The Renaissance And The Baroque
Renaissance architecture was a response to the ornamentation of the Gothic period and a homage to the new values of symmetry, balance, logic, and order. Man was once again exerting control over his environment, and the structures of this time reflected the dedication to mathematical forms and the ordering of space. The innovations of Renaissance architecture are less structural than paradigmatical. Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) codified what was known of architecture, emphasizing the theoretical aspects, turning it from a trade into a profession. More importantly, he developed perspective drawing techniques that allowed architects to draw accurate architectural renderings, techniques that are still used today.
Like the Renaissance, the Baroque period in architecture was marked by design rather than structural innovation. In response to the bareness of Renaissance architecture, Baroque buildings were lavishly decorated. Rather than the approach of form following function, designers of this period approached architecture as theater, emphasizing effects, interpretations, and movement. The Spanish Steps in Rome, for instance, were designed to mimic the movements of a popular dance of the time, with sidewalls that moved in, moved out, met, separated, and met again. The design elements became more emotional and dynamic, and the focus was on energy versus balance. At the same time, underlying the ornateness of the Baroque was the logic of Renaissance design.
One notable aspect of Baroque architecture was its use of controlled viewing to emphasize a building. The approach to St. Peter's in Rome is a classic example. It was carefully orchestrated, beginning some blocks away with the Ponte S. Angelo, progressing through a tangle of narrow streets that heighten anticipation by providing only glimpses of St. Peter's. Finally, the pilgrim emerged into an enormous oval piazza that permitted a clear view of St. Peter's for the first time, framed by the curved colonnade. The sequence was designed to enhance the religious experience of St. Peter's by intensifying the emotions—creating a sense of anticipation and delayed gratification—felt during the approach.
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