Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity


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George C. Izenour; Foreword by Robert Venturi

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This book is the first to explore the roofed theater sites of classical antiquity. George Izenour, one of the most distinguished modern experts on theater design, engineering, and acoustics, examines the archeological remains of twenty-four Greek, Greco-Hellenistic, and Roman buildings. He provides detailed architectural drawings of their probable original appearance and discusses how these huge spaces were spanned and what the precise effects might have been on sound, lighting, and ventilation.
Basing his discussion on the principles of classical architecture and on his observations and site photographs of ancient theater ruins, Izenour explores the structure and design of classical roofing systems, seating systems, sight lines to the stage, lighting, and acoustics. He also offers a succinct comparison of ancient and modern roofed theater design. In eight useful appendixes he addresses subjects that range from the remodeling of Greco-Hellenistic outdoor theaters to the drop-curtain-movable-painted-scenery controversy in the Roman theater.

George C. Izenour is professor emeritus of theater design and technology director emeritus, Electro-Mechanical Laboratory of the Yale University School of Drama.

"A practicing theater designer who is also an engineer and inventor, . . . George Izenour brings...a fresh analysis and interpretation to the subject of roofed theaters of the ancient world. . . . As he puts himself into the head and heart of his brother professionals from the past and views the challenges they faced from a similar viewpoint and with a parallel experience, . . .[he leads us to] the how and why of the design of important ancient buildings."—Robert Venturi, from the Foreword

"The book will be much the most substantial treatment now available of the roofed theater in the Greco-Roman world. It is written with immense zest and illustrated with splendid sets of photographs and drawings."—Homer A. Thompson, Professor Emeritus, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study

"Izenour has greatly enhanced our historical, aesthetic, and archeological appreciation of the ancient theaters of Greece and Rome by his extraordinary study of their roofs. In so doing, he has turned upside down the usual problem-solving approach of the structural engineer, who once the loads to be supported are determined, designs the type, location and size of the needed supports. Izenour, with the skills of a first rate sleuth, has established instead the type and geometry of the plane and space roof trusses from the type, location, and approximate size of the supports. Despite the complexity of these structures, the sketches illustrating their geometry and behavior allow the reader to visualize the entire design of these classical theaters. He thus allows us to see them for the first time in all their glory. I compliment Izenour for his brilliant solutions to such difficult and time-consuming technical problems, problems that demand uncommon knowledge and acute intuition."—Mario Salvadori, James Renwick Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Columbia University

"This is a highly significant book, at once salutary and sobering. It fundamentally alters our perception of the nature of ancient theatre practice, particularly in the Roman era, inviting a thoroughgoing reappraisal of the variety of ancient performance and the social milieu in which it took place. At the same time, it demonstrates in detail the limits of literary and historical analysis employed by theatre scholars without due regard for decisive technical conditions and limitations. . . . It is for [its] . . . corrections of long-accepted dogma, as well as its magnificent designs, and compelling exploration of a virtually unexamined area of theatre architecture, that Izenour's scholarship merits high praise, and this book, the warmest welcome."—Richard C. Beacham, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Izenour's Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity is an original and important . . . work on enclosed places of assembly. Beautifully illustrated, this book is essential reading for anyone having an interest in the history of classical architecture or the history of theater design."—Cyril M. Harris, Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Columbia University

"This thought-provoking book may well lead to the revision of established theories of classical architecture."—The Art Newspaper

"Izenour's work and his lucid speculations are a valuable addition to the architectural acoustics literature. . . . This volume . . . goes a long way toward clarifying the rules on auditorium design from antiquity up through the present time."—James F. Bartram, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

"A truly monumental piece of scholarship, [it] represents the first attempt to deal in an organized fashion with the indoor theatres of antiquity. . . . Although [Izenour's] focus remains the reconstruction of these roofed structures, much of the writing is done with a wider perspective, dwelling upon society and social movements as they affect theatrical performance. . . . Lavishly illustrated with both photographs and drawings, this book will give pleasure to the most exacting bibliophile."—Clifford Ashby, Theatre Survey

"This book is an important contribution to the study of Roman architecture, and it is to be hoped that it will stimulate interest not only in the category of buildings with which it deals but in ancient timber-truss roofs generally."—Ian M. Barton, Classical Review

"An investigation and plausible reconstruction of ancient roofed theaters by a man who has spent his life creating the modern version of these same buildings. . . . Compelling, insightful, logical, provocative, and at times maddening. . . . A very careful, thorough, and comprehensive treatment. . . . Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity will give you new insights into the probable construction and possible use and importance of these handsome buildings. [Izenour] will also challenge you to look at any subject from his particular perspective. Whether you agree with it or not, it is always fascinating reading."—Gary Decker, Didaskalia

"A stimulating and refreshingly different approach."—Roger Ling, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

"Elaborate and copiously illustrated. . . . [This and his previous books] provide an indispensable guide to a comprehension of the design and inner workings of that little understood but ubiquitous building called a theatre. . . . This is a book of scholarship, craftsmanship, and insight."—Wallace Dace, Theatre Design and Technology

"George Izenour is perhaps without peer in possessing the extensive archaeological historical interest, the architectural, structural, and theater engineering skills, and other necessary expertise to have undertaken this unique study of ancient theaters. . . . This volume . . . goes a long way toward clarifying the rules on auditorium design from antiquity up through the present time."—William J. Cavanaugh, Journal of the Acoustic Society of America

"This is a truly monumental piece of scholarship and represents the first attempt to deal in an organized fashion with the indoor theaters of antiquity; it deserves a place in every library."—Theatre Survey

"In the last hundred years only a handful of studies in theater architecture and theatre technology can be called 'seminal'. . . . The three Izenour volumes are the most brilliant and original of all these works and indisputably a reference of the highest order. There is really nothing comparable."—Dr. Joel E. Rubin, Theatre Design & Technology

Received the Outstanding Book Award in the Category of General Engineering in the 1992 Program for Excellence in Professional/Scholarly Publishing

Winner of a 1993 International Architecture Book Award in the category of Architectural History, awarded by the American Institute of Architects
ISBN: 9780300046854
Publication Date: August 26, 1992
Theater Technology

George C. Izenour

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