Architecture is the evolution of beauty in the fourth dimension. Art has continuously been about the creation of something beautiful, intrepid, and ingenious. Although there are many great art movements such as Baroque, Pop Art, Gothic, Avant-Guard, none are more striking in architecture as that of the Renaissance era.
With the Renaissance convalescence to beauty, the color combination and the presence of the classical nude incorporated into a lot of the decor, it is with the Renaissance art era that art history was witness to the best possible architecture. The following essay will seek to prove this point using the geniuses of the Renaissance period and using their works as examples of this thesis. The Renaissance took its cue from the elegant forms of architecture and beauty from the Greeks and Romans.
The idea of symmetry and shapes and elegance are staple features in Renaissance architecture. Thus, a viewer can see a lot of Rome represented in the Renaissance architecture such as columns, pediments, arches and domes. It was through Vitruvius’s writings on architecture that inspired many Renaissance artists to embrace the Roman ideal of beauty, harmony, and symmetry (Architecture in Renaissance Italy paragraph one).
This is Vitruvius’s idea of symmetry as is presented in Renaissance architecture and conceptualized by Vitruvius in the human body, The measurement pertaining to the body being designated by headlengths is emphasized by Vitruvius in this manner, “For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same…The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown” (72). Some of the famous architects of the Renaissance era included Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Battista Alberti and Palladio. Each had their own style and power to not only engineer great feats of architectural beauty but to also bring forth their vision of classical Roman design with symmetry as the focal point.
Though Vitruvius speaks of symmetry his nature of the term also gives leeway, “Therefore, since nature has designed the human body so that its members are duly proportioned to the frame as a whole, it appears that the ancients had good reason for their rule, that in perfect buildings the different members must be in exact symmetrical relations to the whole general scheme” (73). This is especially seen in Brunelleschi’s brilliant masterpiece the dome of the Florence Cathedral or duomo as the Italians call it. The genius of the duomo was that it is a dome built within a dome. Bruniselleschi realized the weight issue of this dome, and thought that another structure to hold most of the weight would allow for the architecture to last longer without future engineering.
Along with the genius of building this dome within a dome, Brunelleschi also used less material at the top of the dome where the oculus is located in order for the issue of weight to have less of a detrimental effect on the design, “As the total weight of the structure was thereby lightened, he could dispense with the massive and costly wooden trusswork required by the older method of construction” (Janson 1997, 419). Among Brunelleschi’s other major accomplishments and contributions to architecture is he renewal of the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns in their proper places. Another recognized accomplishment of Brunelleschi is his system of proportions; although his architecture seems simple to the layman, his intricacies lie within his use of appropriate measurement inducing harmony in his overall structure such as the Ospedale degli Innocenti. This modular cube building is pristine in its measurements between columns, and the height and space are especially proportioned (Architecture in Renaissance Italy paragraph two).
There is a definite sense of these elements intermingling in architecture so much so that the physical is being eclipsed by the virtual and when this happens the most important element of architecture which will lead the evolution is light. The Renaissance was an era of individuals. The art movement occurred in the 1400s at which time the world was succumbing to great travesties. The one hundred years war was happening, the bubonic plague had killed at least 50% of the population among such countries as France, Germany and England, but Italy was spared. Due to Italy’s political system, which is a series of city republic states with not king, no true peasant class, and so there is room for social mobility, and capitalism has made the culture a commercial society.
Merchants, such as the Medici’s, ran this commercial society and all of these circumstances put together gives way for the Renaissance, “In 1419, while he was working out the final plans for the Cathedral dome, Brunelleschi received his first opportunity to create buildings entirely of his own design. It came from the head of the Medici family, one of the leading merchants and bankers of Florence, who commissioned him to add a sacristy to the Romanesque church of S. Lorenzo” (Janson 1997, 419). . In order for artists to have observed the world around them, leisure time must have been pursued and because Italy did not so entirely succumb to the great plague, the entire culture was left to flourish. They flourished in everything, mostly art. This era of individuals allowed for self-made millionaires who would commission artists to create whatever they wanted.
One of the main contributors to the Renaissance was the Church. The ability of a Renaissance artist to create and invent hinged on the indulgence of the commissioner. Thus, many great religious art works were also the focal point of the artist. , and so, by observing the world around them Renaissance artists created a plethora of religious structures. By seeing the world around them and inventing necessary objects with which to engage in that world or to improve life, Renaissance artists proved that invention was key in discovering the world. Thus, the Renaissance did not only give the world great art, but the artistic genius and fortitude to create great monuments and inventions.
By simple observation, artists such as Brunelleschi could give the world new forms of sculpture, architecture, and design implementations involving grand scale construction. Observation is the key to artistic genius, and it is through observation that art and invention collide. The genius of Brunelleschi was able to flourish because of religion. His work on the duomo was not limited to just the architecture, but the engineering as well, “Instead of having building materials carried up on ramps to the required level, he designed hoisting machines” (Janson 1997, 419). Thus, not only was architecture thriving but also other avenues of art such as engineering. It was financial freedom which lead to the greatness of the duomo, and Brunelleschi’s stamp in art history.
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