Happy New Year! I am a tad late getting this blog written as I started the New Year in Florence, Italy. Alas New Year’s Day was the last day of our trip. Now that I am home in Kansas City designing a stack of projects, I can’t help but daydream about the beautiful details I saw in Italy. Designing beautiful spaces and details has always been a given in my practice yet seeing the stunning architecture in Florence that is hundreds of years old makes me want to ensure beauty is front and center in all of my designs.
These photos are from my morning at the National Museum of Bargello in Florence, Italy. It dates back to 1255 with a storied history as the home of the chief of police, a prison, and currently is a national art museum. Dante walked these rooms. Da Vinci and Michelangelo probably did too. A rumored plot to overthrow the Medici family was also to have been whispered within these walls.
As an architect, there are many details I love about this building. It is a courtyard plan not unique to Florence and very common because it is a wonderful way to organize a building in a city! Think of it as a donut plan, the middle is an outdoor room that allows privacy and security. You can control access to your outdoor space. All rooms are long yet thin to wrap around the courtyard allowing windows on opposite sides of the room. Important detail when lighting was done with candles and torches. Daylighting was key. The grand inviting staircase is wonderful. You want to climb those stairs! The most majestic room is actually on the second floor providing views, ample ventilation and security as the exterior stone walls are very difficult to climb. A treasure that I walked by the first in my distraction of looking around the rooms and not focusing on the art collection, is the competition entry for the Baptistery doors by entry by Filippo Brunelleschi. He lost the competition to his rival Lorenzo Ghiberti. When there was another competition to design the Duomo, Brunelleschi handily won it forever changing Florence’s skyline and the world of architecture! Such a strong idea that it can be sketched on the foam of a cappuccino! Who doesn’t like the story of rivals winning and losing yet always pushing themselves to outdo each other and in the process creating an ingenious beautiful solution?
The attention to design, detail and color was especially inspiring. Add in the fact that it is hundreds of years old, was done by hand without power tools or computers or decent lighting makes it even more staggering. Here a few painted patterns. These were as not as much trim as paint even frescos applied to appear as three dimensional trim in some places. Perspective in drawing and painting to create the illusion of three dimensions was still being sorted out during the Renaissance. Wonderful colors were used that are as fresh today and they were then. I can’t help but compare the colors of the Bargello to my favorite artist Carl Larson of early 1900’s. I tend to gravitate to the greens, reds and yellows making this palette especially wonderful for me. Enjoy! Remember it is all about the details!