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The Pantheon: Design, Meaning, and Progeny, With a New Foreword by John Pinto, Second Edition New edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674010192
ISBN-10: 0674010191
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Pantheon is an informative and extremely well organized [book on] one of the most important and influential buildings in world history. Throughout, the language is appealing...Not only a coherent summary of the history, description, and analysis of the building, but also a discussion of the relevant architectural issues within a larger framework. (Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians)

MacDonald describes the Pantheon's structure in some detail, against the background of contemporary architecture and building methods...and he gives a brilliant resume of its influence on other architects from just after its building to the 1950s...an exceptionally well constructed and readable book. (The Economist)

About the Author

William L. MacDonald was Alice Pratt Brown Professor of Art History at Smith College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New edition edition (October 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674010191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674010192
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ryan Green on February 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
William L. MacDonald presents an unpretentious and sound survey of Rome's most famous yet least understood architectural icon. For those with a keen but novitiate interest in the Pantheon, or casual readers of Roman history, this book is ideal; it's not overwhelmingly fact-laden and it's as assimilable as an afternoon snack. For those interested in the engineering, logistics and constitution of the Pantheon I would suggest some of the recent work by the Engineer David Moore. Historically MacDonald's ideas are consistent with previous analyses and include an interesting metaphysical supposition for the Pantheon's ambitious dimensions ("to unify unities...is the Pantheons ultimate meaning" - pg. 88). The final chapter offers an insightful survey of similar designs from ancient Mycenae to Neoclassical American, showing how influencing, and influenced, Hadrian's rebuilt Pantheon was as a western idiom and architectural paragon.

All-in-all I enjoyed reading this book and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it!
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The Pantheon is brilliant in its simplicity, a combining of the circle and the square, with man as part of the equation. “The Pantheon: Design, Meaning, and Progeny” by William L. MacDonald, discusses this idea as well as the dome’s place in the ancient and modern world, why and how it was built, and its influence on architecture down to our day. While short (132 pages) and well illustrated (b&w photos), it’s not a book to breeze through. It’s a book that rewards careful reading.

It was the Roman architect Vitruvius, who lived approximately 130 before the Pantheon was built, who first wrote about the relationship between man and architecture. MacDonald writes: “(Vitruvius) speculated about proportions in both architecture and the human figure . . . in something like circle-and-square terms: Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of these Vitruvian suppositions is famous (and illustrates) reciprocities between the circle and the square, on the one hand, and the reach and theoretical spatial envelope of an idealized human figure, on the other. These concepts appear dramatically enlarged in the Pantheon, where sweep of the limbs of the Vitruvian figure are expanded to colossal dimensions. This sympathy between the forms of Roman vaulted architecture and the spatial potential of the human figure is perhaps one of the principle keys to understanding the long life and continuing influence of that architecture.”

Around 117 A.D. Roman emperor Hadrian commissioned the building of the Pantheon. While the architect’s name is not known, he was the first Roman to break with Greek architectural influence and design something wholly original—a domed rotunda. It was built as a temple, possibly to honor the planetary deities—Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, the Moon, the Sun, and Saturn.
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In March 2013, I visited the Pantheon in Rome. It was a short afternoon visit coming after a long morning tour of the Colosseum and Forum. My wife and I were tired; we spent just about a hour trying to take in one of the greatest architectural marvels in western civilization, a temple to all the gods. (Our more energetic son was interested in seeing other things.)

But the image of that vast concrete vault rising over my head to the blank oculus above has stayed with me. That dome is almost two thousand years old, yet it looks as if the concrete had been poured just a few decades ago. The interior walls of that grand rotunda were of rich, shining, multicolored marble. Every aspect of that enclosed space testified to wealth, beauty, permanence, and power. How could this place be a remnant of the fallen glory of Rome? So I turned to this book to help satisfy my curiosity.

Unfortunately, I was immediately attacked by the opening sentence: "Handrian's Pantheon is one of the grand architectural creations of all time: orginal, utterly bold, many-layered in associations and meaning, the container of a kind of immanent universality." (p. 11) Such verbosity is used by a writer who feels a need to charge at his reader with trumpets blaring and cannon booming. His reader is someone who has to be overwhelmed and conquered---or maybe just someone whom he hopes to wake up. "All time"? What is that? Two thousand years is a long time, but it is not "all time." And what the heck is "immanent universality"? Sigh. I knew at once that reading this book was going to be a chore, that is, if I stuck with it.

I did stay with it, right to the end. It is a mercifully short book---160 pages, counting notes and index.
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I bought this book to improve my understanding of the pantheon. This it certainly did.
The pleasant surprise is the explanation of circular building from tombs through to San Stefano Rotundo. It tied all of these building together for me for the first time.
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This is a great and informative introduction to the best preserved temple in Rome - and perhaps of ancient history. MacDonald covers the ground succinctly and readably...highly recommended. You will be left wanting to hear more.
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