博客: Architecture

I like towers, roofs and cliffs - anywhere where I can get a birds-eye view. One of the most memorable views I have had is from the top of the dome on Florence’s Duomo, or more properly, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This dome is there because of one man, Filippo Brunelleschi.

Brunelleschi's Dome book jacketHaving an impressive cathedral was one way that Florence wanted to show its importance and power. In 1296 they started on a new cathedral that was going to have the largest dome in the world. In 1418 the cathedral was finished except for the dome. The problem was no one knew how to build it. With a diameter of 143 feet it was too large for conventional building techniques. A competition was announced to find a design that would work. Fillippo Brunelleschi was one finalist and Lorenzo Ghiberti was the other. Ghiberti had beaten Brunelleschi years before in the competition to design the Cathedral’s Baptistery doors. Since then they were fierce rivals. The difference was that Ghiberti now had a solid reputation and Brunelleschi didn’t. Brunelleschi’s design was for a dome that would be self supporting while it was being built, but he would not divulge the details since he did not trust others not to steal his ideas. In the end Brunelleschi’s design was chosen, but since this was his first big project, the more experienced Ghiberti was assigned as his partner on the project. This greatly frustrated Brunelleschi who saw this as a lack of faith in his abilities and because it was his design, he was doing most of the work directing the construction of the dome. He finally got rid of Ghiberti by falling ill at a criticalPippo the Fool book jacket step in the building and while Brunelleschi was home sick everyone realized that Ghiberti had no idea how to build the dome.

The Duomo’s dome is still the largest in the world and you can read the whole fascinating story of the dome’s design and construction in Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King.

There is also an excellent children’s picture book Pippo the Fool by Tracey Fern that tells the story of Pippo Brunelleschi and his dome.

When you get to Florence, don’t forget to climb the dome.

 

Advertisement for Rummer Homes, Sunday Oregonian, 4/21/1963.When I saw that last Thursday’s episode of Think Out Loud featured a story Rummer homes -- distinctive mid-century modern houses built by local builder Robert Rummer in the 1960s -- I thought it was the perfect moment to highlight some resources for learning about modern residential classics like the Rummer homes.

So far as I’ve been able to discover, there aren’t any books devoted to Robert Rummer’s houses (maybe you should write one!).  But fans of Rummers have a virtual gathering place, the Rummer Network, home to all sorts of great stuff, including contemporary and historical photos of Rummer houses and some helpful links to information about Eichler houses (Eichlers are California ranch houses developed by Joseph Eichler -- they were the inspiration for Rummer houses).  And, there is an informative article about Rummer houses at the California-based Eichler Network website: “Meet Builder Robert Rummer,” by Joe Bartholow.

Modern Historic Resources of East Portland Of course, Robert Rummer wasn’t the only local builder who spent the post-war years specializing in a new, fresh approach to house design -- cleanly-designed, open architecture was popular everywhere.  To get a sense for the trends in modern house styles in mid-Multnomah County, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s survey, Modern Historic Resources of East Portland (pdf, written for the City of Portland by Historic Preservation Northwest, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, April 2011).  It focuses on buildings on the east side of 82nd Ave., where many 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s-era subdivisions are located.

Mid Century Home Style is another great source -- especially for mid-century house researchers seeking out primary documentation.  Among other things, the site collects house plan books which were originally published 1937-1963.  These plan books show illustrations of house facades, floor plans, and occasional interior or garden views.  Most are much less avant-garde than Rummer or Eichler houses: primarily these are plain ranch houses, designed for middle America; but nonetheless, many have quite a lot of space-age flair. 

And of course, the library has a lot of great books about the history of modern domestic architecture.  The list below should get you started!


Do you want to learn more about the history of your Portland-area modern house? The library's House history page has lots more resources to help you with your search -- but for specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

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