Alberti and Brunelleschi Name: Daire HorganWords: Date: 05/01/18Student Number: 117402302 R00163667Date Submitted: 08/01/18 https://www.pinterest.ie/pin/327566572878296184/ (http://www.arttrav.
com/florence/palazzo_rucellai_alberti/)Discuss the Different Approaches of Brunelleschi And Alberti To Architecture and How They Interpreted the Lessons of The Ancients. Who Do You Think Was the More Influential Figure During the Renaissance? By Daire HorganLeon Battista Alberti and Filippo Brunelleschi were two incredibly influential renaissance architects and innovators and their legacies, for different reasons are still as important today as they were in 15th century Florence. For us to decide which of the two was the more influential figure during the renaissance, we must closely examine their buildings and architectural ideas, and crucially in what way the two architects interpreted the lessons of the Ancients. First, let us examine Alberti and his first architectural commission, the Palazzo Rucelli.The Palazzo Rucelli, built from 1446-1451, commissioned by Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai is a clear example of how Alberti took his studies of the ancients from his time in Rome as well as the study of ancient Greek architecture and applied it to his commission by the wealthy Rucelli family. While clearly taking some influence from the recently completed Medici Palace (three definite floors with classical features), the Palazzo Rucelli is much more rigid in its use of these features. We see this not only in the individual elements, such as the pilasters, rounded arches and entablature, but in the emphasis on measure and harmony, created through the use of strict geometry and measure.
Having a strong love of mathematics, this aspect of classical architecture was clearly very appealing to Alberti as we see it featuring strongly in all his work. On the three levels of the palazzo we see three orders of columns which form the pilasters. On the ground floor, we see the Tuscan order, on the first floor we see Ionic columns and on the top floor we see the most decorative of the three, Corinthian order columns. This matches exactly the three orders of columns found in the same arrangement on The Coliseum in Rome. The entablature and frieze also pay homage to the ancients, similar to those found in Delphi and many other classical ruins. Between the ground of first floor, we see the Medici symbol of a diamond ring with three feathers coming out of it. Deeply loyal to the Medicis, the most powerful family in Florence at the time, this is how the Rucellis decided to show their allegiance.
Between the first and second floor we see the Rucelli’s own family symbol of a sail blowing in the wind. As well as a decorative piece being taken from the ancients, the entablature drew attention away from the verticality of the pilasters and gave the building a more horizontal orientation.Alberti fused these typical classical ideas with contemporary renaissance architecture which was heavily influenced by the ideas of Humanism. Humanism is a philosophical idea which emphasizes the value of human beings, individually or collectively and prefers critical thinking over the acceptance or of dogma or superstition. The patrons such as the Rucellis, who along with Medici family, commissioned some of the great renaissance architecture around Florence, wanted the buildings to beautify their city and give their citizens a sense of pride within it.
This can be seen on the Palazzo itself on the ground floor as there are benches for citizens of the city and also on the accompanying Loggia, adjacent to the Palazzo. This was an open, colonnade-like structure built to commemorate the marriage between the Medicis and the Rucellis. This grand structure again featuring classical rounded arches clearly shows the emphasis the renaissance man put on humanism and the value of the citizens of the city. Through the study of this Palazzo, we see that Alberti’s approach to architecture drew inspiration heavily from the individual elements of the Ancients, as well as the emphasis put on harmony and measure, created through the use of strict geometry and reason which he fused with the contemporary ideas of humanism.
Though some of the same influences can been seen in Brunelleschi’s most iconic work, his dome on top of the Florence Cathedral, erected between 1418 and 1434, his approach to this architectural and engineering feet, was revolutionary because it was without precedent in the modern world or even in the ancient world. The dome is as wide as the Pantheon and until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, it was the tallest dome in the world. Traditionally, an arch or dome is constructed with a wooden support until the keystone can be inserted at the top, making it self-supporting but the timber or technology didn’t exist to support a structure this size so this problem was ingeniously solved by a few ideas. The tiles were constructed in a herringbone pattern so that they would be self-supporting during construction.
The tiles were also supported by eight visible stone ribs. As well as these, there are two ribs between each of these which are covered over by the tiles. In addition to these still, there are horizontal braces, similar to metal bindings on a wooden barrel, binding the ribs together and stopping the force of the weight of the dome pushing downwards and out.These innovative ideas and executions of these ideas, were clearly trying to imitate the scale, grandeur and sense of importance that the ancients created in buildings like the pantheon. The dome is built on top of a gothic church and this shows Brunelleschi’s architectural prowess as he seamlessly fuses the two, creating more classical aspects, such as the very thick walled, rounded arch tribunes which line the Brunelleschi’s addition to the Duomo but look as though they have been a part of the church since its inception.
