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By: Frank D. Prager , Gustina Scaglia. Product Description Product Details A pioneer of Italian Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi — is most famous for his daring and original ideas, among them the magnificent dome of Florence's famed cathedral — Santa Maria del Fiore.

Brunelleschi : Frank D. Prager :

For the project, which was started in and substantially completed by , Brunelleschi designed a huge dome without supporting framework. References AA.

Brunelleschi Studies of His Technology and Inventions Dover Architecture

University of Toronto Press. The University of Chicago Press. Clark K Leonardo da Vinci. Dugas R A History of Mechanics. Dover Publications Inc. Librairie Scientifique A. Hermann, Paris. Chelsea House Publishers. Jorge Zahar Editor, Rio de Janeiro. Isaacson W Leonardo da Vinci. Andar, Rio de Janeiro.

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We will experience his triumphs in designing and constructing equipment that outlasted the great master himself; accomplishments that a young Leonardo da Vinci would later admire and record with his drawings. Join us as we look at the great machines that would change architecture; inventions that would enable and perhaps launch the beginning of that golden age known as the Renaissance.

Introduction In our last episode, we explored the innovative components designed by Filippo that played an important part in the construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Known primarily for the infamous tension rings that were employed to hold the sides of the dome together like hoops in a wooden barrel, the dome also contains other key components that play a critical role in its success.

The horizontal arches that secure the dome to the vertical ribs, the herringbone brick pattern that directed forces downward instead of inward, and the dual dome system that braced the two shells together to give more strength, are vital elements working together with the rings to support the largest masonry dome in existence. Yet in the days of Filippo, this technology simply did not exist.

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Existing technology At the time that Filippo was contemplating his design of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, the technology for lifting and moving heavy loads was quite limited. Some years earlier, when the drum that supports the dome was under construction, a treadmill-driven device was used. This machine, known as the rota magna, or great wheel, was driven by men walking inside a vertical drum that turned a shaft. Then another cable, wound around the drum, is led to a capstan, and … they raise loads gently and without danger … then people using it as a treadmill can complete the task still more quickly.

Filippo was aware that the existing machines could not accomplish the tasks required to construct Il Duomo, and you may recall from our Episode Two that the Opera del Duomo had called for hoisting designs in their initial RFP for the dome in The genius of Brunelleschi was that he could rise to all occasions.

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He could provide inventions and designs, and he could oversee their construction to achieve the necessary end for accomplishing his design objectives. No documentation Brunelleschi left no drawings or written descriptions of his machines, but fortunately they survived him, although not through continuous use. Their innovative features were admired by many engineers of the time, and they were studied and sketched by those who followed him. One such engineer was a young apprentice named Leonardo da Vinci. These models are works of art unto themselves and can be viewed at the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore Museum in Florence.


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It was configured as a heavy, rectangular frame with four sturdy legs anchored to the ground. Two horizontal geared wheels operated at each end of a vertical shaft, capable of engaging a vertical geared wheel independently, thus enabling the reversing feature. The vertical geared wheel drove a cylindrical shaft of two different diameters.

Brunelleschi: Studies of His Technology and Inventions

A third cylindrical shaft of yet a third diameter was driven by the vertical shaft through the use of a pinion and geared wheel system. The lifting ropes were wound around each cylinder depending on the load to be hoisted. A heavier load was raised more slowly on the smallest cylinder which had the greatest force.


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  • Lighter loads were raised on the larger diameter cylinders which resulted in faster hoisting speeds but with less force.