that this invention cannot do as long as one understands the traits. Because wood, according to its nature, has to behave in a different manner than stone" (NI, 298r).
De l'Orme's wooden inventions are the result of applying stone stereotomy - the trait - to wood. However, this has another implication. By reusing a technique known for another material, de l'Orme demonstrates how a careful use of techniques enables a material to behave differently without suppressing its inherent nature. Different materials may be turned, through techniques, into similar architectural elements, according to a familiar image. His use of a well-known medieval technique is significant: "it is true that wooden framework and stereotomy may be regarded as transformations of the same technique, the art du trait. Would one say it had not Philibert done all he could to convince us of it? Wood and stone have distinct traditions. De l'Orme made an appareil out of framework."30
De l'Orme indeed aimed to convince us of the figurative potential (through an appareil) of the ancient technique he chose to use anew. The art du trait is the art of drawing something "on" as well as "out of" materials. De l'Orme also puts a great deal of emphasis on the geometrical aspect of the traits. This technique, by which the architect's intentions and the materials he works with are conjoined, makes use of many learned geometrical operations. Most of de l'Orme's inventions involve them. Moreover, in de l'Orme's and Rabelais's manner (remember Hermes and Gaster), the art du trait is rediscovered as a metaphorical activity: the art of shooting well, that is, shooting far or from afar.31 This may look like a circumstantial interpretation of the word trait, but, as a technique for working with materials (like any technique), the trait points to the real value and meaning of technology. In this way, technology becomes a metaphorical means that makes the surface of contact and the resemblance between different things perceptible. In a sense, the geometrical aspect of the trait is equivalent to its metaphorical aspect.32 Consider again the vine growing around the elm tree; to know the material's pleats and to grasp them leads to covering and celebrating them.

De l'Orme's colomne Françoise

In his Premier Tome de l'architecture (1567), de l'Orme introduces yet another invention: a colomne françoise (a French order), or a stone column "extracted from tree trunks" (PT, 217r). This invention again shows how de l'Orme works to maintain the iconography of a wellknown architectural element as it is translated from one material into another. This brings to mind Vitruvius's account about stone temples replacing Greek wooden temples. De l'Orme acknowledges that this way of thinking and doing is still relevant for his own practice of architecture, more than fifteen centuries after Vitruvius. With regard to his own invention, he explains that, when ancient architects built tree-columns, they wrapped metal bands around them to prevent cracking and split ting. After realizing that plants and leaves were growing between the

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1.7 The "colomne Françoise"; from de l'Orme, Premier Tome, 219v, 220v, & 221 r.

column and the metal bands, they carefully imitated this natural process, inventing ornamentation for stone columns by carving leaves in the same fashion. Similarly, de l'Orme sets out to emulate nature's copiousness when devising a French order appropriate for French architecture.
De l'Orme's colomne Françoise was also born from necessity. Since it was difficult in France at the time to construct one-piece columns, he had to make them out of four or five stacked pieces, with carved ornaments hiding the joints. They appeared to be one piece, resembling the ancient wood columns with metal braces (Fig. 1.7). It has been argued that de l'Orme's banded columns were not really new, because similar Roman examples already existed and de l'Orme probably knew about them.33 Therefore, the construction of column shafts out of small stones hardly seems to qualify as an invention. Like his wooden frame inventions, however, it is a meditation on technology's contribution to his art. Indeed, he believes that "architects who understand art and have great experience at it will find an infinity of beautiful inventions, especially when they are willing to take their topics from the nature of places, as our predecessors did: I mean the imitation of natural things, of their effect, and of Nature's processes" (PT, ZI 9r).
