1. King, Ross. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. Print.
2. This book contains information about Brunelleschi’s Dome. It tells the story of Brunelleschi as a designer who got his ideas on how to build the now famous dome, from his adventures in Rome. Brunelleschi Filippo was a Florentine born in 1377 and died in 1446. He was a trained Goldsmith, but then it is indicated that he had a lot of knowledge in different areas that contributed to his innovation. Brunelleschi had mastered a lot of different skills such as; stone setting, drawing and painting, carving of sculptures, and even enamel work. He even had knowledge about gears, weights, wheels, and which gave him the skills to build unique clocks. It is said that Brunelleschi built the first alarm clock in history. These knowledge and skills would develop Brunelleschi to become a sculptor, a geometrician, an architect, and an engineer. He mastered the ancient architectural works and how the buildings survived. He made use of this knowledge, plus other mechanical and theoretical knowledge to come up with a unique design for a dome that was stuck for years, without any idea on how it would be built. The book, therefore, has information about how Brunelleschi’s Dome was built.
Brunelleschi’s Dome is the principal historical stonework in the city of Florence. The Florentines designed a cathedral that was supposed to have the largest dome in the city. During that time, there was a cathedral already build with a dome; the Romanesque Cathedral. It is from this idea that the Cathedral of Florence got to have a 45 metre wide dome. The cathedral was first designed by Arnolfo Di Cambio. These two built a cathedral with Gothic characters that in the end left the Florentines with an octagonal drum like structure. It is from this structure that a 150 feet dome was to be constructed. Florentines stayed with the cathedral for a long time with no knowledge of how such a dome would be constructed. It was in 1418 that the cathedral fathers decided to hold a contest to find an engineer or architect with the best idea on how to build the dome. Brunelleschi provided just that, and the dome was built between 1421 and 1436.
3. Advantages of the Structure
The design of the Dome and how Brunelleschi decided to build it was of great advantage to the Florentines. During that time, one of the proposals for building the dome was by use of buttresses. Brunelleschi proposed an idea that eliminated the use of buttresses which was very costly, and would require a huge engineering work. He also eliminated the need for constructing a wooden centring. This reduced the time needed to first construct the supports. The supports alone would need time to construct, and they would also have required materials that could only be imported. This would also take some more time. The work also provided the Florentines with a source of income for labourers as well as business for businessmen. The cathedral of Florence was completed and ended up having its dome as a land-mark. It was a symbol of the Florentine’s city, reflecting its importance in the city and the city’s power. It the end, the structure helped the cathedral achieve its objectives. It is still the source of the city’s power and marker.
4. Disadvantages of the Structure
The fluctuations of business during the construction of the dome brought a lot of problems for the businessmen, the labourers and to Brunelleschi. Labourers would go on strike demanding higher pay. This was a challenge to Brunelleschi, who had to find counteracting actions to make sure they got back to work. He managed to convince them to get to work with even lower pay, which was not good for them. When Brunelleschi was confronted with challenges on how to construct new machines that could be used in the building, he sometimes had to stop the construction. This and other fluctuations, for example, during strikes, affected the people’s businesses. Brunelleschi also encountered several problems during the construction. Apart from the labourers’ strikes, he faced criticism against his idea which some noted, would never be completed. During the construction, he had to create new machines. Getting heavy material to the platforms was not easy, and he had to look for new machines that would assist in the construction. The only anticipated problem that Brunelleschi had was the resistance he received from competitors and critics. The rest were all new challenges; the labourers’ strikes and the need for new machines.
5. How Innovative Was the Design?
For more than 48 years, the cathedral stayed without a dome because no one had an idea on how it should be constructed. Brunelleschi then came up with the idea. During his time, building such a dome would require the use of external scaffolding. Brunelleschi was able to develop a design that eradicated the need for the scaffolding. This was less expensive compared to the use of timber to scaffold the exterior. Brunelleschi’s design also did not need the construction of a wooden centring. Another unique outcome of the design was the indistinguishable reinforcement of the dome. All these were accomplished by the creation of two domes to form one large covering of the cathedral.
Brunelleschi got his ideas from ancient buildings, which he compared to the human body. It is indicated that Brunelleschi got all his ideas from the balance he noticed from the human body. The human body has bones which support it to stand, sit, move and do more. These bones are not left without support, and it is from such an idea that Brunelleschi developed the 24 ribs that support the whole dome. The dome had eight main ribs at each corner of the octagonal drum and two intermediate ribs in between two other ribs among the 8. This formed a total of 24 perpendicular ribs. Between one dome and the next, there are horizontal sandstone blocks that girdle the 24 bibs and the copulas. These sandstones were well linked with well-coated iron to prevent rust. These sandstones acted as tension strings that prevented the dome from bursting outward.
