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Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence Paperback – Aug 12 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (Aug. 12 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099526786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099526780
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 13.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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ANYONE ALIVE IN FLORENCE ON AUGUST 19, 1418. Read the first page
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh on July 2 2004
Format: Hardcover
I looked for this book after reading and enjoying Ross King's book on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling. Now, I just wish I had read this before visiting the Duomo in Florence some years ago. This is an excellent description of the raising of the dome over the cathedral in Florence at the beginning of the fifteenth century led by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi.
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.
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Format: Paperback
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 short and straightforward narrative where the author avoids the problems associated with trying to tell to large a tale in too small a space.
It is a quick biography of the man responsible for the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. There were several fact filled sentences i read to my wife but other than these few it was a quick breeze, painless read to acquire a simple knowledge of the times and tribulations involved in building what is still the large masonary dome in the world(according to the book).
I would have appreciated more diagrams of the dome as the text describes it. More sketches of the equipment and physical maps as the character travels. The word pictures at these points are not sufficent to fully disclose to the Italian-free unknowledgable among the readers what he is talking about.
A mildly interesting book although if i didn't already have an interest in architecture i don't believe it would have particularly stimulated one.
So overall a C+ book, but a rather good choice for a book group for dynamics of the group, not for the material.
thanks for reading this review
richard williams
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Format: Hardcover
It took me several months to really get into this book. Usually I know right away whether a book will grip my imagination and draw me in. "Brunelleschi's Dome" did, however, turn out to be one of the true literary surprises of the year for me. I wrote a term paper about Brunelleschi and the Florence Cathedral waaay back in high school for a technical drafting class. It was that experience, many years ago, that led me to buy the book. Now an architect in private practice, I have the technical and artistic background to appreciate what then was bewildering and rather foreign to me. This book very slowly grew on me, until one evening I couldn't put it down. Once the initial history, setup and definitions were safely read and out of the way, this book really got interesting in a hurry. The portrayal of the unintentional designer who, 500 years later, has come to be one of the recognized geniuses of the Renaissance and a founding father of Western architectural thought is fascinating, surprising and at times downright strange. Brunelleschi's time half a millenium ago is brought to life vividly. The technical descriptions of what are still today considered amazing breakthroughs are well written, informative and enlightening without being unwieldy, self indulgent or too long. This alone is a skill many architectural writers are abysmally deficient in, preferring to fill pages with their own blather and pseudo-language ostensibly designed to make the "rest of us" hold them in awe. Ross King's departure from the language of architecture's current flirtation with trendy academia is refreshing, readable and understandable by those not in the professions of architecture, engineering or building. It is revealing that my 14 year old cousin, a young man with sharp interests in astronomy and rock music, enjoyed this book immensely.
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Format: Paperback
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. If you are intellectually curious and enjoy reading about the human condition, you will enjoy this book.
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