Department of Design, College of Media Arts and Design
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
The American architect Claude Bragdon (1866-1946) recognized magic squares to be "conspicuous instances of the intrinsic harmony of number" that interpret the "cosmic order which permeates all existence" by demonstrating their principles in his constructed projects. With origins in ancient China, India, Islam and Hebrew gematria, the magic square is a mathematical procedure that is both an operation of the architectural imagination and a geomantic projection from the divine. The magic square is a numerical acrostic disposed so that, when summed, each column, row, and diagonal equal the same "magic" number: opposing numbers along the crossing sum to equal the square's magic number, with the remaining numbers rotating in an implied circle with respect to the center. This figure of the encircled crossing additionally represents the divine androgyne, or the balance of opposites that equal the unity of the magic number. This androgynous figure is a magic square historically used to relate the body to the cosmos and the cosmic to the built environment.
This paper investigates the relationship between the magic
square and geomantic architecture regulated by the human form
using lessons from the ancient Hindu Vastusutra Upanisad,
which teach divination of the constructed world through the squaring
of the circle with the anthropomorphic yupa and vastu
purusa mandala (magic square). It argues that Bragdon's First
Universalist Church (1907) is a visible demonstration of his
theosophic architectural theory, which emphasized a cosmological
relationship between the body and the building through number,
geometry and harmonic proportions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR