brunelleschi civil architecture - filippo brunelleschi biography

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  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 Medici.

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.

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