NEW YORK, NY.-
Experts today still don't agree about exactly how Filippo Brunelleschi constructed the iconic, soaring dome atop Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore in the early 15th century. So for Nat Geo's for Senior Graphics Editor Fernando Gomez-Baptista, creating graphics for a feature on Brunelleschi's Dome for the February issue of the magazine was a challenge. The product of more than four months of research for Gomez-Baptista and his team, the end result includes layer-by-layer drawings of Brunelleschi's progress, an interactive graphic comparing the designs of the world's most iconic domes, and an illustrated video of the dome's construction.
The following is an excerpt from the February issue of National Geographic: In 1418 the town fathers of Florence finally addressed a monumental problem theyd been ignoring for decades: the enormous hole in the roof of their cathedral. Season after season, the winter rains and summer sun had streamed in over Santa Maria del Fiores high altaror where the high altar should have been. Their predecessors had begun the church in 1296 to showcase the status of Florence as one of Europes economic and cultural capitals, grown rich on high finance and the wool and silk trades. It was later decided that the structures crowning glory would be the largest cupola on Earth, ensuring the church would be more useful and beautiful, more powerful and honorable than any other ever built, as the grandees of Florence decreed.
Still, many decades later, no one seemed to have a viable idea of how to build a dome nearly 150 feet across, especially as it would have to start 180 feet above the ground, atop the existing walls. Other questions plagued the cathedral overseers. Their building plans eschewed the flying buttresses and pointed arches of the traditional Gothic style then favored by rival northern cities like Milan, Florences archenemy. Yet these were the only architectural solutions known to work in such a vast structure. Could a dome weighing tens of thousands of tons stay up without them? Was there enough timber in Tuscany for the scaffolding and templates that would be needed to shape the domes masonry? And could a dome be built at all on the octagonal floor plan dictated by the existing wallseight pie-shaped wedgeswithout collapsing inward as the masonry arced toward the apex? No one knew.
So in 1418 the worried Florentine fathers announced a contest for the ideal dome design, with a handsome prize of 200 gold florinsand a shot at eternal famefor the winner.
To read more go to: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/il-duomo/mueller-text