the ospedale degli innocenti matrix of regular serene urban spaces - filippo brunelleschi biography

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  The Ospedale degli Innocenti Matrix of Regular Serene Urban Spaces  

In 1419 work was begun on the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital) in Piazza della SS. Annunziata for the Arte della Seta (Silk Guild). The configuration has precedent in medieval Florentine hospitals such as S. Matteo (now the Accademia di Belle Arti).

The idea of the portico can be related to the porticoes of Roman forums, to the fourteenth-century Florentine loggias, both the private and public loggias of the Signoria and Orsanmichele, with round arches, or the loggias of the hospitals themselves. Here, however, the loggia is not an element apart, an episode in the building or in the urban context, but asserts itself as the determining element in lending order to the context, the relationships of the individual parts and their proportions, and assumes the role of plan for the 'walls' of the area occupied, which it defines and which can be considered the first Florentine piazza conceived of as a coherent world, 'planned' by a single mind and no longer, as in medieval squares, the result of a simple widening or a series of decisions (to be noted is how the realization of a single side determines the coherence of all the subsequent interventions on the piazza: the loggia by Sangallo and Baccio d'Agnolo, Tacca's fountain, Giambolognals statue). A new design made of lines and decisive clear surfaces, with a calculated breadth (note that the piazza is not very large but the design gives it a feeling of spaciousness), to which the use of classical elements confers noble dignity. This conception is invested with form in the urban area in front of the old Servite church at the end of Via dei Servi, a 'new' street installed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and which Brunelleschi qualified with his intervention as an important urban axis running from Piazza del Duomo to the new symmetrical square, on which, not much later, the classicizing cupola of SS. Annunziata was to rise. The flight of steps on which the loggia of the Innocenti is set (here also recalling the stylobate) was inspired by classic temples and also appears in other examples of Brunelleschi's religious architecture. The internal organization of the Ospedale is also extremely rational and calculated. The axis which serves as reference for the porticoed courtyard, the large flanking halls and the symmetrically placed and modular service rooms, corresponds to the axis of the central bay of the portico. In their organization many fifteenth-century Florentine structures, by architects such as Michelozzo and Giuliano da Sangallo, clearly depend on the configuration of the Innocenti.

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