The dome itself however diverges from more strict interpreters of the ancients, such as Alberti, not only by its use of modern technology but also as the dome is quite steeply pointed, rather than the perfectly symmetrical hemi-sphere used by the ancients. Here we see the how Brunelleschi takes the ideas we see used by the ancients and, through the use of ingenuity and contemporary technology, surpass their achievements to which he was paying homage. While on a smaller scale than that of Brunelleschi’s Dome, Alberti faced some similar obstacles while designing the Santa Maria Novella, 1470. Again, receiving patronage from the Rucelli family, Alberti was tasked with designing a façade in his style on the front of an already existing gothic, more specifically Dominican gothic church. While Alberti clearly took great inspiration from the ancients, we can also see a lot of influence from 11th-12th century Romanesque architecture, namely the Baptistry of Florence and the façade of the church of San Maniato Al Monte also in Florence, namely the linear geometric patterns on the façade. Aside from Alberti’s more modern influences, the Ancients’ principles of perfect geometry, rational order and proportion dominate the façade of this church. This whole structure fits into a perfect square, which itself can be divided into two even squares in the bottom half and one centered square in the top half. This strict adherence to geometry is cemented by the ‘framed’ bottom floor.
This framing is achieved by creating a column accompanied by a pier at either end of the façade, as well as a large frame around the door. This door is modelled off the door in the pantheon, complete with a coffered vault over the entrance.As we move up the building, we see what is clearly a reference to a Greek temple, with a Pediment, similar to one you would find on the Parthenon in Athens and attached are square pilasters. This temple inspired top forced a break from the geometric pattern shown below it which Alberti addressed with the attic dividing the two sections.
While Alberti didn’t face the same engineering problems which Brunelleschi had to overcome, in this church, he has once again shown a mastery of the Ancients’ principles of geometry, rationality and proportion in creating a classically inspired piece of Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti, the first stage of which was completed from 1419-1427, designed and managed directly by the architect with various additions later in time which were not to Brunelleschi’s exact drawings. The main façade of the building was laid out in accordance with the principles of the Ancients, following strict proportions and dimensions. The height of the columns is equal to the distance between each column and the width of the arcade, which make each bay a cube and directly above the center of each is a tabernacle.
The height of the entablature is half the height of the columns. All of these proportions ensure that the horizontality of the building is emphasized. While there have been other alterations to the building in the time since Brunelleschi finished the project, it remains largely unchanged. The building functioned as an orphanage for abandoned orphans for nearly five hundred years and was commissioned by the Arte della Seta, the silk guild in Florence. As many guilds at the time did, they took it upon themselves to engage in philanthropy to improve the lives of the citizens of Florence.This was typical of the humanist ideology and, while not as prolific as in Alberti’s, this culture of humanism can be seen in Brunelleschi’s deigns, creating an open, public area to treat the orphan of Florence. But perhaps the biggest contribution of both Brunelleschi and Alberti was not their physical buildings but their research and writings on architecture, a key part of what it was to be an influential man in the renaissance. Brunelleschi conducted an experiment to investigate single point perspective and while there is some evidence to suggest that perspectival drawing did exist in the ancient world from which it’s likely Brunelleschi was inspired to create his experiment, we in the modern world owe much of what we know about it to Brunelleschi.
His experiment saw him draw a perspectival drawing of the Florence Baptistry using single point perspective and cut a hole through the vanishing point. He then held this facing away from him, looking through the hole in the image at a mirror facing him. With this, could lift the mirror to his face to see his drawing and put it down to see the actual baptistry to check the accuracy of his lines. This discovery had a profound effect on architectural drawings and is still used today both in architecture and art. This discovery was detailed in Alberti’s 10 books on architecture, where he gave specific instructions on how to use linear perspective which would not have been possible without Brunelleschi’s experiment. These books are possibly Alberti’s most influential and lasting contribution to the profession. They were the first comprehensive book on architecture since Vitruvius’s in ancient times and the first book on architecture ever printed. In the book, he discusses construction, materials, desirable building plans, urban planning and restoration among other topics.
While no one could deny the architectural and engineering significance Brunelleschi’s buildings and research, and while some of the groundwork for Alberti’s book on architecture can be directly credited to Brunelleschi, I believe that Albert was the more influential of the two during the renaissance. Not only for his own work on the Palazzo Rucelli, the Santa Maria Novella and his other architectural work, but for truly encapsulating the idea of a renaissance man, a man who was a humanist author, an artist, a poet, a priest, a linguist and a philosopher as well as writing a comprehensive and important book on architecture which is a lasting archive of architectural practices of the Renaissance and before.