Michelangelo Architect: Precedents, Innovation, Influence

An exploration of Italian Renaissance architecture and urbanism through the persona of Michelangelo as witness, agent, and inspiration. We look at architecture and urbanism in Florence, Rome, and Venice from about 1400 to 1600 as it formed, articulated, and reflected the creative achievements of this Renaissance genius. The course engages building typologies such as the villa, the palace, and the church, explores the theory and practice of urban space-making, and evaluates the authority of the Classical past in the creation of new work. Particular emphasis on Michelangelo’s creative process and on his drawings.

We begin with Medicean Florence under Lorenzo the Magnificent and with the Early Renaissance legacy of Brunelleschi, Michelozzo, and Giuliano da Sangallo. Following Michelangelo’s footsteps, we move to High Renaissance Rome, with the achievements of Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo himself. Returning to Florence, we investigate the Mannerist experimentation of Michelangelo and others in the 1520s and consider the acceptance and rejection of this idiom by Giulio Romano in Mantua and Jacopo Sansovino in Venice. Michelangelo’s mature and late styles in Counter- Reformation Rome and the principles of Renaissance space-making at the urban scale conclude the course.

Four class meetings will be discussions of the material presented in lectures. Students should prepare for these by reviewing the lectures and images and reading the relevant sections in Ackerman (see below). Additional readings for each discussion will be presented (no more than ten minutes each) by participants on a rotating basis, and students will also facilitate the discussion by proposing topics within the given theme. For some discussions, a reading will be assigned to the whole class: these appear in bold on the syllabus.

In addition, a final paper or project is required. If a paper, it should have a text of 12 pages plus images, notes and bibliography, on any topic relevant to the course. A project could take any form desired with the consent of the instructor, but would most probably be a digital reconstruction of an unfinished or altered project by Michelangelo or another Renaissance architect.