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Principles of Renaissance Architecture

Renaissance Architecture is a style of architecture that emerged in early 15th-century Florence, Italy. Ushering in a revival of ancient Greek and Roman Classical architectural forms, it supplanted the prevailing Gothic medieval aesthetic.

Renaissance Architecture is generally broken down into three main periods, Early Renaissance, High Renaissance and the Baroque period.

Early Renaissance began around 1400 when architects focussed on antiquity for inspiration and reintroduce Classical Roman and Greek elements.

High Renaissance adapted Classical to contemporary 16th-century building styles of the time. The use of decorative and ornamental classical elements such as domes and cupolas became more widespread.

The Baroque period was around late-16th century. It was a more theatrical version of Renaissance architecture, with dramatic lighting and colour, illusory effects such as trompe l'oeil, and designs that played games with architectural features, sometimes leaving them incomplete.

Key Characteristics of Renaissance Architecture

  • Focus on classical notions of beauty based on proportion and symmetry mixed with a humanist perspective on architecture

  • Renaissance architecture strove to create harmony between humans and mathematical proportions by creating a human-scale classical geometry

  • The plans of Renaissance buildings typically have a square, symmetrical appearance in which proportions are usually based on a module.

  • Exteriors typically featured ashlar masonry

  • Employed the use of Classical elements such as domes, columns, pilasters, lintels, arches, and pediments in an orderly and repetitive fashion, adapted to then contemporary purposes

  • Use of Roman orders of Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite columns

  • Early Renaissance buildings focused on bringing in air and light, which was also a nod to the dawning of Renaissance ideals and thought

Although the continuing demand for monumental religious art meant that most architectural projects involved cathedrals, basilicas, churches, chapels, sacristies, baptisteries, temples and tombs, Renaissance architects also designed a wide range of secular structures, such as palaces, villas, libraries, hospitals, piazzas, fountains, and bridges.

Filippo Brunelleschi is seen by the majority of historians to be the most prominent figure responsible for initiating the style and concepts of Renaissance architecture. His understanding of Roman Art and Engineering underpinned a huge part of his Renaissance success, which was to turn the unnecessary complexity of Gothic design into something simpler and brighter.

The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore was the first octagonal dome in history to be erected without a temporary wooden support, and it became the visible symbol of the Florentine Renaissance culture.

The Dome consists of two distinct domes: one internal, more than two meters thick, with a deeper angle than the other and consisting of large arches held together by ribs and made of bricks arranged in a "herringbone" pattern. The external dome is covered with terracotta tiles and marked by eight white marble ribs.

The oculus of the Dome is surmounted by the large lantern: a 21 meter high white marble tower, which was built after the death of the artist (1446) but following Brunelleschi’s project. On the top is the golden copper ball with apical cross, work by Andrea del Verrocchio, placed there in 1471.

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