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Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture - Ross King There must have been something in the water in Florence, Italy during the 13, 14, and 1500's... the amount of genius that city has produced continues to stagger the imagination: Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonerotti, ... and now (I discover) Brunelleschi. There's no denying the simple beauty of the Florence cathedral's Rennaissance "five-point" dome, shelled in brilliant terra cotta, and topped with a distinctive "lantern" -whose origins are also covered in the book. What is not widely appreciated is how revolutionary the construction of the cathedral's dome was. Prior to Brunelleschi (1377-1446), domes were built over a scaffold frame to support the masonry until it dried. The world's largest dome (43 meters diameter) constructed by ancient methods is the Pantheon in Rome.The Florence cathedral dome was to be only slightly wider at the base (44 meters), but given its vertically elongated shape, it was to be considerably heavier than a half-sphere dome. The added weight precluded traditional methods of construction. Brunelleschi overcame the technical challenges by implementing an ingeneous dome-within-a-dome design, with barrel hoops around the inner dome, which direct force towards buttresses, which run down the side of the dome, to the eight points of the octagonal base. During intermediate stages of construction, a series of chains helped direct weight of the emerging dome outward, towards the weight-bearing walls of the cathedral, rather than inward, where the dome could collapse on itself.All the while Brunelleschi was working out the technical aspects of the project, there were political and interpersonal intrigues, plagues and wars which all threatened either the project itself, or Brunelleschi's participation in the construction. It might be argued that his political savvy navigating these tricky situations was as impressive as his skill as a master builder. In the end, the dome was completed in 1446, and remains today one of the icons of Italian architecture, and a world heritage site of historical interest. Author Ross King ties these many elements together to deliver an edifying read, which leaves one with a good sense of Brunelleschi's genius, the important leap forward in architecture which the dome represents, and what life was like for those involved in its construction nearly six hundred years ago.