Italian architecture

Italian architecture,

the several styles employed in Italy after the Roman period.

The Romanesque

Italy's Romanesque architectureRomanesque architecture and art,
the artistic style that prevailed throughout Europe from the 10th to the mid-12th cent., although it persisted until considerably later in certain areas.
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 (12th cent.) reveals the first use of the groined vaultvault,
ceiling over a room, formed in any one of a variety of curved shapes. Nature of Vaults

A vault is generally composed of separate units of material, such as bricks, tiles, or blocks of stone, so shaped or cut that when assembled they form a tightly wedged and
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 with projecting ribs. It is also typified by the development of a type of basilicabasilica
, large building erected by the Romans for transacting business and disposing of legal matters. Rectangular in form with a roofed hall, the building usually contained an interior colonnade, with an apse at one end or at each end.
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 having side galleries. The style was especially pronounced in Lombardy and is superbly exemplified in Sant' Ambrogio, Milan. There are two regional forms of Italian Romanesque—Tuscan (including Florentine) and southern. The cathedral of Pisa (1063–1118), with its campanile (the "leaning tower"), admirably displays the Tuscan characteristics, chief of which is the decorative use of tier upon tier of columns. Tuscan architects of the period also made a specialty of using variegated marbles and followed the antique style in this rather closely. The Romanesque of the south, as in the cathedral of Monreale, is characterized by its rich mosaics and delicate carvings, which show Byzantine, Saracenic, and Norman influences.

Gothic Influences

Gothic architecture was not greatly developed in Italy; a notable exception is the cathedral of Milan, built in part by foreign architects. The Church of St. Francis in Assisi (begun 1228) and the cathedral at Siena (begun 1269), among others, also have Gothic elements—the ribbed vault and the pointed arch (see Gothic architecture and artGothic architecture and art,
structures (largely cathedrals and churches) and works of art first created in France in the 12th cent. that spread throughout Western Europe through the 15th cent., and in some locations into the 16th cent.
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). However, the Italians largely adhered to the native tradition of building in terms of simple basilican proportions with massive walls, a practice that was carried into the Renaissance.

The Renaissance

In the 15th cent. a conscious revival of classical antiquity began (see Renaissance art and architectureRenaissance art and architecture,
works of art and structures produced in Europe during the Renaissance. Art of the Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance
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). Brunelleschi emulated the ancient Romans in his masterly construction (1420–34) of the dome of the Florentine cathedral, and Michelozzo used antique elements in the courtyard of the Medici Palace, Florence (begun 1444). Alberti borrowed freely from a Roman triumphal arch in his design (1450s) for the exterior of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo, Peruzzi, and Raphael made Rome the center of spectacular architectural developments in the first half of the 16th cent., when St. Peter's was the most important project under way. Vignola did significant work in Rome in the latter part of the 16th cent., while in N Italy the formal classicism of Palladio was a potent factor in the spreading of Renaissance architecture throughout Europe. The monumental work of Michelangelo reflected elements of mannerismmannerism,
a style in art and architecture (c.1520–1600), originating in Italy as a reaction against the equilibrium of form and proportions characteristic of the High Renaissance.
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 and his influence extended into the baroquebaroque
, in art and architecture, a style developed in Europe, England, and the Americas during the 17th and early 18th cent.

The baroque style is characterized by an emphasis on unity among the arts.
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The Baroque

The beginning of the 17th cent. ushered in the drama of the baroque era with Maderno's nave and facade for St. Peter's, to which a magnificent colonnaded plaza was added, designed by Bernini, the foremost genius of the period. Other outstanding architects of the century included Borromini, Cortona, and Rainaldi. After their deaths, Carlo Fontana became the most influential architect in Italy, transmitting the ideas of the great baroque masters to many of the most important architects of Europe. Italy, however, no longer possessed the undisputed leadership in European architecture, although in the 18th cent. Piedmont in N Italy produced remarkable designers, such as Guarini, Juvarra, and Vittone.

The Modern Era

Nineteenth-century Italian architecture, such as Giuseppe Sacconi's Victor Emmanuel monument, shows a decline in quality and increased pomposity. In the 20th and 21st cent. Italy has followed the trends of modern architecturemodern architecture,
new architectural style that emerged in many Western countries in the decade after World War I. It was based on the "rational" use of modern materials, the principles of functionalist planning, and the rejection of historical precedent and ornament.
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; its outstanding practitioners include Pier Luigi NerviNervi, Pier Luigi
, 1891–1979, Italian architectural engineer. Nervi is considered one of the foremost European architectural designers of the 20th cent. His first large work, the Giovanni Berta stadium at Florence (1930–32), won world acclaim for the daring and
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, Giuseppe Terragni, Gio Ponti, and Renzo PianoPiano, Renzo
, 1937–, Italian architect, b. Genoa. Piano attended architecture school at Milan Polytechnic, graduating in 1964. The prolific Piano has been lauded for responding to the needs of each building site rather than cleaving to a single architectural style and has
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See R. Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600 to 1750 (1958) and Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (3d ed. 1962); C. L. V. Meeks, Italian Architecture, 1750–1914 (1966); T. W. West, A History of Architecture in Italy (1968); M. Tafuri, History of Italian Architecture, 1944–1985 (1989).

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