Earth, Water, Air, Fire
The Four Elements and Architecture
Josep Lluis Mateo, Florian Sauter
This research addresses the archaic or permanent conditions of architecture. According to Pre-Socratic tradition, since earliest times, when humankind began to analyse the universe, there was this important proposition lasting until today that nature and life are connected to the four principles of earth, water, air and fire. This thesis not only relates to basic conditions of man on earth, but also targets the fundamentals of architecture.
Forced to interact with the natural elements that invigorate a built structure and co-determine a building’s experiential reality during construction, one ought to keep in mind their brute powers – earth’s crushing heaviness, the erratic character of water, air’s thermo-dynamic cataclysms, or the dangerous benignity of fire. Affective in a direct way, they act as guiding principles in the process of realization: While the earth targets the foundations, the roof shields from water, the openings control the flow of air, and the walls protect from the gleaming sun.