Brunelleschi and the Construction of the Duomo

April 17, 2017 Construction

Architecture during the fifteenth century notoriously resembled classical styles; however, Filippo Brunelleschi was one artist who significantly established a new meaning for fifteenth century architecture. After visiting Rome to study the Pantheon, he rediscovered classical style in terms of the mathematical laws behind perspective. The cupola of the Duomo exemplifies Brunelleschi??™s technique through the design, structure, and aesthetic result behind the architecture.
Brunelleschi??™s design for the cupola challenged the traditional techniques of fifteenth century architecture. Since the Cathedral??™s octagonal crossing was unusually large, Brunelleschi began to model possible solutions for this challenging task. To make the structure less heavy, Brunelleschi used brick instead of stone; furthermore, his design posed a controversial style defying the traditional architectural techniques through the use of a pointed dome, which is lighter when supported.
Despite the alterations in weight, centering posed a problem in supporting the large dome. Brunelleschi feared the wood would fold under the dome and cause the dome to shift; therefore, he implemented the idea to eliminate centering altogether. Brunelleschi??™s audacity of refusing to disclose intimate details about the model urged the council to become more skeptical about his design. He eliminated the idea of centering altogether and implicated the idea to construct two layers of the cupola.
The structure of the cupola was a self-supporting dome that included an outer shell consisting of eight large ribs; moreover, the inner shell was attached to the eight major ribs with invisible alternating ribs. By creating two domes, Brunelleschi solved the problem of weight during construction because workers could sit atop the inner shell while they worked on the outer shell. The arrangement of the bricks allowed the weight of the bricks to be directed outwards towards the domes supports, instead of downwards to the floor. Brunelleschi worked his way up to each horizontal stone ring, which connected the eight ribs, to the top where he secured the edges of the ribs.
Brunelleschi??™s design of two shells to create a self-supporting dome was not a case of trading beauty for structure. The use of mathematical solution for constructing classical roman architecture allows the dome to become aesthetically pleasing. The eight major ribs establish creative elements through balance and design. The ribs also contribute to the display of a unique decoration. Brunelleschi??™s innovations for the cupola modernize the style of Romanesque architecture.
Brunelleschi proved many people wrong with his construction of a self-supporting dome for the Duomo. His mathematical rediscovery of the perception of classical architecture became a major turning point in fifteenth century architecture.


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