old sacristy & pazzi chapel models of central space - filippo brunelleschi biography

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  Old Sacristy and Pazzi Chapel Models of Central Space  

In comparison to the sacristies of the Florentine Gothic basilicas, which were generally imposing (S. Croce, S.Maria Novella), the 'Old Sacristy' of S. Lorenzo (1422-28), a Medici family chapel, was conceived of by Brunelleschi as a rather small square space (m. 11.66 per side) of supreme elegance and geometrical purity. Square (cube) and circle (sphere), as immediately perceivable pure geometric forms, remain the basic modules of the spatial organization, as in the loggia degli Innocenti. The spatial structure is defined by the network of the pilasters, the trabeation, the molding of the arches, and the ribs of the vaulting, all in pietra serena and ennobled by the classical profiles, which outline fields of whitewashed plaster. The other architectural elements the windows, the medallions, the niches in the altar space are tangential to the lines of the main framework so that their position is clearly defined. Manetti testifies to the impact the novelty of the model and the vocabulary of the sacristy had on contemporaries: "it astounded all men both of the city and foreigners, who chanced to see it, for its new and beautiful manner. And so many people came continuously that they greatly bothered those who worked there".

The Pazzi Chapel in Santa Croce (1429 and ff.) originated as a chapter hall with a chapel behind the altar where the commissioning family had the right to bury its dead. The volume of the chapel stands next to the mass of Arnolfo's church as a structure which has no need of size to affirm itself as a perfect finished spatial model in its geometrically pure essentiality and regularity. The plan is basically the same as in the Old Sacristy, but more articulated: the square of the larger domed space is enlarged at the sides by two short wings covered with barrel vaults.

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