A friend lent this to me before I headed over to Italy and France this summer. I was a bit skeptical at first as he's heavily into the technical aspects of architecture. However, this book is anything but.
Ross King has documented the story of one of history's most creative minds, Filippo Brunelleschi, and his greatest achievement ... the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Even today it remains the largest dome built from bricks and mortar, built without any supporting structure!!!
This guy was a short-fused, paranoid, eccentric who influenced the likes of Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo da Vinci (who even copied several of Fillipo's inventions.) He was a clockmaker, engineer and designer who excavated areas of ruined Rome (together with Donatello) in order to study design and building techniques from 2000 years earlier. Techniques that had been completely lost with the downfall of Rome.
The book gives good insight into how structures like these were constructed, and the social, political, and personal aspects that were involved. Competing architects, war, plague, "free" and illiterate masons all come into play at a time shortly after the creation of many of SE Asia's great temples.
For anyone interested in Medieval Italy, architecture, and design, I would strongly recommend this book. Even for those who aren't into these kinds of things, it's still a very interesting and engrossing read. It's not a big book, and it's a bit of a page-turner.
I'm looking forward to reading another one of his books on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Reminds me of a book I very reluctantly started reading because there was nothing else left on the bookshelf in a GH in Indonesia. The subject matter did not sound exactly gripping ... something about Medieval cathedral builders called "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet.
Well, it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in years, a real page turner! I highly recommend it if you haven't already read it.