While de l'Orme stresses that this invention imitates both ancient architects' manners and nature's processes (not merely copying their forms), his images also illustrate nature's need to be triggered by art. Remember the architect's body and the elm tree with its vine. Indeed, what would have been nature's contribution had it not been for the metal bands? De l'Orme, like Rabelais, suggests that there is an important architectural difference between the nature of materials and the celebration of materials. If metal bands are wrapped around tree-columns to prevent cracking, this seems to respond to the nature of wood. Since de I'Orme wants his many-pieced stone columns to look like the original one-piece banded wooden column, he aims to recall what they actually stood for. His stone columns are true to wood while they celebrate stone. They have been seen as a more viable type of column for French buildings because they acknowledge the nature of their supports, the small French stones.
34 However true this statement may be, it fails to give a full appreciation of de l'Orme's contribution. More than a viable building element, his colomne Francoise demonstrates a viable manner of invention and the logic and imagination that de I'Orme achieved when faced with both necessity and ancient architectural topics.
De l'Orme marvels at how nature blooms in strange places; he delights in anticipating, yet being surprised by, what art generates through imagination. By translating an architectural topic - the column - from wood into stone, he celebrates it as his own invention. This manner of working, a virtuoso use of inherited sources, had already brought forth his wooden-frame inventions. This does not mean that different materials are easily interchangeable. As with Rabelais's pantagruélion, it is through a thoughtful use of techniques that a material's woody part (its apparent crust) is macerated to obtain its most precious fibers (its virtues). De I'Orme's work with resemblances between wood and stone searches for intermediary images and surfaces of contact between original topics and new circumstances. This geometrical activity extracts measures from an original architectural topic and from an original building material. The appearance of ornament recalls the original process that is being reinvented. Like the textile object that recalls the art of weaving, the woof is a contingent interpretation of the unchanging aspect of the warp.
While acknowledging the inherent duality between thought and the nature of materials, an architect's inventions should turn this duality into a celebration. Materials may thus be seen as a legitimate support for thought, through technology. De I'Orme's art du trait has been defined as the "offspring of a misalliance between geometry and technique, which for a long time, was held to be a little contemptible."
35. As with all unlikely unions, the offspring - a grotesque body - is an image of the place where cultural significance is expressed. Because the grotesque body is in imaginary motion, it is the place of ingenuity, at the crossroads of imaginative thought and material reality. Since it is inscribed within the ethics of strange alliances, de l'Orme's technology is the revelation of the distance and the tension that exist between thought and materials. Yet it provides for a way to reconcile them.

Conceived in this way, invention does not belong to the space of conquest but to the space of celebration. If architecture is to be a celebration, architects must pay attention to the techniques they use and to all the elements entering their "cuisine." The architect has to be at work in the kitchen, where the banquet is being planned and where Hermes is no stranger, for this god is also the inventor of fire, the element that binds and cements all mixes, and is the source of meaningful smells.36 De l'Orme's and Rabelais' images for architecture imply that fecund encounters develop between an architect and materials, and later between a work of architecture and the people who will address it. It might be useful to wonder again about the current meaning of this "name" architect, especially with regard to the ethical, hermeneutical, and interpretive roles that de l'Orme and Rabelais once assigned to technology. The vine's and the elm tree's fates are still tied together.


1) I am grateful to Alberto Perez-Gomez and to Stephen Parcell for their careful reading of this work and their judicious comments.
2) Celebration is understood as the repeated, renewed, or even reinvented manifestation of things believed to be worth remembering.
3) See my "Enhanced Architectural Making: The Ideas and Works of Francois Rabelais and Philibert de I'Orme" (University of Pennsylvania, PhD dissertation 1994).
4) All translations of quotations from de I'Orme's and Rabelais's works are mine. For easier notation, the following references to de I'Orme's books are established: the Nouvelles Inventions pour bien bastir et à petits fraiz.(1561): NI, and the Premier Tome de l'architecture ( 1567 ): they are specified by folio, recto, or verso: Philibert de I'Orme, Traités d'architecture. Nouvelles Inventions pour bien bastir et à petits fraiz (1561), Premier Tome de l'architecture (1567) (Paris: Leonce Laget Librairie-Editeur 1988). As for François Rahelais's books: the Tiers Livre ( 1546): TL, and the Quart Livre (1552): QL; in Rabelais's case, references are given by chapters: François Rabelais, Oeuvres completes (Paris: Editions du Seuil 'Intégrale 1973)
5) Michel Jeanneret, A Feast of Words. Banquets and Table Talk in the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1991), 173.
