Brunelleschi's Dome Paperback – Apr 24 2001
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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 more than 140 feet exceeds St Paul's in London and St Peter's in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 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.
Both dome and architect offer King 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 death. King argues that it was Brunelleschi'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, 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, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Walker was the hardcover publisher of Dava Sobel's sleeper smash, Longitude, and Mark Kurlansky's steady-seller Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. This brief, secondary source-based account is clearly aimed at the same lay science-cum-adventure readership. British novelist King (previously unpublished in the U.S.) compiles an elementary introduction to the story of how and why Renaissance Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) designed and oversaw the construction of the enormous dome of Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore cathedralAdesigning its curves so that they needed no supporting framework during construction: a major Renaissance architectural innovation. Illustrated with 26 b&w period prints, the book contains 19 chapters, some very brief. Although the result is fast moving and accessible, King overdoes the simplicity to the point that the book appears unwittingly as if it was intended for young adults. (Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo, for example, "took a dim view of marriage and women.") This book feels miles away from its actual characters, lacking the kind of dramatic flourish that would bring it fully to life. Despite direct quotes from letters and period accounts, the "would have," "may have" and "must have" sentences pile up. Still, the focus on the dome, its attendant social and architectural problems, and the solutions improvised by Brunelleschi provide enough inherent tension to carry readers along. (Oct. 23)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are three things that I particularly like about this book: first, it is an excellent description of the tremendous work invested by literally entire communities to raise a structure like a mediaeval cathedral. Yes, Brunelleschi was the genius behind the dome but it took thousands of workers decades to make his vision a reality. Thinking of the skyscrapers we raise today with the help of modern machines, raising these churches was an incredible achievement.
Second, this book shows how scientific and engineering discoveries are often lost and rediscovered. The Roman methods of building aqueducts, arches and domes (like the Pantheon in Rome) had long been lost and many of their methods are still only vaguely understood. Still, Brunelleschi was able to study these structures (much as his work is studied now), rediscover old methods and invent even better ones to produce his work. This is something seen over and over again in the sciences: a discovery is made and, because it is not understood at the time or the explanation is lost somehow, it is forgotten, only to be rediscovered later.
Third, this book shows how difficult it is to understand some of the amazing achievements of antiquity. Even today, though the dome stands as a monument to his genius, we don't fully understand how Brunelleschi was able to make it work.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In 1418 Filippo Brunelleschi was 41 years old. He had an uncanny ability to solve mechanical problems. He was a goldsmith. Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2003 by Mary E. Sibley
I read the book as part of an online book discussion group. For this purpose it is excellent. for it doesn't require a degree in engineering or architecture to understand, is a... Read morePublished on June 24 2003 by R. M. Williams
This is a fascinating read that brings together Firenze in the renaissance and the birth of modern architecture. The curious and funny anecdotal material keeps the story moving. Read morePublished on May 15 2002 by Ray Santora
An excellent and quick read (only 194 pages including the index). The only problem that I had with the book is that it would be greatly improved by additional pictures and... Read morePublished on April 21 2002 by Stephen Sarrica
A possible reason why reviews of this book are so divergent is that BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME is so much more than an architectural triumph that for some it seems unlikely that such a... Read morePublished on April 14 2002 by Amazon Customer
Ross King can take the story of a small, seemingly insurmountable problem and turn it into an intriguing bit of drama: how to build a dome without a frame to lean it on? Read morePublished on March 24 2002 by bensmomma
I bought the book having visited Florence and possessing some rudimentary knowledge of the dome and its importance in architectural history. Read morePublished on March 13 2002 by deedub
This book gives due credit to one of the world's greatest and lasting architectural achievements. However, it provides very little useful insight into the structural skeleton and... Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2002 by Eidophor
By all means borrow this book and read it, but don't waste your money to buy it. Mr. King frequently hints at interesting avenues which would further explain Brunelleschi, the... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2002 by Michael McGovern