The Ten Books on Architecture, 6.6

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of the Proportions of Houses in the Country

6First of all the salubrity of the situation must be examined, according to the rules given in the first book for the position of a city, and the site may be then determined. Their size should be dependent on the extent of the land attached to them, and its produce. The courts and their dimensions will be determined by the number of cattle, and the yokes of oxen employed. The kitchen is to be placed in the warmest part of the court; adjoining to this are placed the stalls for oxen, with the mangers at the same time towards the fire and towards the east, for oxen with their faces to the light and fire do not become rough-coated. Hence it is that husbandmen, who are altogether ignorant of the nature of aspects, think that oxen should look towards no other region than that of the east.

2The width of the stalls should not be less than ten feet, nor more than fifteen; lengthwise, each yoke is to be at least seven feet. The baths should be contiguous to the kitchen, for they will be then serviceable also for agricultural purposes. The press-room should also be near the kitchen, for the convenience of expressing the oil from the olive; and near that the cellar, lighted from the north, for if it have any opening through which the heat of the sun can penetrate, the wine affected by the heat becomes vapid.

3The oil room is to be lighted from the southern and warmer parts of the heaven, that the oil may not be congealed, but be preserved liquid by means of a gentle heat. Its size must be proportioned to the quantity of fruit yielded on the estate, and the number of vessels, which, if of twenty amphoræ (cullearia), are about four feet diameter. The press, if worked by levers instead of screws, should occupy an apartment not less than forty feet long, so as to allow room for the revolution of the levers. Its width must not be less than sixteen feet, which will give ample room to turn and expedite the work. If two presses are employed, the width must be twenty-four feet.

4The sheep and goat houses are to be constructed so that not less than an area of four feet and a half, nor more than six feet, be allotted to each animal. The granaries are raised, and must be towards the north or east, so that the grain may not heat, but be preserved by the coolness of air; if towards other aspects, the weevil, and other insects injurious to corn, will be generated. The stable, especially in the villa, should be in the warmest place, and not with an aspect towards the fire, for if horses are stalled near a fire, their coats soon become rough.

5Hence those stalls are excellent which are away from the kitchen in the open space towards the east; for when the weather is clear in the winter season, the cattle brought thither in the morning to feed, may be then rubbed down. The barn, hay-room, meal-room, and mill, may be without the boundaries of the villa, which will be thereby rendered more secure from fire. If villas are required to be erected of more magnificence than ordinary, they must be formed according to the proportions laid down for town houses above described, but with the precautions necessary to prevent the purposes of a country house being interfered with.

6Care should be taken that all buildings are well lighted: in those of the country this point is easily accomplished, because the wall of a neighbour is not likely to interfere with the light. But in the city the height of party walls, or the narrowness of the situation may obscure the light. In this case we should proceed as follows. In that direction from which the light is to be received, let a line be drawn from the top of the obstructing wall, to that part where the light is to be introduced, and if, looking upwards along that line, a large space of open sky be seen, the light may be obtained from that quarter without fear of obstruction thereof;

7but if there be any impediment from beams, lintels, or floors, upper lights must be opened, and the light thus introduced. In short, it may be taken as a general rule, that where the sky is seen, in such part apertures are to be left for windows, so that the building may be light. Necessary as light may be in triclinia and other apartments, not less is it so in passages, ascents, and staircases, in which persons carrying loads frequently meet each other. I have explained to the best of my ability the arrangement used in our buildings, so that it may be clearly known by builders, and in order that the Greek arrangement may be also understood, I shall now briefly explain it.

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