Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture. Developed first inFlorence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.
Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings.
The forms and purposes of buildings had changed over time, as had the structure of cities. Among the earliest buildings of the reborn Classicism were churches of a type that the Romans had never constructed. Neither were there models for the type of large city dwellings required by wealthy merchants of the 15th century. Conversely, there was no call for enormous sporting fixtures and public bath houses such as the Romans had built. The ancient orders were analysed and reconstructed to serve new purposes.
The plans of Renaissance buildings have a square, symmetrical appearance in which proportions are usually based on a module. The first building to demonstrate this was St. Andrea in Mantua by Alberti.
Façades are symmetrical around their vertical axis. Church façades are generally surmounted by a pediment and organised by a system of pilasters, arches and entablatures. The columns and windows show a progression towards the centre. One of the first true Renaissance façades was the Cathedral of Pienza (1459–62), which has been attributed to the Florentine architect Bernardo Gambarelli (known as Rossellino) with Alberti perhaps having some responsibility in its design as well.
Domestic buildings are often surmounted by a cornice. There is a regular repetition of openings on each floor, and the centrally placed door is marked by a feature such as a balcony, or rusticated surround. An early and much copied prototype was the façade for thePalazzo Rucellai (1446 and 1451) in Florence with its three registers of pilasters
Arches are semi-circular or (in the Mannerist style) segmental. Arches are often used in arcades, supported on piers or columns with capitals.
Vaults do not have ribs. They are semi-circular or segmental and on a square plan, unlike the Gothic vault which is frequently rectangular. The barrel vault is returned to architectural vocabulary as at the St. Andrea in Mantua.
The dome is used frequently, both as a very large structural feature that is visible from the exterior, and also as a means of roofing smaller spaces where they are only visible internally.
Doors usually have square lintels. They may be set within an arch or surmounted by a triangular or segmental pediment. Openings that do not have doors are usually arched and frequently have a large or decorative keystone.
External walls are generally constructed of brick, rendered, or faced with stone in highly finished ashlar masonry, laid in straight courses. The corners of buildings are often emphasised by rusticated quoins. Basements and ground floors were often rusticated, as at thePalazzo Medici Riccardi (1444–1460) in Florence. Internal walls are smoothly plastered and surfaced with lime wash. For more formal spaces, internal surfaces are decorated with frescoes.