Eugenia Victoria Ellis
Department of Design, College of Media Arts and Design
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

N2004-EllisThe 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.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., AIA is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the managing partner of BAU Architecture. She studied architecture in Chicago at the University of Illinois (B.Arch. 1980), architectural theory at University of Pennsylvania (M.S. 1992) and is a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech's Washington-Alexandria Architecture Consortium. Her work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and universities, and her built projects have been recognized for their design by the American Institute of Architects. She is the author of "Lo Shu, Window to the World of the Wondrous: Bragdon, Lissitzky, Malevich," Potential Architectural Journal (January 2001), "Learning To Forget: Architectural Recreation, Spatial Visualization and Imaging the Unseen," Architectural Theory Review 5/2 (November 2000), "Ceci tuera cela: Education of the Architect in Hyperspace,"Journal of Architectural Education 51/1 (September 1997), and "The Play of Architecture (re)Production," Dichotomy Volume 11 (1997).

The correct citation for this paper is:
Eugenia Victoria Ellis, "Geomantic (Re)Creation: Magic Squares And Claude Bragdon's Theosophic Architecture", pp. 79-92 in Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2004.