san lorenzo & santo spirito: a new type of basilica church - filippo brunelleschi biography

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  San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito: a New Type of Basilica Church  

"In rebuilding the basilicas of S. Lorenzo and S. Spirito, Brunelleschi proposed his new type of church, decidedly classicizing, flooded with light for a distinct architectural clarity (and not mystically in half light as in precedence), absolutely regular and symmetrical in its corrispondences, in the continuous orchestration. They are churches where one feels a secular rational component, a measured scansion, which predominate over the precedent choral, religious collective sense" (L. Berti). The first projects for S. Spirito date to 1428. Brunelleschi's idea was to reverse the orientation of the church so that the facade would face out on a large piazza overlooking the Arno, a confirmation of his constant attempt to see the architecture-city relationship as fundamental. The idea was turned down because of the objections raised by various families who owned houses and land in the area in question between the church and the river and whose representatives were members of the committee to which the project was submitted for approval.

The larger room of the Old Sacristy and of the Pazzi Chapel are of the same size (circa 20 braccia or cubits per side). In S. Lorenzo and in S. Spirito the width of the church is almost the same, confirmation of the fact that for Brunelleschi the building, whatever space and condition it was placed in, was to be realized as a recapitulation of the entire space. But in S. Spirito, which corresponded most to his ideas, the relationship of the nave to the aisles, which in S. Lorenzo is very approximate, is precisely twice. All the planimetric measurements of S. Spirito derive from one measurement alone, the side of the smaller bay (exactly eleven braccia). Brunelleschi attempted to resolve the greatest complexity by repeating equal elements which referred to a unified organism, the whole. He attempted to realize the concept of multiplicity in unity by a proportional control. The articulation of the spaces, which in S. Lorenzo was entrusted to pilasters and columns of varying height, here depended on columns that were all alike. The lateral spaces are no longer distinct and graduated in perspective, but lead directly to and are articulated on the arches of the nave. All straight walls are eliminated and the continuity of concavities and convexities in the perimetral chapels makes it impossible to evaluate the thickness of the external wall so that the material is felt as the articulation of the spatial circumscription itself and not in its physical consistency (thickness, etc.). The invention-definition of the closing wall also solves the nature of the relationship interior-exterior, for the chapels were to remain visible from the outside. The repetition of the same module along the entire perimeter expressed Brunelleschi's concept of circularity, which is echoed everywhere, in the perimetral wall, in the domed aisles, in the shafts of the columns, in the moldings, in the silhouettes of the windows, etc. It should be noted that the arms of the nave were to he covered with barrel vaults which were connected to the dome.

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