In the treatise ‘De re aedificatoria’, Leon Battista Alberti said that «the city is like some large house, and the house is in turn like some small city». From Andrea Palladio to Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, from Aldo van Eyck to Aldo Rossi, starting from Alberti’s reprise of the wording in his treatise the sentence grew famous, becoming, in its chiasmus structure, a genuine ‘topos’ inside the architectural and urban discourse. But what is the history behind these words, before their reprise in the first modern treatise dealing with architecture? The aim of this contribution is to outline this history, from Greek Antiquity to Patristics and Scholasticism. What emerges is the ‘topos’ extreme versatility, its ability to impose itself - and bringing structure to thought - in the most different contexts and for the most various reasons.
Keywords: Leon Battista Alberti; Andrea Palladio; theory of architecture