Stars, stones and architecture : an episode in John Dee's natural philosophy

The work of John Dee (1527-1608) posits an approach to architecture based upon the concept of wonder. Sympathetic correspondences permeate Dee's disparate practical activities and architectural discourse. His contributions to astronomy, alchemy, cartography and navigation are grounded in the intersubjective cosmology of the Renaissance. It is in Dee's Mathematicall Praeface (1570), which promotes mathematics as a natural philosophy, that the architect's metier is aligned with the marvellous and established as an art encompassing numerous disciplines. Dee's syncretic formulation of architecture is distinctly attuned to the alchemical and magical discourses pervading the Renaissance and established in relation to his hieroglyphic "Monas" symbol. This emblematic device, discussed in the Monas Hieroglyphica (1564), exemplifies the link between architecture and writing. The Monas symbol permits the architect-as-alchemist to contemplate marvels and effect them in practice. In addition to positioning wonder in human activity, as a navigational beacon guiding the work of the architect, Dee signals the possibility of restoring conjuring-the dangerous and denigrated art of sixteenth century England--into architectural practice
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