History of Renaissance architecture

February 22, 2013

Renovation of the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Michelangelo)

In 1537 the city council (the Conservatori) allotted funds to renovate the Palazzo dei Conservatori, which contained its offices and meeting rooms. Although only three bays of the new facade were finished by the time of Michelangelo's death in 1564, his repeating vertical elements were continued on the Conservatori facade and on the so-called Palazzo Nuovo facing it across the piazza. The framework of the facade is formed by colossal Composite order pilasters raised on tall pedestals and supporting a wide architrave below the heavy cornice. Each ground-level bay opens into the deep portico through Ionic columns supporting their own architraves. On the main level above, although a wide central window was added later, the original design called for identical bays, each with a narrow central window and a balcony flanked by engaged columns supporting segmental pediments. The horizontal orientation of the building is emphasized by the plain architrave below the balustrade of the roof and is then picked up below in the broken architrave above the portico.

Saint Peter's Basilica

Ever since the laying of the cornerstone for the new Saint Peter's by Julius II in 1506, Michelangelo had been well aware of the efforts of its architects, from Bramante to Raphael (1483-1520) to Antonio da Sangallo. When Paul III offered the post to Michelangelo in 1546, he gladly accepted. By this time, the seventy-one-year-old sculptor was not just confident of his architectural expertise; he demanded the right to deal directly with the pope rather than through the committee of construction deputies. Michelangelo further shocked the deputies - but not the pope - by tearing down or cancelling those parts of Sangallo's design that he found without merit. Ultimately, Michelangelo transformed the central-plan church into a vast organic structure, in which the architectural elements work cohesively together like the muscles of a torso. Seventeenth-century additions and renovations dramatically changed the original plan of the church and the appearance of its interior, but Michelangelo's Saint Peter's can still be seen in the contrasting forms of the flat and angled walls and the three hemicycles (semicircular structures), whose colossal pilasters, blind windows (having no openings), and niches form the sanctuary of the church. The level above the heavy entablature was later given windows of a different shape. How Michelangelo would have built the great dome is not known; most scholars believe that he would have made it hemispherical. The dome that was actually erected, by Giacomo della Porta in 1588-1590, retains Michelangelo's basic design: a segmented dome with regularly spaced openings, resting on a high drum with pedimented windows between paired columns, and surmounted by a tall lantern reminiscent of Bramante's Tempietto. Della Porta's major changes were raising the dome height, narrowing its segmental bands, and changing the shape of its openings.

Giacomo Barozzi/Vignola

Michelangelo designed the most prestigious buildings of sixteenth-century Rome, but there were far too much money, ambition, and demand for architectural skill for him to monopolize the field. One young artist who helped meet that demand was Giacomo Barozzi (1507-1573), called Vignola after his native town, who became the most important architect of the Mannerism movement in Rome. He worked in the city in the late 1530s surveying ancient Roman monuments and providing illustrations for an edition of Vitruvius, then worked from 1541 to 1543 in France with Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570) at the Fontainebleau School (1530-70). After Vignola returned, he secured the patronage of the Farnese family, for whom he designed and supervised the building of the Villa Farnese at Caprarola from 1558 until his death in 1573.

Villa Farnese at Caprarola (Vignola)

At Caprarola, Vignola used the fortress built there by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as a foundation (podium) for his five-sided building. Unlike medieval castle builders, who had taken advantage of the natural contours of the land in their defenses, Renaissance architects imposed geometric forms on the land. Recently developed artillery made the high walls of medieval castles easy targets, so Renaissance engineers built horizontal rather than vertical structures against long-distance firepower. Wide bastions at the outer points of such fortresses provided firing platforms for the defenders' cannons.

Vignola's building rises in three stories around a circular courtyard. He decorated the external faces with an arrangement of circles, ovals, and rectangles, just as he had advised in his book The Rule of the Five Orders of Architecture, published in 1562. The building was vaulted throughout, and the interior was lighted with evenly spaced windows. The courtyard appears to have only two stories, but a third story of small service rooms is screened by an open, balustraded...

Source: www.visual-arts-cork.com
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