Architecture H-Project Dome Of Florence Research Paper

Length: 14 pages Sources: 20 Subject: Architecture Type: Research Paper Paper: #49634811 Related Topics: System Architecture, Architecture, Roman Architecture, Gothic Architecture
Excerpt from Research Paper :

Indeed, the first use of the term 'architect' as against 'master mason' in France dates from 1511 and reflects the increasing influence of Italian ideas" ( P88). Heller goes on to state that "…humanist learning in architecture not only raised the status of the architect, it also helped to foster a new division of labor in construction…"( Heller 88).

1.4. Significance

The innovative design that was exhibited in this construction was to lead to unique and progressive developments in the field of architecture. This is evidenced by the following quotation; "This manner of thinking through the project as a whole and determining every aspect of its structure, construction, and aesthetics was very different from the traditional ways of the masons and was to some extent the birth of the modern architectural profession." (Castex 52)

Brunelleschi's design and building expertise was also innovative in other ways as well. His creation of a new division of labor challenged the tradition medieval master builders who were previously in charge of design and construction. In a very real sense therefore, Brunelleschi's construction of the Dome of Florence Cathedral was the beginning of Renaissance architecture, both in terms of its design of structures and its execution using new technologies. Gartner states that, "There can be no doubt that the early Renaissance begins with his buildings" (1125).

2. Facade of Santa Maria Novella (1456 -- 1470 AD)

2.1. Background

In 1456 Giovanni Rucellai and his family commissioned Leon Battista Alberti to design and execute a new facade for the unfinished exterior of the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella. ((Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472)) the background to this church begins in 1219 when a number of Dominican friars led by Fra Giovanni da Salerno came from Bologna and obtained the church of Santa Maria delle Vigne as their Florentine dwelling. The building of the much larger church which is evident today was begun in 1279 according to a design by two Dominican converses, Fra Sisto and Fra Ristoro. (Santa Maria Novella - Church and Cloisters). Orlandi provides the following sequence of events (Orlandi 6 -- 7). The original church on the site dated from the ninth century AD. It was enlarged in AD 1094 by the patronage of the church canons. In November 1221 it was ceded to Giovanni of Salerno, who wanted to build a new church.

While he did not design the building itself, the architect Alberti created the facade. ( Chiu 97) the original facade was begun near the beginning of the fourteenth century but was left as incomplete around AD 1350. It comprised of "...six arch tombs (avelli) and three Gothic portals, as well as the marble squares and arches up to the level of the frieze." ( Chiu 97)

The Papal court resided in Santa Maria Novella in the period between AD 1434 and 1443. This was the period just before Alberti was commissioned to design the new facade. Orlandi states that "Between 1458 and 1470, Leon Battista Alberti, commissioned by Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai (whose name can be seen in large letters below the tympanum), designed the magnificent central portal (executed by Giovanni di Bertino) and the upper part of the facade, admirably harmonizing the pre-existent Gothic elements with the new Renaissance style." Orlandi 4) Among the design aspects that are attributed to Alberti was the hiding of the sloping roofs of the aisles with two up-turned volutes, which was the first examples of this architectural motif. The whole facade merges the lower Gothic elements with the upper Renaissance elements. ( Chiu 97) These and other design aspects will be discussed in more detail in the following section

2. 2. Design

Alberi's architectural style has been described as follows: "Alberti was above all an artist of facades - the creator of exteriors that radically altered the appearance of a building but did not directly express its internal organization as an organic, living system." ( Chiu 97)

With regard to the style and design this piece of architecture it is based on the triumphal arch, which shows evidence of a Greco-Roman influence. ( Chiu 97) the various architectural elements can be described as "...a temple-like pedimented upper story with triangular panels and...


