Monday, February 28, 2011

Essay on Roman Architecture

Essay on Roman Architecture

Donato D’angelo Bramante is an architect who was doing well in the High Renaissance architecture. He was trained as a painter and became an architect in Milan. He was under influence of various architects and artists with Classical antiquity style. His architecture shows all the High Renaissance elements. He is the first architect to show the light and shadow successfully through the buildings. He shows them three-dimensionally as what he learnt from his painter’s life. He was very good at using perspective view in his design. He also developed the illusion technique and used the technique in all his design idea well. His architecture shows the Classical style and illusionism, which can be said to be opposite from each other. However, he dealt with them with much effort and combined them in a harmonic way. This essay is going to explore his styles of architecture, which affect the architecture of Renaissance through three of his buildings.

After Bramante went to Rome and adapted all the Classical antiquity, his work became more mature and highly respected by other architects. Bramante’s first work in Rome was the Cloister of Santa Maria della Pace. The Classical style that he adapted from Rome architecture can be clearly seen in this building. It has the clear shadow of Pantheon in Rome.

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Bramante made the cross-axes of the centrally planned cloister coincide with the fundamental axes. It creates a perspective view and shows a feeling of emptiness in the centrally planned courtyard, which is an open space. The Pace cloister consists of double stories, which are almost equal height and partly conditioned by Roman buildings such as the Theatre of Mascellus. Bramante was then using a Tuscan pilaster resting on ground, with the proportions and forms of a Classical pilaster. He rose the arches from them instead of Roman type of arcade with applied half columns. It brought the airiness and spaciousness. On the upper floor, Bramante placed a smaller pier above the ground level pier, which was same with the architects of Early Renaissance. However, he also used columns at the upper floor to stand above the centres of each of the ground floor arches. It breaks the rule of ‘void over void, solid over solid’, which was used by other architects in the Early Renaissance. This whole cloister is basically built with Classical architecture. However, Bramante did not use it thoroughly without changing, he creates some new elements with the elements, which bring Early Renaissance architecture to High Renaissance architecture.

Bruschi analyzes:
The pedestal of the corner pier juts forward much less than others. It emphasizes the whole effect of the continuity of the four walls without any paused in the corner. This was decidedly the effect of the three-dimensional quality of space in itself. It shows his ‘painter’ outlook, his way of seeking particular effect from the point of view of the observer.


Bramante did not waste his technique, which he has learnt during the painter’s life. He is the first architect to bring in the technique of showing light and shade three-dimensionally and brought the architecture into a new era, which tends from Early Renaissance to High Renaissance. Light and shadow technique was only used in the painting in Early Renaissance period but not in architecture. He was not only bringing in the technique in architecture, but also bringing the technique of the scientific perspective and mathematics.

Before the construction of the Cloister of Santa Maria della Pace has finished, Bramante was commissioned to build a martyrdom—Tempietto, which marks the spot where St. Peter was crucified. This building shows Bramante’s effort on reconciling Classical elements together with the illusionism technique. In this case, Bramante uses a Greek cross to form the centralized plan.

The intercolumnar intervals of Tempietto are equal all the way round. It had been inspired by Roman circular temples, which supposed to be Classical antiquity in style. The columns, which show an order, are understood as part of an organic system. He successfully distinguishes between flat surfaces and curve masses, which is known as plastic style in architecture. It really helps to bring Early Renaissance tending to High Renaissance. It starts applying the organic design in architecture, which could not be seen in Early Renaissance period. The columns also show the light and shadows effect too which is the main achievement in High Renaissance architecture. Tempietto is the first modern building to employ Tuscan building correctly. Bramante used the Tuscan order, which is Roman Doric because it suits Peter. It is a treatise which was continued from Early Renaissance and was paid more attention in High Renaissance architecture. Murray claims:

Vitruvius had pointed out that the temples ought to be architecturally conformable to their dedications; in other words that the temple dedicated to a virgin goddess ought to be of Corinthian order, whereas Hercules or Mars demands the Doric.

Although Tempietto was recognized as a perfect modern architecture, it follows ancient models in its vaulting. It is still showing a lot of Classical elements and style, which is very popular in Renaissance period. Bramante scored a distinction in reviving Classical style and adding his own idea. He combined them together and provided more choices to the architects in later period. Besides showing all Classical styles well, he also starts to develop illusionism technique, which he used in painting, in architecture.

Tempietto shows Bramante’s technique in illusionism. It can be said as a trick of eyes, which deceive the viewer. Because of the upper part of Tempietto contrasts emphatically with the lower, he inserted a small, continuous balustrade to soften the division between their styles and scale. The diameter of the columns in the cloister and the height of the columns in colonnade have to be in the same ratio. Thus, the viewer who frames the view of Tempietto would have taken the columns in the colonnade as equal in height to those of the cloister. Ludwig H. Heydenreich and Wolfgang Lotz also states:

In that way, the Tempietto would have gained in monumentality; it would have looked higher and wider, and the surrounding courtyard more spacious.

Bramante uses a lot of illusionism skill in this specific small building, which gains him a lot of respect among High Renaissance architects. This small temple actually shows a distinction of reconciling the rigour of the classicism and illusionism. It is perfectly designed and forms a harmony among different elements.

Cortile del Beldevere is another famous building from Bramante, which was very famous in scientific perspective and illusionism. It was built as a villa’s link with Vatican Palace. It is also a huge amphitheater built for Julius II in imitation both of a Classical amphitheater and a Classical villa.

Bramante designed this large courtyard-theatre-forum same as the Romans had made their forums. The intermediate area, proportioned apparently according to the golden section, was to contain the audience’s seat, an intermediate terrace and the converging and ascending ramps to the upper courtyard, which was laid out as a garden closed at the end by a large terminal hemicircle. It is designed according to the Classical style.

In this specific building, Bramante applied the principle of perspective composition to the whole landscape as well as the building itself to form the whole view into a picture. Ludwig H. Heydenreich and Wolfgang Lotz state:

Belvedere courtyard was to be a spettacolo, a theatrical fiction that was to deceive the spectator: once again, he was aiming at a perspective, illusionistic representation.

The upper level of the building, the spettacolo beyond the towers appears deeper than in reality to deceive the viewer. Bramante also adopted a system of alternating bays with pairs of pilasters alternately enclosing arches and niches. Ludwig H. Heydenreich and Wolfgang Lotz claim that this reinforcement of the vertical elements gives an illusion of greater depth. The detailing of the hemicircle at the end in its turn had to be illusionistically ‘distanced’ even further than the already ‘distanced’ end wall from which it opened out.

The illusionism he had used at Urbino and Milan became more mature at that time. Bruschi states that it is a spettacolo, a stage set, actually built and extended into depth, an artificial ‘constructed landscape’, such as the Romans had made, a rationalization of what was there already, the ‘natural spettacolo.

There are a lot of great buildings under Bramante’s design. He brought light and shadows and three-dimensional design from painting into architecture, which led architects at that period into a new style of architecture. He also developed scientific perspective view and illusionism in his design, which were some important elements of the architecture in High Renaissance architecture. In the other hand, he controlled his design elements well with the Classical antiquity and the innovation of the illusionism. All of his buildings use a lot of Classical style as well as the perspective and illusionism style, which affect the following architects. He was not only strongly influenced by the ancient Rome Classical style, but also try to add new elements into his architecture. He successfully shows his style of architecture in combining Classical and illusionism together and brought the architecture to another period which is High Renaissance architecture. He successfully transfers those painting techniques in architecture. In short, he is a great architect who designed buildings, which represent the highly beauty of the High Renaissance architecture.

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