The Ten Books on Architecture, 6.6

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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The Farmhouse

6In the first place, inspect the country from the point of view of health, in accordance with what is written in my first book, on the building of cities, and let your farmhouses be situated accordingly. Their dimensions should depend upon the size of the farm and the amount of produce. Their courtyards and the dimensions thereof should be determined by the number of cattle and the number of yokes of oxen that will need to be kept therein. Let the kitchen be placed on the warmest side of the courtyard, with the stalls for the oxen adjoining, and their cribs facing the kitchen fire and the eastern quarter of the sky, for the reason that oxen facing the light and the fire do not get rough-coated. Even peasants wholly without knowledge of the quarters of the sky believe that oxen ought to face only in the direction of the sunrise.

2Their stalls ought to be not less than ten nor more than fifteen feet wide, and long enough to allow not less than seven feet for each yoke. Bathrooms, also, should adjoin the kitchen; for in this situation it will not take long to get ready a bath in the country.

Let the pressing room, also, be next to the kitchen; for in this situation it will be easy to deal with the fruit of the olive. Adjoining it should be the wine room with its windows lighted from the north. In a room with windows on any other quarter so that the sun can heat it, the heat will get into the wine and make it weak.

3The oil room must be situated so as to get its light from the south and from warm quarters; for oil ought not to be chilled, but should be kept thin by gentle heat. In dimensions, oil rooms should be built to accommodate the crop and the proper number of jars, each of which, holding about one hundred and twenty gallons, must take up a space four feet in diameter. The pressing room itself, if the pressure is exerted by means of levers and a beam, and not worked by turning screws, should be not less than forty feet long, which will give the lever man a convenient amount of space. It should be not less than sixteen feet wide, which will give the men who are at work plenty of free space to do the turning conveniently. If two presses are required in the place, allow twenty-four feet for the width.

4Folds for sheep and goats must be made large enough to allow each animal a space of not less than four and a half, nor more than six feet. Rooms for grain should be set in an elevated position and with a northern or north-eastern exposure. Thus the grain will not be able to heat quickly, but, being cooled by the wind, keeps a long time. Other exposures produce the corn weevil and the other little creatures that are wont to spoil the grain. To the stable should be assigned the very warmest place in the farmhouse, provided that it is not exposed to the kitchen fire; for when draught animals are stabled very near a fire, their coats get rough.

5Furthermore, there are advantages in building cribs apart from the kitchen and in the open, facing the east; for when the oxen are taken over to them on early winter mornings in clear weather, their coats get sleeker as they take their fodder in the sunlight. Barns for grain, hay, and spelt, as well as bakeries, should be built apart from the farmhouse, so that farmhouses may be better protected against danger from fire. If something more refined is required in farmhouses, they may be constructed on the principles of symmetry which have been given above in the case of town houses, provided that there is nothing in such buildings to interfere with their usefulness on a farm.

6We must take care that all buildings are well lighted, but this is obviously an easier matter with those which are on country estates, because there can be no neighbour’s wall to interfere, whereas in town high party walls or limited space obstruct the light and make them dark. Hence we must apply the following test in this matter. On the side from which the light should be obtained let a line be stretched from the top of the wall that seems to obstruct the light to the point at which it ought to be introduced, and if a considerable space of open sky can be seen when one looks up above that line, there will be no obstruction to the light in that situation.

7But if there are timbers in the way, or lintels, or upper stories, then, make the opening higher up and introduce the light in this way. And as a general rule, we must arrange so as to leave places for windows on all sides on which a clear view of the sky can be had, for this will make our buildings light. Not only in dining rooms and other rooms for general use are windows very necessary, but also in passages, level or inclined, and on stairs; for people carrying burdens too often meet and run against each other in such places.

I have now set forth the plans used for buildings in our native country so that they may be clear to builders. Next, I shall describe summarily how houses are planned in the Greek fashion, so that these also may be understood.

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