6) Terence Cave, "Copia and Cornucopia," French Renaissance Studies 154o- 70. Humanism and the Encyclopedia, ed. Peter Sharrat (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 1976), 52.
7) Terence Cave, The Cornucopia Text (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press 1979), 3-34 and 171-82.
8) Ibid., 31-2.
9) Guillaume Budé, L'étude de lettres (1532). French Renaissance humanists have attributed to Hermes the all-encompassing image of humanism. He was the medium of language and eloquence and represented the figures of rhetoric that carried a thought.
10) On the relevance of Hermes for contemporary culture and technology, see Michel Serres, Les cinq sens (Paris: Grasset 1985), and Gilbert Durand, "Le nouvel esprit anthropologique ou le retour d'Hermes," in Science de I'homme et tradition. Le nouvel esprit antropologique (Paris: Editions Sirac 1975), 227-43.
11) Marcel Détienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society (Chicago:University of Ghicago Press 1991), 314. Additional references to Hermes and/or metis can be found in Laurence Kahn, Hermes passe ou Ies ambiguites de la communication (Paris: Maspero 1978), and Michel de Certeau, L'invention du quotidien. Arts the faire (Paris: Gallimard 1990).
12) Kahn, Hermes passe,82-3.
13) de Certeau, l'invention du quotidien, 126.
14) Jackie Pigeaud,"Une physiologie de I'inspiration poétique. De I'humeur au trope," Etudes classiques 46, no. 1, (1978 ): 23-31.
15) Gaston Bachelard, L'eau et les rêves. Essai sur I'imagination de la matiêre (Paris: Jose Corti 1942).
16) Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1958), 9o.
17) A. Coomaraswamy, "A Figure of Specch or a Figure of Thought ?" Coomaraswamy. Selected papers. Metaphysics (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1977), 13-42
18) Ibid.
19) Edification consists of "the disciplined expansion and ornamentation of interiority" (a definition given by lvan lllich during a lecture at the ACSA Northwest Regional Meeting in Philadelphia on 18 October 1991, under the title "Needs, Professions and Places"). Its Manifestation becomes perceptible in one's or something's appearance. Consequently, an appearance is an expression of order, "conspicuous and present in sensucus abundance" (Dalibor Vesely, "Architecrure and the Poetics of Representation," Daidalos 25 [1987], 29).
20) Bachelard, L'eau et Ies rêves, 1-28.
21) Gilbert Durand, Les structures anthropologiques de I'imaginaire (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1963), 133.
22) Ibid.,166.
23) The four ears and hands of the architect are attributes of wisdom, which is attained by practising a trade (signified by the hands) and pondering other people's counsels (signified by the cars). Wisdom concerns man in his concrete relationship with others and with nature. The three eyes of the architect represent an interpretation of prudence, since it relies on memory and Iearning from the past, intelligence in ordering the present, and foresight in anticipating the future. Through prudence, art becomes the paradigm of virtuous actions since it produces tangible things. We obtain virtues and arts by exercising them, and learn by doing them. Since it accounts for a space and a time (the right space and the right moment), prudence resembles the conjectural thinking, the metis of a practical mind.
24) I owe part of this interpretation to Yves Délègue, "Le Pantagruélion, ou Ie discours de la vérité," Réforme, Humanisme, Renaissance 16 (1983) 18-4o. In most articles and books concerned with the pantagruélion episode, the authors attempt to find out which real plant Rabelais is, talking about and ultimately interpret it as a mere praise of human work and progress. This literal approach does not do justice to Rabelais,s pantagruelism. Délègue's article demonstrates an interesting concern with Rabelais's manner of exercising his art.