The new idea here is the ability of the architecture to develop a strong structure that can support itself and not crush down irrespective of the weight. It is the ability to not use the commonly known way of supporting the dome with timber during construction. The ability of the architecture to implement new ideas in laying the bricks, and the new mathematical perceptions used to improve the strength of the dome. Apart from inventing the use of vertical ribs and strong horizontal blocks, Brunelleschi was able to invent a machine that was used in the construction of the dome. He was able to create hoists that were used to carry large blocks of stone to the working platform.
Another innovative idea was the herringbone design of the bricks used in the dome. This is one of the reasons why the dome could support itself as the work progressed. The herringbone design required paling the larger bricks at right angle while other bricks were placed horizontally to eventually form a zigzag pattern. The system ensured a strong bond between the bricks preventing them from falling off and developing a strong structure. This only meant that the dome did not require any centring support as it progressed.
6. How the Location and Time Influenced What Was Built and How It Was Built
The location of the Cathedral played a role in determining the kind of Dome that the city of Florence built. Florence was already a famous city, well known for its artistic works and political influence. As a great city and that which wanted to show its might compared to others, it had to have a cathedral with a large dome than the rest. There were other cathedrals with domes already, and Florence had to build something better. A specific motivation was the cathedral of Romanesque in Pisa. In the end, the Cathedral of Florence was designed with a very large dome that no one could complete.
The time also influenced the kind of building that came up. It was a renaissance period, and this was characterised by a lot of inventiveness. The period was also characterised by the renewal of old archaeological finds that included ancient building forms. Many artists participated in bringing the old culture back. Architects were also regularly invited to compete over the design of the famous door, famous building or even paintings of great importance to the city. Because of the high inventiveness, architects and engineers worked hard to find new ideas. Brunelleschi being one of them, managed to obtain new ideas after he left Florence City. Brunelleschi was involved in two competitions about Bronze doors that were to be used in the cathedral before he decided on a journey to Rome. It is while, in Rome, that Brunelleschi discovered the unique features of ancient buildings that could be of value to his city’s cathedral.
Brunelleschi got ideas from the Pantheon in Rome, which had information on how to counteract the tension and the compression forces. He also got ideas from the Domus Aurea. He found a room with an octagonal shape similar to the building of Santa Maria del Fiore, where the dome was to be mounted. This gave him an idea of mounting a dome at home in Santa Maria del Fiore. He discovered that Romans used concrete to build curved constructions. He too came and made use of concrete to build a dome on Santa Maria del Fiore. This even made it possible for him not to use the scaffolding support that needed the use of timber.
This book is very interesting and provides information about Brunelleschi’s history and how he got to build the dome. At first it may not be easy to comprehend the structural design presented, but as one reads on, there are details about Brunelleschi’s adventure into Rome. These describe the source of his innovation and one can then understand how the structure came about. It has drawings of the structure of the dome that one can refer to while reading through to understand how the dome came to be a stable structure that could support itself. The dome is composed of about 4,000 000 000 bricks, and one would ponder about how these lay on a curved structure on top of the church. Another feature that makes this a wonder is that it was build during ancient times, and it stands stable to date in the city of Florence. The book provides detailed information about the ribs, and how they were laid, their support and their expected roles. These will make one understand how such a structure was possible during that time, and most especially since it avoided the common practice of using timber to support the structure and was extraordinarily large. With all this historical and technical information provided, it is advisable to recommend this book to anyone seeking historical information about the unique design that made the construction of the dome possible.
Review: Brunelleschi Dome contains information about the origin of the dome. A church in a famous city wanted to contribute to the magnificence of its city as well as its power, and with that, it decided to construct a very big church. One of the features of the church was a large dome, and for a long time, the dome remained unconstructed due to lack of knowledge on how to do it. As the centuries went by, generations changed and the renaissance arrived with its inventiveness. This brought highly skilled architects that competed against each other. The competition yielded fruit because it brought the best out of the architects and the engineers; Brunelleschi. In the book, there is his history on how he got the knowledge to build the dome. There is more about other architects and their works such as Brunelleschi’s main rival; Lorenzo Ghiberti. The need for information about renaissance architecture would drive anyone to seek this book and read it.