Skip to main content

Book Review: Brunelleschi's Dome

Ross King, Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture (2000).

In this brief and generally entertaining book, Ross King describes the building of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence with much deference to the genius of chief architect Filippo Brunelleschi.  For those already familiar with the story, there are many additional anecdotes about Brunelleschi's designs for the machinery used in the construction, his ill-fated military work, and his similarly ill-fated attempt to build an amphibious vehicle to transport marble blocks.  For those who are new to Renaissance architectural history and the history of Florence in particular, King describes the process of building the cathedral and dome clearly and with an eye to the important economic, social, and political factors.  Those who have read Vasari's account of Brunelleschi will recognize most of the stories, but not all, and it's helpful to read a less-biased modern view of some of the events of the day.  Finally, for those who have never been to Florence and climbed the dome, this little book will not only make you an expert when you go, but will help convince you that there's no time like the present to make the trip.  My only criticism is that King sometimes throws in his own conjectures just to "spice things up," so to speak, since the real answers are often known (and revealed, once he's finished laying out his possible alternative), and I wasn't convinced that Brunelleschi "reinvented architecture" simply by constructing a very large dome using a clever combination of Roman, and possibly Arab, techniques.  Still, there are plenty of interesting stories in here, and the best part is that they're (probably) all true.  Recommended.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age"

Reyner Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) is an engaging overview of the important theoretical developments of the early 20th century leading up to the "International Style" of the 1930s-40s.  Banham does a fairly good job, in my opinion, of avoiding excessive editorializing, although he has a clear viewpoint on the Modern Movement and finishes with a strong conclusion.  In opposition to his teacher, Nikolaus Pevsner, whose own history of modernism came out in 1936, Banham dismantled the "form follows function" credo that became the stereotype of modernism, arguing instead that formalism (a preoccupation with style and aesthetics) was an important, if not overriding, concern of Modern architects.  Two sections of the book struck me in particular: his analysis of Le Corbusier's famous book Vers une architecture (Toward a [new] architecture) from 1923, and his Conclusion (chapter 22), where he breaks the link between functionalism and …

Vertical Bike Rack

The work of our hands!


A little backstory:  We bought two bikes as soon as we could after moving here, so we could both bike to work.  After a few uneventful months of chaining up our bikes next to our car in the carport of our apartment building, Justin's bike was stolen.  (Mine was mysteriously left behind, together with Justin's pannier, which the thieves helpfully folded up and placed on top of my bike.  My only guess is that the chain holding my bike was harder to cut than the chain on Justin's.)  Since then, we've kept our bikes inside, hauling them up and down two flights of stairs to our third-floor apartment every time we take them out, which is usually a few times a week.  Ugh.  Better than buying a new bike every few months, though.

We needed a rack that would keep the bikes off the floor, off the walls, and in as small a footprint as possible, without requiring us to drill into or otherwise damage the walls (or floor or ceiling).  This proved a challenge t…

Buying a Digital Piano

Here she is, my new Yamaha Clavinova CLP-625.




Overall, I have been very happy with it.  The sound is good - I play mostly with headphones - and the interface is easy to use; no screen, just buttons, and not too many weird options.  The touch is good, it feels like a real upright, while the size is much more compact than an upright.  It fights neatly in our apartment, isn't very heavy, and has all the features I need (admittedly, not many).  It came with the bench and standard pedals, the music stand, and a hook for hanging your headphones.  All in all, everything I wanted, and very little extra.

And now the saga of how we bought our piano:

For the last few years, my only access to a piano has been either accompanying J to the sketchy music rooms his company provides, or going to my church to play during off hours.  We rarely went to the sketchy music rooms, so mostly I would practice at church -- or rather, wouldn't, since I rarely went there either; going to play right after…