25) John Scheid and Jesper Svembro, le métier è tisser de Zeus. Mythe du tissage et du issu dans Ie monde gréco-romain (Paris: Éditions la découverte 1994); and François Dagognet, Rematérialiser. Matières et matérialisme Paris: Vrin 1989)
26) The Latin prehendere means "to grasp" with one's hands and thought, as is implied by the verbs apprehendere ("to Iearn") and comprehendere to understand, to comprehend").
27) Délègue, "Le Pantagruélion, ou Ie discours de la vérité," 32.
28) Rene Guénon, Le règne de la quantité et les signes du temps: (Paris: Gallimard 1945).
29) Michel Serres, "Distraction," Le corps en morceaux (Paris: Réunion des musées, nationaux 1990), 56. The French verbs ouvrir ("to open") and ouvrer (an ancient spelling for œuvrer meaning "to work") are not etymologically related. The conjugated form with which Serres plays seems Rabelaisian in spirit. As Alfred Jarry said, "when words play between themselves it is because they know their cousinship."
30) Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos, "Ia charpente a la Philibert de I'Orme. Reflexions sur Ia furtune des techniques en architecture," Les chantiers de la Renaissance ( Paris: Picard 1991),41. The French word "appareil" is translated into English as "bond". To my mind this term does not carry all the richness of the French word: that is, something that clothes or adorns. Indeed, the verb "appareiller" (from the Latin parare, parere) means "to get prepared," that is, to provide something with all it needs. Appareiller la pierre," for instance, means to cut the stones and assemble them according to are certain pattern; it is to dress the stones. This definition is also implied by the verb to apparel, "to put clothes on, to dress, adorn, or embellish".
31) The noun trait comes from the verb tirer; which means also "to shoot."
32) Michel Serres, (in Les origines de la géométrie Paris: Flammarion 1993), explains that geometry is the result of a ruse and a detour, whose indirect road allows access whatever goes beyond a direct practice. To measure what is inaccessible, it must be mimed or reproduced within an accessible space and time. Richard Kearnay, in Poetique du possible. Phénoménologie herméneutique de Ia figuration (Paris: Beauchesne 1984), also discusses man's intertional and creative existence. Man creates his world and himself by going beyond what is present, in time or space, and by making his way towards what is absent. Existence is a figuration (a term encompassing perception, imagination, and signification) that gives meaning to the world by making real or apparent its many possibilities. Therefore, he argues, every production is a figuration, an analogue.
33) Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos, L'architecture à la française (Paris: Picard 1982).
34) Yves Pauwels, "Theorie et pratique des ordres au milieu du XVIe siècle: de l'Orme, Goujon, Lescot, Bullant" (These de doctorat, Université François Rabelais, Tours, 1991). On his part, de l'Orme concludes the description of his French order in this way: "One can ornament and enrich it from Nature, and from things which this French Kingdom is most inclined to and his inhabitants most devoted to" (PT, 219r). Joseph Rykwert suggests that understanding the orders correctly requires us to think of them as "distilled, poetic allusions, having the force of proverbs or familiar quotations" ("The Corinthian Order," The Necessity of Artifice [London: Academy Editions, 1982, 41]). He also suggests that "the origin of these elements is not in formal fancy ... it was a necessary, willed product of the feelings and ideas of the people who devised and used them" (ibid.).
35) Perouse de Montclos, L'architecture à Ia française, 86. This idea seems to come from art historians's inability to see beyond the plane geometry that sustains most of the regulating lines in architectural composition. Did they fail, as the author argues, to recognize stereotomy's third dimension because its parents were unsuited to each other? In their minds, geometry had apparently married beneath its social status.
36) Serres, Les cinq sens, 180-1.