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Filippo Brunelleschi

     
     
Sculpture of Brunelleschi looking at the dome in Florence
Sculpture of Brunelleschi looking at the dome in Florence
Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – April 15, 1446) was a great Florentine architect of the Italian Renaissance.

Early life
Brunelleschi was a paid sculptor in a Florentine workshop and was a member of the goldsmiths' guild. In the competition for the second set of doors for the Florentine Baptistry he lost to Ghiberti, who executed the famous "Doors of Paradise." After this blow to Brunelleschi's ego, a rivalry between the two began that would last for the rest of their lives. One of the most famous incidents between the two occurred when both were on the council in charge of overseeing the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi feigned illness until Ghiberti's incompetence and ignorance was revealed. Brunelleschi worked and studied in Rome with his friend Donatello, where he learned about Classical architecture. It is also rumored that he travelled to Constantinople before its fall to the Turks to study the structure of the Hagia Sophia. His interests extended to mathematics and engineering and the study of ancient invented hydraulic machinery and elaborate clockwork, none of which survives. He also had a brief and disastrous cameo in the world of shipmaking, when he built a monstrous ship called Il Badalone to transport marble to Florence from Pisa up the Arno River. The ship sank on its first voyage, along with a sizable chunk of Brunelleschi's personal fortune. Above all Brunelleschi is remembered as an architect who established new classic canons of serene rhythms, clear geometry, and symmetry,often using the simplest materials: gray serena and whitewashed plasteronwards on the construction of the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore basilica, or Il Duomo as the dome is generally called, which attracted his engineering bent. When he first entered his architecture field, he was frequently thrown out of meetings due to his temper. He was rescued from bankruptcy by the Medici family, who were impressed by his designs and contracted him to design and build the Duomo. Besides accomplishments in architecture, Brunelleschi also invented perspective, which revolutionized painting, and allowed for naturalistic styles to develop as the Renaissance digressed from the stylized figures of medieval art.

Brunelleschi's dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Brunelleschi's dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Building the Dome
In 1418, a competition was announced for proposals on how to bridge the central crossing of the cathedral in Florence (the Santa Maria del Fiore). Brunelleschi's bid was backed by a then less important family, the Medici, which would benefit hugely from the completion of the dome. His design, which offered to build the cupola in circular cone shaped courses of brickwork forming two shells - one light outer shell - and the main shell (the scaffold) so thick that it all the way up contains a closed circle, without a framework of scaffolding, won the competition, and in 1423 he was put in complete charge of the Duomo's building works. Its completion took most of his life. The main structure was finished by 1434. Four half-domed tribunes in the apse were constructed in 1438. The dome was only completed with a lantern in 1461 by Michelozzo. Andrea del Verrocchio added the gilt copper ball in 1496. The church's dedication took place on 25 March 1436, accompanied by a grand ceremony; music for the occasion, the motet Nuper rosarum flores, was written by Guillaume Dufay.

While construction was proceeding, Brunelleschi designed and built the Pazzi Chapel in the cloister of the church of Santa Croce, which was actually begun in 1442 after long negotiations. The chapel, where members of the Pazzi family were to be entombed, was meant to function as a chapter house for the Franciscans of Santa Croce. Brunelleschi's ribbed hemispherical dome is expressed on the exterior as a low tiled flattened conical roof on a low plain drum with small oculus windows. Inside, under the dome, the chapel is almost a cube, extended by barrel-vaulted bays on two sides. Pilasters and hemicyclic arches articulate the walls. The sedate materials are white stucco and the gray stone Florentines call pietra serena.

The Duomo was definitely a fantastic architectural achievement. All the proportions and mathematical skills involved in the project amounted to a very high number, and Brunelleschi became famous, helping the Medici family rise in the process.

Other Architectural Works
The Duomo was not Brunelleschi's sole achievement in architecure;he also designed other famous buildings. The Ospedale degli Innocenti (The foundling children's hospital or orphanage) started 1419 is considered as the first real renaissance building. The hospital, which features a loggia that people could take refuge from the weather under, was built and managed by the silk guild of Florence. Brunelleschi's design, which was based on Classical styles with simple rhythm, held simple ratios in the columns and Roman arches. If a horizontal line is drawn from the top of each column, a square is created out of the height and width of the column and the distance from one column to the next. The diameter of each arch is also the same distance as the height of each square. Above each column is a tondo style, terroccotta sculpture, which were added after Brunelleschi's initial design.

Other major works

Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze, started 1419 
Santo Spirito, 1343