Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

by Ross King


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Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love history or art history or Italy or a well written book, then you will love this book. A great tale of a 15th century Italy-- this book takes you back in time and gives you an appreciation for the unbelievable feat that was the building of this gorgeous dome. Caution: This book will make you want to go to Florence immediately!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an enjoyable read especially for those who know Florence and have climbed through the dome. The author appears to have done his research and sticks to facts. He does not simply create fiction to fill in gaps. Unlike so many books on the Italian Renaissance that are highly academic and laborsome to plough through, this reaches out to a wide audience - basically anyone who has an interest in Florence, the Renaissance, civil engineering, architecture ....
jasmyn9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In interesting look at the Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. A man who was known for his temper, holding grudges, and his wonderful and imaginative designs not only in architecture but ways to make the building of them easier. It was interesting to read how designs were selected and plans carried out "way back then". I can't fully comprehend how anything ever got done. The storyline tended to meaner a bit, which through me off a bit and made it a bit more difficult to follow.
Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent, with a few reservations. First, King has the annoying habit of referring to principals by their first names. A little too casual, even for a work directed toward the interested reader. Second, there are places where King deviates, not without interest, seemingly to provide filler for a slim 167 pages. The episode on Toscanelli comes to mind. As usual the subtitle is overblown. Brunelleschi did not reinvent architeture but raised it intellectually and socially.
FlossieT on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an incredible story. Possibly if I were an architect I might have felt talked down to, but as it was, it was an excellent explanation of the structural stuff. And a plot you just couldn't make up...
olgalijo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been two years now since I've been to Florence, and did the touristy thing by climbing Santa Maria del Fiore's dome. There were a lot of questions that came to my mind as I climbed those unending steps encased between two bent stone and brick walls. "Bunelleschi's Dome" has answered most of them. Not only that, but Ross King makes a very technical subject fun and enjoyable by inserting pieces about Brunelleschi's life, and life in Florence at the time.And then, towards the end, King makes a description of that very ascent for the benefit of those who haven't had the luck to do it. Pretty soon I was feeling that I was back climbing those steps and wondering about the windows in the cupola and all those doors that seemed to go nowhere.If you have any interest at all in Renaissance architecture, "Brunelleschi's Dome" is the book for you.
NielsenGW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ross King's biography of Filippo Brunelleschi and the building of the dome on the Santa Maria del Fiore was fun and interesting. It's a short book, but packed nonetheless. It was veyr enlightening to see that Renaissance architects had to design and build not only the edifices, but also the mechanisms that helped to accomplish the task. You'd be hard pressed to see someone today like that.
mcalister on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read some truly awful popular histories over the past few years, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It was certainly better than I expected. King writes fluidly and engagingly, and happily not watered down to to a seventh grade reading level. Although not much is known historically about Brunelleschi, I came away from the book both with a sense of what an inventive mind he must have had, and how very different Italy was from Northern Europe in the 15th century. My sole complaint is that he neglected to explain many (even most) of the technical terms he uses, which is perhaps fine in an academic treatise but not excusable in a popular history. A glossary of terms could have gone a long way here, as would have more drawings and diagrams to illustrate the building details that at times were incomprehensible to someone without an engineering background. At other times he discusses some of Brunelleschi's innovations without fully explaining why or how they work. A good example of this would be the sandstone "chains" built into the dome; that they mitigate certain forces was clear, but he failed to elaborate how. At times it made me wonder if he himself understood the points he was making, or if he rather was just repackaging the technical bits he read elsewhere.
pescatello on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really interesting story. If you're going to Florence, definitely read this book before going as it gives you a good bit of history without being boring.
Docbliss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent! This book really dropped me into the era and i found out alot about architecture that I never thought would interest me. I never would have picked this up if i had not read King's book on Michelangelo and enjoyed that so much.
nicole_a_davis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really fascinating and very easy to read. I got through it so quickly, I wished it was a bit more detailed. Getting to climb the dome of the Duomo in Florence right after I finished reading about its construction was a real treat, too.
TiffanyAK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A truly fascinating account of the daring construction of the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Remaining to this day a marvel of architectural achievement, built without central support and in a size surpassing any other brick and mortar dome construction ever accomplished, in many ways it shouldn't have been possible. The genius of Brunelleschi in not only designing and overseeing the construction of the dome, but also constructing many new machines to aid in the construction, cannot be overstated. The perfection with which the dome was constructed is startling, as is the fact that in the decades he was in charge of the project, only one worker died in an on-site accident, a safety record virtually unheard of at that time in history. Though it can be a bit dry at times if you don't have a strong interest in architecture, it still remains a very good read if you have an interest in great historical achievements.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brunelleschi was a genius engineer and tinkerer, and also an architect. The most interesting part of the book are the machines and tools (cranes and lifts) Brunelleschi invented to complete the dome. What distinguishes him from his contemporary competitors was a thorough understanding of statics.The author's account of Brunelleschi would have made an excellent New Yorker article, but it is short on material for a book. This has too unfortunate consequences: First, Penguin has chosen an uncommon paperback format with overstretched lines which cause eye strain. Secondly, the author constantly strays from the main story to add to the page count. A better solution would have been not to focus solely on the dome but the whole building, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Then, he could have added Giotto's bell tower and extended the creation of the magnificent doors by Ghiberti. The book also suffers from a large number of errors an educated editor should have corrected, eg "[Brunelleschi] should have the honor of being entombed inside the cathedral itself, rather like a pharaoh buried inside a pyramid he had spent his lifetime constructing" (p.155). Actually, it is the pyramid's purpose to serve as the pharaoh's tomb. In an ironic twist to King's wrong idea, the Egyptian architects were buried within pyramids not as a token of honor but as preventive security. Can I trust the author's statements if his text is littered with small mistakes? Overall, I was quite disappointed. Still recommended as a quick read (if you can get it in a less eye tiring format).
miketroll on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Riveting account of the design and construction of the dome of the great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) in Florence - a "must see" building.
thierry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wholly enjoyable telling of the genius, toil and politicking goings-on during the construction of the dome atop the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in XV century Florence. Well brought to life, clear in its explanation of the underlying physics, architecture and mechanics. Did benefit from a great cast of characters and an amazing project. Would have benefited from better pictures and more drawings. Rented PBS's The Medicis as a companion, and want to visit Florence as a result.
