Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

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9780142000151: Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Even in an age of soaring skyscrapers and cavernous sports stadiums, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence still retains a rare power to astonish. Yet the elegance of the building belies the tremendous labour, technical ingenuity and bitter personal strife involved in its creation. For over a century after work on the cathedral began in 1296, the proposed dome was regarded as all but impossible to build because of its enormous size. The greatest architectural puzzle of its age, when finally completed in 1436 the dome was hailed as one of the great wonders of the world. It has gone down in history as a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.

This book tells the extraordinary story of how the cupola was raised and of the dome's architect, the brilliant and volatile Filippo Brunelleschi. Denounced as a madman at the start of his labours, he was celebrated at their end as a great genius. His life was one of ambition, ingenuity, rivalry and intrigue - a human drama set against the plagues, wars, political feuds and intellectual ferments of Renaissance Florence, the glorious era for which the dome remains the most compelling symbol.

Brunelleschi's Dome was voted Non-Fiction Book of the Year by American Independent Booksellers.

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Review:

Filippo Brunelleschi's design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of over 140 feet exceeds St Paul's in London and St Peter's in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington DC, making it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. The story of its creation and its brilliant but "hot-tempered" creator is told in Ross King's delightful Brunelleschi's Dome.

King has already established himself as an accomplished novelist, author of Domino, Ex-Libris, and the story of both dome and architect offer him plenty of rich material. The story of the dome goes back to 1296 when work began on the cathedral but it was only in 1420, when Brunelleschi won a competition over his bitter rival Lorenzo Ghiberti to design the daunting cupola, that work began in earnest. King weaves an engrossing tale from the political intrigue, personal jealousies, dramatic setbacks and sheer inventive brilliance that led to the paranoid Filippo, "who was so proud of his inventions and so fearful of plagiarism" finally seeing his dome completed only months before his own death. King argues that it was Filippo's improvised brilliance in solving the problem of suspending the enormous cupola in bricks and mortar (painstakingly detailed with precise illustrations) that led him to "succeed in performing an engineering feat whose structural daring was without parallel". He tells a compelling and informed story, ranging from discussions of the construction of the bricks, mortar and marble that made up the dome, to its subsequent use as a scientific instrument by the Florentine astronomer Paolo Toscanelli. --Jerry Brotton

Review:

"Compelling... professional jealousy, committee intrigue, feats of bluff and fascinating scraps of obsolete lore... Where Longitude had ocean wastes, Brunelleschi's Dome has vertigo" ( Spectator)

"As each novel feat of genius engineering flowers high above the ground, details of scandals and pranks blow up from the city streets to create an altogether enchanting tale" (Dava Sobel, author of Longitude)

"An adventure yarn set on the wild frontiers of human knowledge... abounding with excellent stories" ( Financial Times)

"A wonderfully vivid little book" ( Daily Telegraph)

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Book Description Penguin, 2000. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. King, Ross. BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME: HOW A RENAISSANCE GENIUS REINVENTED ARCHITECTURE. NY: Penguin, c2000, later printing. 194pp., index, notes, black and white illustrations. 8vo. New unread trade paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 49689

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