Logistics Takes Command

19Jan16

Francesco Marullo

November 2015

Excerpt from Log 35, Fall 2015
The term logistics derives from the Greek verb logizein, meaning to calculate, to reckon, to organize rationally, to plan. Over time it acquired a military connotation, dealing not only with the composition, lodging, and movement of troops but also with the arrangement of provisions in hostile territories, as well as the transportation and storage of artillery, food, medicine, and fuel. Logistics also entailed the disposition of the battlefield, the construction of defensive systems and urban settlements, and the planning of infrastructure and communication networks.

Architecture is intrinsically logistic. Not by chance, the first Western treatise on architecture, Vitruvius’s De architectura, was written by a soldier and carpenter for Julius Caesar. The treatise is a sort of compendium of Roman construction and military knowledge, the main principles of which are essentially logistic in nature: ordinatio, or the ordering of space according to quantity; dispositio, the regular arrangement of parts according to a whole; eurythmia, the proportions of inner parts in a plan; symmetria, the complementarity of the elements within a composition; decore, the proper conformity to customs, rules, traditions, and natural conditions; and finally distributione (what the ancient Greeks called oikonomia), the appropriate organization of site, building procedures, and expenses. Each of these principles found direct application in the foundation of cities, which Vitruvius conceived as war machines laid out according to the protocols of military encampment: the procedure of the castramentatio, described by Polybius, offered a paradigm for the correct administration of the city and the state at large. From the central crossing of streets and the outer delimitations of walls to the disposition of buildings based on topography and the wind’s direction to the extraction and conveying of water, logistics was indispensable for channeling all the natural forces of a context through an ordered architecture, ensuring a healthy life for its inhabitants and defense in times of hostility.

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