Brunelleschi’s Dome at the Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore
Above Photo: © Nono vlf / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
By Stephanie M. Chambers
“I shall build an octagonal drum…and on this drum I shall build a double-skinned dome.” Then, Brunelleschi added, “I will build my dome without any scaffolding whatever.” At that preposterous and ridiculous proposition, the crowd burst into laughter. The magistrates, by now convinced that Brunelleschi had lost his mind, asked the court ushers to bounce him. The seminal figure of the Italian Renaissance, thrown into the streets of Florence, eventually made good on his revolutionary idea. Through the process of lateral thinking, Brunelleschi was able to make a creative leap from his study of Roman architecture to the design of the dome on the Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore. A Renaissance dome no one thought could be built, topped off the Gothic Basilica, begun in 1296. The combined product of numerous architectural styles and architects, it stands today as a unified design, integrating the creative thinking of science and art.
Filippo Brunelleschi is considered a founding father of Renaissance architecture. He was an Italian architect and designer. Today he is recognized as the first modern engineer, planner, and sole construction supervisor. Besides designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, an engineering achievement that had not been undertaken since the Roman Empire, he developed the mathematical technique of linear perspective in art which governed pictorial depictions of space until the late 1800s. His accomplishments include numerous architectural works, sculptures, mathematics and engineering. His most important surviving works can be found in Florence, Italy.