There are possible influences of the Florentine Baptistery of San Giovanni and di Cambio's original design for Florence Cathedral." ( Chiu 97)

Alberti was also responsible for the design of both the top section of the facade and the main doorway from 1456-70. The lower half with green columns was begun in 1300 and completed by 1360. (the Facade of Santa Maria Novella)

The central problem that Alberti faced in designing this facade was that the design has to "....accommodate wall tombs already built into the lower facade and to construct a modern facade that would still be in keeping with the 13th-century Gothic structure." (Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472)) it is important to note that, in terms of the architectural style of the period in Italy, the facade was intended as a public space which fronted the church and "… not as necessarily revealing anything about the interior." (Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472))

Another design and construction problem was the fact that the two levels of the church were of different heights. Alberti solved this by tying them together visually with the use of the ornate scrolls on opposite ends. (the Facade of Santa Maria Novella) Alberti also used the example of the Romanesque church of San Miniato al Monte as an inspiration for his design of the facade.

Other noteworthy aspects of the design are the widening of the proportions of the facade with pillars of branded white and green marble, which are paired with Corinthian columns. (Chiu 97) Importantly, the portal was widened to remind one of the Pantheon with its "...fluted plaster door frame and coffered entrance vaults with rosettes." ( Chiu 97)

In general, it has also been suggested that in terms of original design, Leon Battista Alberti took his cue from a pre-Gothic medieval design, particularly that of San Miniato al Monte. From the Romanesque model, he "…designed a small, pseudo-Classical, pediment-capped temple front for the upper part of the facade and supports it with a broad base of pilaster-enframed arcades that incorporate the six tombs and three doorways of the extant Gothic building." (Santa Maria Novella Church) Alberti completed the design by "... adding a triangular tympanum, as well as creating the two beautifully inlaid lateral volute or scrolls to hide the slope of the roof that covers the side naves." (the facade of S.Maria Novella)

2.3. Construction

The building was constructed largely without the supervision of Alberti. Chiu states that "...according to a dedication written by Fra Giovanni di Carlo, a friar at the church, to Cristoforo Landino, Alberti designed the marble inlay on the facade, and this was executed by Giovanni di Bertino, a mason skilled in this art" (Chiu 99). Various wooden models that were designed by Alberti were used by the masons with the details that they required for the construction. Furthermore, this method would have "...allowed Giovanni to employ different masons for each project, when he was ready to build. This may be a factor that has contributed to the uncertainty surrounding Alberti's role in Giovanni's projects." ( Chiu 97) the facade was therefore completed between 1458 and 1470 by Giovanni di Bertino, using Alberti's designs.

2.4. Significance

This facade is renowned for its highly stylized architectural beauty. As one commentator notes; "The decoration, in black and white marble, of the facade of Santa Maria Novella can perhaps be considered to be the most beautiful of all the Florentine churches." (the facade of S.Maria Novella) Alberti's achievement in continuing the project of this facade lies largely in his integration of the already existing medieval elements by "developing them along a classical design." (the facade of S.Maria Novella) Above all, the central significance of this facade is that it "…is a perfect example of the harmony found in the arts in the early Italian Renaissance." (the facade of S.Maria Novella) Alberti also contributed to the development of art as well as architecture. He wrote a number of books including a work entitled, on Painting. In general it is acknowledged that he was an influential figure in changing the direction of Italian Renaissance art. (the facade of S.Maria Novella)

3. St. Peter Basilica (1506 -- 1626)

3.1. Background

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City and has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. Banister Fletcher, the renowned architectural historian, refers to it as "...The greatest of all churches of Christendom." (Fletcher 719) the symbolism and importance of this building relates to the burial site of Saint Peter,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Andrea Palladio: Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2004. Web. <>

An Engineer's Aspect: Filippo Brunelleschi's Dome. Web. <>

Basilica of St. Peter. Web. <>

Bonde, S., R. Mark, and E.C. Robison. "Walls and Other Vertical Elements." In Architectural Technology Up to the Scientific Revolution: The Art and Structure of Large-Scale Buildings, edited by Robert Mark, 52-137. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

Cite this Document:

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"Architecture H-Project Dome Of Florence" 18 August 2012. Web.12 April. 2021. <>

"Architecture H-Project Dome Of Florence", 18 August 2012, Accessed.12 April. 2021,

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