Master builder of the Middle Ages and design build of today: an analysis and comparison

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Master builder of the Middle Ages and design build of today: an analysis and comparison

By Vincenzo Emprin-Gilardini

Master’s Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000

Abstract: Design and build is both an old and a new method of project delivery. It is rooted in antiquity, when the master builder was usually both the designer and the constructor of the projects he envisioned. Labor force was used to haul large blocks of stone that skilled craftsmen would later fashion into useful components of a structure. Throughout this process, their efforts were controlled by the individual responsible for the project’s design. The plans were often little more than an image in the designer’s mind, and were realized only in the course of the actual construction. It was essential, therefore, that the designer be the builder as well.

During the Renaissance, building design became so complex that the master builder could no longer be responsible for both the design could no longer be responsible for both the design and the construction of a project. The traditional method of project delivery grew out of this need for more extensive resources, until the design and build method once practiced by the master builder regained popularity in the 1970s. The reason of this phenomenon lays in the need of clients to investigate ways of controlling project costs and reducing delivering time. Today the term design and build refers to a method of project delivery in which a single entity provides to the client all of the services necessary to both design and construct all or a portion of the project.




An analysis of the role of the master builder in the Middle Ages is provided. The reason why the Middle Ages were chosen lays in the fact that during this period outstanding projects were completed in Europe and the role of the master builder as a designer and constructor was then best represented. The construction of the cathedral of Chartres in France is used as an example. The modern concept of design and build is analyzed as well, providing the Oresund Tunnel project between Sweden and Denmark as an example. Finally, master builder and design and build are compared, with a focus on the similarities, the differences, what can be learned from the past and how it can be applied.

Click here to read this thesis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sharan Newman