Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gaining a whole new perspective

post card view of the Baptistry in Florence
I have just started a free online course; happened to hear about it from a Facebook friend. It's offered by Harvard (imagine) through the massive online course provider edX, to which loads of universities provide course content. This self-paced course is called The Architectural Imagination. I suspect the class size is ten thousand world-wide.

I love online study environments; this is the best I've ever experienced, Universal Instructional Design principles and practices in abundance. Video, a transcript beside it, dialogue highlighted as it is uttered. Text and video available for download. Self-evaluation format, in a variety of learning styles. Can you tell I'm having fun?
faded me before Baptistry doors
L to R: Baptistry, Duomo, Campanile

The course delves into the philosophical underpinnings of architectural thought. A stretch? Oh, yeah. One of the first ah-ha moments happened when Filippo Brunelleschi and I realized we'd once stood on the same steps, of the Duomo in Florence. Of course, when I stood there,in 2005, I was limited to utterances like "OMG" and "Wow!" B. got there first, early in the 1400s. He was more articulate.

Brunelleschi was a great little problem solver. Figured out how to solve the big problem of Santa Maria del Fiore (the hole in the ceiling where the rain came in) with a dome. One of the big accomplishments of the Renaissance, an era known for big accomplishments.

But where Brunelleschi and I aligned was on the steps of the Florence Duomo, looking over at the Baptistry in the square. Where I stood in awe, B. rubbed his chin and wondered how he could show that the parallel lines converged at infinity, the vanishing point.   Here's a synopsis that says it better than I can at this point.

He figured it out, and is credited with inventing linear perspective. From that time, a simple thing that we take for granted, a painting that realistically shows three dimensions on a flat canvas, was a great new thing. Check out these three Renaissance Ideal City paintings that convey distance sublimely.

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