THE TOUMBA BUILDING AT LEFKANDI. Preliminary Results of a New Architectural Analysis

Author: Alessandro Pierattini

A University of Notre Dame interdisciplinary colloquium, presented by the School of Architecture and the College of Engineering.

On May 9, 2022 University of Notre Dame School of Architecture professor Alessandro Pierattini hosted a collaborative colloquium, “The Toumba Building at Lefkandi. Preliminary Results of a New Architectural Analysis’’ in the Walsh Family Hall of Architecture. Opening remarks were provided by University of Notre Dame deans Stefanos Polyzoides, Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean of the School of Architecture, and Patricia Culligan, Matthew H. McCloskey Dean, College of Engineering. Presentations were offered by a number of scholars and researchers from the universities of Oxford (Prof. Irene Lemos, Director of the Lefkandi Excavations), Notre Dame (Liam Abujawdeh, James Alleman, Gianluca Blois, Mitsugu Hasegawa, Adam Heet, Yahya Kurama, Alessandro Pierattini, Hirotaka Sakaue, Brad Weldon), New Mexico State (Paola Bandini), and Illinois at Urbana Champaign (Dimitrios Fytanidis). Following the presentations, Professor Pierattini chaired the panel discussion featuring Donald Haggis, Lothar Haselberger, Sam Holzman, Nancy Klein, Antonis Kotsonas, Lena Lambrinou, Aenne Ohnesorg, Paul Scotton, and Aleydis van de Moortel.

This colloquium presented the preliminary findings of a new architectural study of the Toumba Building that began in 2020 at the ISHA Lab—Laboratory for the Interdisciplinary Study of Historical Architecture. A team of architectural historians, civil engineers, and aerospace engineers from the University of Notre Dame, joined by scholars from other institutions, has reassessed the structural feasibility of Coulton’s peripteral reconstruction. Using finite element analysis, the team comprehensively analyzed the structural capacity of the reconstruction. Through the use of technologies normally used in aerospace research, the team has also determined the effect of wind loading. This colloquium illustrates the interdisciplinary methods and goals of ISHA’s ongoing research on the building.

Built in the first half of the tenth century BC, the Toumba Building at Lefkandi is one of the  earliest-known monumental structures built in Greece following the end of the Bronze Age. According to J.J. Coulton’s 1993 reconstruction, the building had a “veranda” of wooden posts around the perimeter, which therefore established the Toumba Building as the earliest-known local antecedent of the peristyle of later Greek temples. This conception was widely accepted by scholars and went unchallenged until 2015, when Georg Herdt called it into question on structural grounds. Subsequent studies have therefore been divided, with some retaining Coulton’s peripteral reconstruction, and others rejecting it as “structurally questionable”.

By elucidating the structural function of the Toumba Building’s wooden posts, this research will provide an answer as to whether the building could have had a structurally functioning wooden ‘peristyle’. More broadly, it will clarify how the building’s design related to structural needs, thus furthering our understanding of early Greek architecture.

View the colloquium on YouTube at The Toumba Building At Lefkandi.