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3 Tutorials that teach Early Renaissance Architecture
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Early Renaissance Architecture

Early Renaissance Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore a few examples of early Renaissance architecture.

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Tutorial

An overview of early Renaissance architecture.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about early Renaissance architecture. As you are watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary, and as soon as you ready we can begin.

Today's objectives of the things we're going to learn today are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain how Brunelleschi overcame the engineering obstacles on the design of the dome of the Florence Cathedral, and describe the classical design elements that define the appearances of Santo Spirito and Palazzo Medici.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Ogival Dome-- a primary quality of Gothic architecture, also seen in Islamic architecture characterized by the pointed arch. Modular design-- in architecture an approach that divides a system into smaller parts that can be created and used in different systems with much functionality. And Basilica-- a columned meeting hall in ancient Rome, later a church with columns.

The big idea for today is that the Gothic and Renaissance design elements of the Florence Cathedral mark a turning point in the architecture of Italy, moving from medieval to classical architectural styles. So we'll be looking at the time period ranging from-- there it is-- 1420 to 1487. And once again, we are in Florence, Italy-- there's Italy and there's Florence.

The architect and artist, Brunelleschi, the runner up to the panel competition for the Florence baptistery doors, was hired to solve a major problem with the final construction phase of the Florence Cathedral. That huge open span that needed to be covered some 140 feet, or about half the distance of an American football field, which is quite big. It was an engineering nightmare, and it was up to Brunelleschi to create a solution by devising new building methods.

So as opposed to a hemispherical-shaped dome, Brunelleschi turned to a previous generation for his solution. It's really interesting how the Florence Cathedral, which came to be so closely associated with the Renaissance in Florence, had its most notable feature designed using Gothic techniques. Essentially, Brunelleschi took an ogival or pointed arch and spun it around its axis to create an ogival-shaped dome.

The design was inherently stronger in the sense given that the outward thrust was limited. And to conserve weight, he designed the dome as a double-walled shell with a ribbed, semi-hollow interior. Now the eight primary supports can be seen on the outside-- those are the white ones-- but there are 24 ribs altogether. And the heavy lantern on top anchors the entire structure.

Although Brunelleschi's work on the Florence Cathedral was quite ingenious, it was essentially Gothic in its execution. The Church of Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy, gave Brunelleschi the opportunity to incorporate the classic rationality that to find the Renaissance, which is rounded arches, modular floor plan, and references to Basilicas into his design.

Now the term modular refers to the way in which a defined mathematical constant is repeatedly used throughout the design, creating a sense of mathematical harmony. Much in the same way as the classical, architectural temple designs of ancient Greece like the Parthenon also use a similar approach.

For example, the main arcade in the clerestory, which you see here-- are equal in height, and they're combined height is twice that of the width of the nave So a marvel of classical influence for sure, the church stands as perhaps the greatest example of Brunelleschi's Renaissance-styled architecture.

Sadly, Brunelleschi never saw the completion. He actually died. Construction was completed after his death in 1446. Here's just a few other images. Here's the exterior. Front facade of Santo Spirito.

Although it wasn't designed by Brunelleschi, the Palazzo Medici by Michelozzo de Bartolommeo, was definitely inspired by his style. In the classic Roman house design, the house is centered around an open, colonnaded courtyard which I'll show in a moment. However the exterior, though hardly ostentatious, is far from plain and expresses Michelozzo's understanding of classical design, while at the same time creating something that was uniquely modern.

Now there are three distinct horizontal bands that are combined to create a sense of visual weight that decreases as you move upwards, and this is partially accomplished by the use of finished and unfinished stone. So notice how the stone begins as unfinished on the bottom, and is progressively smooth as you move upward. Finally, to balance the overall appearance, a heavy cornice roof is affixed on the very top, and a cornice is the ledge that you can see on the top.

And here's a view of the interior courtyard. Notice the rounded arch-- the rounded arcade that goes around the central courtyard. A common feature in the ancient housing designs in ancient Rome.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we got them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can explain how Brunelleschi overcame the engineering obstacles on the design of the dome of the Florence Cathedral? Can you describe the classical design elements that define the appearances of Santo Spirito and Palazzo Medici?

Once again, the idea for today is that the Gothic and Renaissance design elements of the Florence Cathedral mark a turning point in the architecture of Italy, moving from medieval to classical architectural styles. And that is it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Ogival Dome

    A primary quality of Gothic architecture; also seen in Islamic architecture characterized by the pointed arch.

  • Modular Design

    In architecture an approach that divides a system into smaller parts that can be created and used in different systems with much functionality.

  • Basilica

    A columned meeting hall in ancient Rome, later a church with columns.