| Brunelleschi Civil Architecture
The story of Brunelleschi's activity in the field of civil
architecture was not particularly fortunate and is difficult to
ascertain in all its aspects, but it did play a historically
decisive role. In his restructuration of the Palagio di Parte
Guelfa, Brunelleschi proposed a new idiom. The reference to Orsanmichele and an anticipation
of the formal themes of the Medici and Pitti palaces is clearly evident
in the solution of large arched windows overlooking the city and
the round oculi, as well as the continuity of the pietra forte
facing without dividing members. The classical molding around the
openings and in the stringcourse were without precedent in
Florentine architecture until Palazzo
First mention of the story that Brunelleschi built a model of a
palace for Cosimo dei Medici is to be found in Vasari. The palace
was to be erected opposite S.
Lorenzo, "on the piazza. and standing isolated on every
side, be square in plan with nine axes of windows per side and
the central doorway on the same axis as the portal of S.
Lorenzo". According to Vasari, Cosimo refused the project
"more to escape envy than expense".
Palazzo Pitti, "Much
greater than any other which had up to that day been built by a
private citizen" (N. Machiavelli), was begun, according to
available documents, after Brunelleschi's death, and the
paternity of the project is not documented, but the ingenuity
displayed and the innovative concept could only, as tradition has
it, be by Brunelleschi. The Pitti residence stands not only
outside the city center, hut also outside the main thoroughfares
occupied by the principal Florentine palaces. The houses on Via
Romana were torn down to make room for the great piazza, the
first to stand before a private palace, and perhaps also the
first example of Renaissance piazza closed on three sides. The
extraordinary dimensions of the palace were made possible by the
fact that it stands on rock. The "muraglia antica"
(Vasari, Lapini), recalling in other words the monumental Roman
structures, is formed of gigantic blocks which it must have been
anything but easy to quarry, transport and set in place. Three
portals in a perfectly regular arrangement are set in the facade
above the sloping square. The idea of windows that are all alike
on all the floors and the same as the portals is absolutely new.
In its form and dimension this single figure which by repetition
forms the pattern of the facade was first experimented with in
the Palazzo di Parte Guelfa. The stringcourses consist of very
narrow balconies, which run from one side of the facade to the
other. The three central arches of the first floor were open and
corresponded to a loggia in line with a highly unique concept
which was to be echoed in Florentine architecture by Giuliano da
Sangallo and Buontalenti. On the courtyard there may have been a
corresponding gallery overlooking the gardens and the hill.