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Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance…

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture (2000)

by Ross King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
While I found the subject matter interesting, I found this book rather frustrating to read, in part due to my own lack of architectural knowledge, and the book's lack of illustration for some of the more technical aspects of the dome's construction. I would have liked more drawings and diagrams and less tales of Brunelleschi's many rivalries and the author's meandering narrative. ( )
  photonegative | Apr 14, 2015 |
A slim but rather packed book, it details the intrigue around the famous dome in florence. In a way that seems so human, I really saw Brunelleschi as he puttered around erecting the dome. It reminded me why I love architecture and the little chapter about how this dome influenced Columbus was interesting although a little much. Overall, it just makes me want to see the dome and see the immortality remains of this genius ( )
  Lorem | Mar 4, 2015 |
I listened to this as an audiobook to prepare for an upcoming trip to Florence (and Venice) this October. I found it quite fascinating, full of interesting tidbits of humanity and scientific innovation. I think it probably would be preferable to have read a hard copy, however, since a number of the more technical descriptions would have made more sense with the illustrations available as reference (they are in the printed book).

I am very much looking forward to seeing the Duomo, now that I really understand what an innovation it was, and how remarkable an architectural feat it is.
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
I am a fan of Art History and I felt that I was back in my college class again. All of the vocabulary was spread throughout this book and reignited my passion for not History but Architecture as well. Ross King wrote about roughly the 16 year period of Filippo Brunelleschi's life when he was elected Capomaestro during the building of the dome for the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral.

Brunelleschi's innovative architectural design was chosen above all others including Lorenzo Ghiberti. The two would share an intense animosity toward one another always erupting into a insulting sonnet about one another. I think King did a great job in creating the aesthetic of Florence in 1420. I felt that I was immersed in that world every time I read.

I liked that the people of Florence had certain rules regarding battling in war. In no rain or snor or steep surfaces. I liked the architectural inventions that Brunellesch came up with such as the ox-hoist and the herringbone brickwork design. The latter was the real genius and is the reason why the dome is still standing today.

My only real complaint is that I wish some of the photos were in color. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Filippo Brunelleschi is best known for his design of the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Apparently, he was an unkempt and cantankerous old goldsmith and sculptor, very paranoid and suspicious of his fellow artisans - even for fifteenth-century Florence. But it was not just the design for which he deserves accolades. The manner by which he proposed to erect the dome was so radical that he was labeled a madman. Even more startling was that he refused to reveal the details of how he intended to suspend the dome without traditional supports to the committee before he was awarded the commission, because of his fear that his new method would be stolen by other artisans. It remains the largest dome ever constructed using traditional materials.

Until 1436 when the dome was completed, the traditional method of building domes had been to support them with rigid wooden scaffolds (called centering) that had to remain in place as long as a year, until the mortar dried and it would be self-supporting. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, having the largest span ever constructed of bricks and mortar, spanning more than 140 feet, exceeding St. Pauls in London and St. Peters in Rome.

The judges of the competition were naturally reluctant to take Brunelleschi at his word without a demonstration of how he could build the structure without centering, and there is an apocryphal story that he told them they should award the project to whomever could get an egg to stand on its end. No one could do it, of course, until Brunelleschi came forward, smashed one end of the egg and showed how it could be done. Crying foul, his detractors argued it wasnt fair, to which Brunelleschi replied that had they been inventive enough to figure out as he had how to get the egg to stand on its end, they would have been able to understand how he could build the dome without centering. The fact is that the structural strength of the egg had fascinated people for centuries. It has enormous longitudinal strength. It is almost impossible to break an egg by squeezing end-to-end. Of course, now all of you will run to the kitchen to verify this, leaving a wake of eggs smashed all over.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1296, but the competition for the dome was won by Brunelleschi in 1420 after a bitter competition with Lorenzo Ghiberti, Brunelleschis rival. Political intrigue, jealousy, and paranoia characterized the story. To build the dome, all sorts of mechanical devices had to be invented and Brunelleschi designed most of them. More than seventy million pounds of bricks (each individually designed for the herringbone pattern that was the secret to the structural integrity of the dome), sand, marble and other material had to be hoisted an immense distance off the ground. In fact, when the dome was close to completion, the workers had daily to climb the equivalent of a forty-story stairway before they could begin work. The dome was completed just before the designers death. It was an engineering feat whose structural daring was without parallel.

His architectural wonder has survived numerous lightning strikes and all sorts of stresses except one he could never have imagined. Recently, cracks were discovered in the dome that had been caused by the heavy vehicular traffic around the cathedral, so all traffic has been banned in that area. Another remarkable geologic problem was discovered only recently. Apparently, part of the cathedral was constructed over an underground river. Yet, it still stands.

King, author of the novel Ex Libris, tells a compelling and informed story rich in period detail. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Ross Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tacchetti, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On August 19, 1418, a competition was announced in Florece, where the city's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, had been under construction for more than a century:  Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome of theCathedral under construction by the Opera del Duomo--for armature, scaffold or other thing, or any lifting device pertaining to the construction and perfection of said cupola or vault--shall do so before the end of the month of September.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142000159, Paperback)

Filippo Brunelleschi's design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of more than 140 feet exceeds St Paul's in London and St Peter's in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington, D.C., making it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. The story of its creation and its brilliant but "hot-tempered" creator is told in Ross King's delightful Brunelleschi's Dome.

Both dome and architect offer King plenty of rich material. The story of the dome goes back to 1296, when work began on the cathedral, but it was only in 1420, when Brunelleschi won a competition over his bitter rival Lorenzo Ghiberti to design the daunting cupola, that work began in earnest. King weaves an engrossing tale from the political intrigue, personal jealousies, dramatic setbacks, and sheer inventive brilliance that led to the paranoid Filippo, "who was so proud of his inventions and so fearful of plagiarism," finally seeing his dome completed only months before his death. King argues that it was Brunelleschi's improvised brilliance in solving the problem of suspending the enormous cupola in bricks and mortar (painstakingly detailed with precise illustrations) that led him to "succeed in performing an engineering feat whose structural daring was without parallel." He tells a compelling, informed story, ranging from discussions of the construction of the bricks, mortar, and marble that made up the dome, to its subsequent use as a scientific instrument by the Florentine astronomer Paolo Toscanelli. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:16 -0400)

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Tells the story of how fifteenth-century goldsmith and clock maker Filippo Brunelleschi devised the plan to build the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, an engineering feat that had puzzled architects for over a century.

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