Forms and Decorative Elements in Renaissance Architecture

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What is the renaissance architecture? The answer lays in its very name- the word is originally French, from term la rinascita “to be reborn”. If we want to describe this era, we could say, that renaissance is “a self-conscious break with the past and search for the new forms of expression”. And it’s fully true- renaissance is an entirely new turn in the History of Architecture, but at the same time it’s a return to and exalt of antique forms of roman art. It is said, that “Renaissance architects and their patrons considered architecture of their time to be modern and scientific”- which first sounded strange to me, because it’s said that renaissance appeared by recreating the antique roman forms. But aren’t we thinking about our modern architecture the same way? We repeating over and over again already existing styles, but by combining and improving it, using our knowledge and new technologies we can create something completely different and startling. Ancient Roman architecture was worth to become an example for a new architectural style: it brought big open space (Colosseum, Rome), aqueduct for comfort, technology (unreinforced concrete dome in Pantheon, Rome). If fact, Gothic architecture also brought a lot of innovations, but in Italy, full of antique roman architecture, appeared a condemnation and neglect attitude towards Gothic.

Renaissance architecture also differed by application of scientism- a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific methods and approach. The whole history of renaissance is the history of the appropriation of ancient Greek and Roman architectural principles, forms and types. Therefore it means that renaissance art must imitate nature and must be rational, using defined method and rules in respect of natural laws. Architecture, in turn, must not only imitate nature, but it must imitate it in scientific manner, such as linear perspective, and not just to imitate, but to understand very principles, after which nature made them. Renaissance architecture was very anthropomorphic- human body used as a basic principle of proportion. We could even trace it to our time- in the long tradition of Leonardo Da Vinchi’s Vitruvian Man, Le Corbusier created his Modulor. Considering materials, it is said that they should be used where it is most appropriate and its nature should not be hidden. So, we could say, that architecture appeared as a result from learning the world around- beginning from our own body to appropriation of foreign cultures, which became the base for western civilization.

All this conditions had a great impact on renaissance architecture form in general along with its decoration. The most common decorative elements used in Renaissance were orders and rusticated masonry.

Decoration with Rusts
Rustication- is the masonry, made of rectangular stones which were uncouth from the front. This way of decorating facades came from Roman architecture, where rustication was used to give an impression of solidity and strength. But also in ancient Rome using of rusts had a practical solution- it worked as an effective isolation from moisture and noise. It is said: the more ancient architecture was known, the less intense was aspiration to imitate it. So, in Renaissance architecture it was used only as a decoration to create an impression of fortress-type building. Unlike the Roman, Renaissance architects applied illusory effect in masonry. To strengthen this impression, the relief of rusts and height of the row were decreasing with each floor. So this way, we get an impression of homogeneous masonry, which is reduced with the distance. In Palazzo Strozzi, relief is becoming more flat with each floor. This masonry is used widely in Toscana during the whole XV century. In XVI century this strict decoration was used only for the ground floor, as in palace of San Michele in Verona. At last, rusticated masonry was used only on the edges of the walls. One of the first example of such...
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