DonSiano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a tale of Renaissance engineering and organization with a nice healthy dose of intrigue, competition, and betrayal, and with tales of eccentricity and practical jokes thrown in for good measure. It is an engrossing read, with lots of diversions and asides about the pranks of men in their prime. On the whole it is clearly and cleverly written, and is, as they say, hard to put down. I only wish his explanation of some of the details of the construction had been accompanied by a few more diagrams--occasionally they were a little obscure. But no big deal, I don't intend to construct a dome--I was hugely entertained anyhow.The people and their society are all brought to life in an engaging way and the interaction of the guilds, artists and patrons are seen to be only little changed in how such projects are sometimes brought together today. The biggest difference may be in their absence of safety committees, OSHA, quality circles, ISO 9001, six sigmas, and other such impediments to achievement.The dome itself was and is a staggering achievement in planning and execution, and would today, no doubt, engage more than a few computers and engineers for a couple of years before even a brick were laid. How it was brought about by Brunelleschi in a time even before Newton, courses in statics and strength of materials, finite element analysis and all the rest, is a wonder to behold. Giants with hearts of steel stalked the earth then.
pzmiller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting story of the building of this famous dome in Florence and the engineering marvel that it still is today.
Doondeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Entertaining history of this "Renaissance Genius" known for his both his mechanical and architectural skills.
phooky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'll admit I was really looking for the technical details when I picked this up. There's just enough engineering geekery to keep me from being entirely unsatisfied, but it's cluttered with ridiculous conjectural drama. It's a slight book, too; I probably would have been better served by this book's bibliography than its text.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GuysGrandma More than 1 year ago
Reads like a novel - highly recommend.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
Terrific Read: Brunelleschi, his dome and Renaissance Florence I'm no engineer and I only vaguely understand the basic tenets of architecture. But I'm a great admirer of history and have tremendous appreciation for the significance of milestone art and architecture. So in advance of an upcoming trip to Florence, I picked up Ross King's "Brunelleschi's Dome", assuming that King would do as good a job with this seminal Renaissance creation as he did with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in "Michelangelo & The Pope's Ceiling". The book is thorough and enjoyable and scores its highest marks on fleshing out the personality of Filippo Brunelleschi and connecting the building's construction to the greater context of the burgeoning Renaissance. The Dome, of course, refers the famed Santa Maria del Fiore in the heart of Florence, Italy. The book is fascinating in it's detail of the monumental effort that went into creating such an enormous structure. Filippo Brunelleschi was a goldsmith and clockmaker, and by the time he was given the commission to build the Dome, he'd had very little experience in large-scale construction (and this was one of the most large-scale ever conceived at the time). Work on the dome began after Brunelleschi won one of the ubiquitous Florentine architectural/design contests, and 50 years after construction on the rest of the church began. King writes, "even the original planners of the dome had been unable to advise how their project might be completed: they merely expressed a touching father that at some point in the future God might provide a solution, and architects with a more advanced knowledge would be found." The core problem Brunelleschi faced was the sheer scope of what the leaders of Florence were asking for. Specifically, King writes, "An architect must design a structure that will counteract (push and pull) pressures...a game of action and reaction-- and channeling them safely to the ground." This had been traditionally handled through the use of flying buttresses, which can be seen throughout gothic architecture in Europe, but the Florentine leaders had previously accepted a design with no external buttresses. After losing the "da uomo a uomo" battle of the bronze doors to Lorenzo Ghiberti, the intense Brunelleschi spent a few years traveling, including significant time in Rome. It's documented that he extensively explored the ancient Roman ruins, none of which would have been in the clean and, sometimes, rebuilt state that they are today. He undoubtedly visited the one monument, which is in, in fact, a comparable state to when it was originally built almost two thousand years ago: the Pantheon. The largest dome in the world clearly was built to handle the 'push and pull' pressures and Brunelleschi was sure to translate his learnings into his efforts back home in Florence. I had some trouble conceptualizing some of the more nuanced engineering hurdles that Brunelleschi overcame. King incorporates drawings and images and writes very plainly, but I think my architectural and construction vocabulary is simply too small. Throughout the long and protracted construction of the Duomo, Brunelleschi battled against supply issues, war-related interference (he was also Florence's Military Engineer), logistical concerns, as well as internecine battles from within the Florentine artistic and engineering community. In creating numerous novel mechanisms to aid in his construction, Brunelleschi clearly gained the trust and financial assurances from the Florentine leaders and was able to knock down just about every obstacle thrown his way. This read was a worthwhile investment ahead of my trip to Florence. At only 150 pages, this is the perfect introduction to a surprisingly complex set of problems faced at the forefront of the European Renaissance. While a terrific primer on the specifics of the Duomo, the books' even greater value is it's explorations, however shallow, into the culture and context of the time in which it was built.
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