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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Architect of Glory (God's & His Own)
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...
Published on July 2 2004 by Timothy Haugh

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3.0 out of 5 stars short straightforward narrative
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...
Published on June 24 2003 by R. M. Williams


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Architect of Glory (God's & His Own), July 2 2004
By 
Timothy Haugh (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Engineers and architects still make pilgrimages to Florence in an attempt to understand how this dome was built and remains standing after nearly six centuries. Still, a full understanding eludes us. Part of this is due to Brunelleschi own penchant for secrecy but that doesn't stop it from boggling the mind--how modern technology cannot unravel the mystery of this structure.
Having climbed up into the dome myself, I felt very close to what King described in this book and would recommend it as a must read to anyone who has visited Florence or is thinking of doing so. Even without a visit, however, this slim volume is worth reading for anyone with an interest in science or architecture.
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3.0 out of 5 stars short straightforward narrative, June 24 2003
By 
R. M. Williams "just an avid reader" (tucson, arizona USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, resounding finish, Dec 19 2002
By 
K. Parsons "Hailing from the mountaintop!" (Idyllwild, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Interesting View of Renaissance Firenze, May 16 2002
By 
Ray Santora (Alexandria, VA) - See all my reviews
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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4.0 out of 5 stars More pictures!, April 22 2002
By 
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 illustrations, not just of the dome, but of other structures mentioned and of more of the persons mentioned in the text.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "il Duomo" as icon of an age, April 14 2002
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 slim book by a journalist could do it full justice. Ross King however fully recognizes the significance of the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and the mastery of it's creator Filippo Brunelleschi. He pays tribute to how both the man and his creation were symbolic of the great creative genius that we have come to see as typifying the golden age of the Renaissance. King also clearly shows how such individuals and their work were a boon to the continuing growth and influence of the Renaissance as a whole. Not only is the dome a wonderful architectural triumph - at 143 feet in diameter it is still the largest dome in existence - the very act of creating it spurred other developments. Construction techniques, machines and tools, methods of organizing work, architectural design and drafting; all had to be modified, improved, and in some cases newly invented to accomplish the goal.
Any reading you do on the Renaissance will be sure to mention southern Italy and the pioneering role Florence had in the movement. With Florence you're dealing with the finest sculpture, painting, and architecture, and with Brunelleschi's dome you've got distilled into one creation all that the Renaissance stood for.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genius is in the details..., March 24 2002
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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? How to lift huge blocks of marble for the lantern off the ground, up into the sky, and over to the precise spot they are needed? He moves easily back and forth from the intriguing rivalry between Brunelleschi and Alberti to the details of the dome's engineering.
It's even a nice reflection of the book's theme that the book itself is well designed.
Brunelleschi's Dome will have broad appeal to a lot of non-fiction readers: history buffs, archaeology, biography, engineering. Based on the other reviews, the only folks who were disappointed are those expecting a highly academic, detailed account. This is more of a charming, scientific and artistic fable....but true.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Want to join the Brunelleschi fan club?, March 13 2002
I bought the book having visited Florence and possessing some rudimentary knowledge of the dome and its importance in architectural history. I found the writing spare in it's technical explanations and the author King to come off as overly enamored with Brunelleschi. That said, _Dome_ is a quick read, and might satisfy the desire of a reader with only passing interest in architecture and the innovations of Brunelleschi.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Structural Skeleton of the Dome, Feb. 19 2002
By 
Eidophor (Redmond, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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 its elements, and how the whole structure actually hangs together. There is a lot of arm waving on the subject, and the pictures/text on the sandstone chain, the quinto acuto arch (shown incorrectly), the herringbone brickwork, and the arch rings are almost useless. A student of architectural structure is left with little concrete information.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Promising, but unfocused and poorly researched, Feb. 15 2002
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 driving forces behind the building of the dome, and Brunelleschis' technical accomplishments. Unfortunately, either for lack of research ability, interest, sources, or some combination thereof, he only scratches the surface of his subject.
Look at Galileo's Daughter for an example of what this book could have been.
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Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence
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