Americans love everything Italian, not just pizza, pasta, and wine. Ancient Roman art and architecture served as the inspiration for many of the first American national aesthetics. Americans have often gotten design ideas from Italy. As a result, Roman and Italian designs have been used in many ways in American landscapes. Just as Americans loved stuffed-crust pizza, the Renaissance Revival is just as much a part of American culture today.
What is Renaissance architecture?
The term “Renaissance Revival” is often called “Neo-Renaissance,” It refers to several 19th-century architectural revival styles that were neither Gothic nor Greek but were instead influenced by several classicizing Italian approaches. In the 19th Century, architects and critics used the term “Renaissance architecture” to describe a wide range of styles. In the 15th Century, Florence, Italy, saw the emergence of Renaissance architecture. An entirely new architectural style, based on classical Greek and Roman architecture, which overtook the previously dominant Gothic medieval design and replaced it.
This influential architectural movement revived ancient Classical forms and produced world-famous monuments. As a result of the Renaissance’s long-lasting cultural impact, the Western world has been forever changed.
Renaissance Architecture: A Brief History
Renaissance architecture was a renaissance of classicism in Florence, Italy, in 1400. It spanned 200 years throughout Italy and Europe. Renaissance architects combined classical elements to construct historical but modern architecture. Early Renaissance architecture reintroduced classical Roman and Greek characteristics like arches, columns, and domes. The buildings had symmetrical facades and clean, streamlined shapes, unlike their Gothic predecessors.
Classical elements were incorporated into 16th-century architecture during 1500, while the late Renaissance, or Mannerism, began around 1520. During this time, domes and cupolas were famous, while Baroque architecture appeared about 1600. Renaissance architecture influenced modern architects, painters, and philosophers. In the 19th Century, Renaissance architecture became a mix of Mannerism and Baroque, which gave birth to Neo-Renaissance. Innovative glasswork turned Renaissance courtyards into halls with glazed roofs.
Moreover, American Renaissance Revival architecture is, in the simplest terms, a celebration of shapes and patterns that come from the Italian Renaissance of the 16th Century. In the 19th Century, decorative innovation and revival movements flourished in Western architecture. Neo-Gothic, Tudor, Egyptian, Rococo, and even the eclectic style, which drew influences from various sources and combined them, replaced by Neo-Classical and Greek Revival architecture.
Early-mid 19th-century America and England experienced Renaissance-inspired revivals called Italianate style. The Renaissance, not ancient Rome, inspired the Italianate style, but American and English architects had trouble imitating these shapes. With the help of photographs and more effective transportation enabled architects to draw inspiration from actual Renaissance buildings. Renaissance Revival was faithful to 16th-century Italian designs. The Renaissance Revival ran from the 1890s through the 1930s in Western nations, ending with the Great Depression.
Key Renaissance Architecture Features
A humanist approach to architecture is combined with a focus on traditional ideas of beauty centered on proportion and symmetry. Renaissance architecture created human-scale classical geometry to harmonize human and mathematical proportions. Its square, symmetrical architecture characterized it; exteriors had ashlar masonry, dome, columns, pilasters, and lintels were used in an organized and repeated manner to adapt Classical components to then-contemporary applications. Early Renaissance structures emphasized air and light, which reflected Renaissance ideals and philosophy.
Its design and decoration were more important than the structure itself, as in many revival movements. So, Renaissance Revival motifs could be used in any form. There are, however, some structural constraints for this style. For starters, masonry or stone are typically used in Renaissance Revival construction. Second, they’re enormous and impressive or made to appear large and grand. A Renaissance Revival building can be recognized by its roof and front, which have wide overhanging eaves and a low pitch, which were based on country palazzos from the Renaissance. Many Renaissance revival roofs are tiled to add a touch of Mediterranean flair.
Another notable characteristic of Renaissance architecture is the excellent stairs from Blois and Chambord that were often reproduced. Neo-Renaissance design featured grand staircases modeled on those of Blois or Villa Farnese. The staircase became a typical part of both indoor and external architecture. At Blois, the steps had been open to the elements in the 19th Century. However, new and clever glass protection gave the staircase the illusion of being in the authentic Renaissance open style, although it was an internal feature. Further use of glass turned Renaissance courtyards into halls with glazed roofs.
Famous Renaissance Architecture
1. Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral
Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), considered the first Renaissance architect, designed Florence’s red brick Duomo. The Gothic cathedral was built in 1436. The dome was ahead of its time and impacted religious buildings in Italy and worldwide.
2. Italy’s Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter’s Basilica is a Renaissance masterpiece in Rome’s Vatican City. This sacred pilgrimage site and popular tourist destination was built between 1506 and 1615 and was primarily designed by Michelangelo (1475–1564), a brilliant Renaissance sculptor, painter, and an architect. It is one of the most well-known Renaissance structures in the world.
3. Venice’s Biblioteca Marciana
Designed in the Palladian style by architect Jacopo Sansovino and finished in 1564, the Marciana research library in Venice is a classic example of Renaissance architecture. One of the most beautiful public libraries ever created is on Piazza San Marco.
4. Florence’s Palazzo Medici
This Renaissance mansion, also named Palazzo Medici Riccardi, was built by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo in 1484 for the Medici banking family’s head. It is now a museum and the administrative center for the Metropolitan City of Florence.
5. The Michigan Capitol Building
The architecture of the Renaissance Revival style can be found in Port Huron, Michigan. Like the Italianate style, Renaissance Revival architecture was inspired by sixteenth-century Italy. Because more American architects had direct knowledge of Italy at the time of Renaissance Revival’s popularity, Renaissance Revival buildings are more faithful interpretations. Every floor of these symmetrical, formal structures is frequently treated differently regarding window and wall coverings. Other traits include arched and pedimented entrances, projecting cornices, and roofline balustrades.
6. The Bank of Italy Building
One of the best embodiments of the Renaissance Revival style in commercial architecture is the Bank of Italy Building, designed by August Nyberg. It’s a great illustration of the positive impact a large bank like the Bank of Italy can have on a tiny town’s development and prosperity. Several well-known companies and fraternal organizations had their offices in the building. As a stunning local icon and an important business location, the building was preserved.
7. St. Lorenzo’s of El Escorial, Madrid (Spain)
The Kings of Spain started to admire this fresh and contemporary design as Renaissance architecture moved beyond Italy and throughout the rest of Europe. El Escorial is a grand Royal Palace in Europe, on par with the Chateau de Versailles and Buckingham Palace. El Escorial was built from 1563-1584. The Basilica of San Lorenzo el Real occupies much of the palace’s footprint. El Escorial features one of the largest cathedrals in a European Palace. The building’s front elevation is 650 feet, while its side elevations are 525 feet. El Escorial’s size makes it the largest Renaissance building ever built. The facade has symmetry, rhythm, and proportion, all elements of Renaissance design.
8. Granada’s Palace of Charles V.
The Renaissance-style Palace of Charles V is situated in the Spanish province of Andalusia, Granada. The castle has a circular courtyard encircled by a square structure, a classic Renaissance design.
9. Augsburg Town Hall, Germany
The Augsburg administrative center is one of the most important Renaissance buildings north of the Alps. It was built between 1615-1624 and was a technological wonder. There had never been a building taller than six floors anywhere in the world before it. The perfect-looking building has a few pale green onion domes on top. The building’s white exterior was typical of the German Renaissance.
10. Zamo, Poland
Zamo, Poland, is one of the earliest Renaissance planned towns still standing. It preserves the 16th-century layout, defenses, and buildings. The buildings were painted in the Mannerist style and maintained those hues, although the architecture follows Italian “ideal town” notions.