Archive for the ‘Florence’ Category

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1. Palazzo Strozzi


Overview of Palazzo Strozzi

Comments: Palazzo Strozzi is an example of civil architecture with its rusticated stone, inspired by the Palazzo Medici, but with more harmonious proportions.

Unlike the Medici Palace, which was sited on a corner lot, and thus has only two sides, this building, surrounded on all four sides by streets, is a free-standing structure. This introduced a problem new in Renaissance architecture, which, given the newly felt desire for internal symmetry of planning symmetry: how to integrate the cross-axis. The ground plan of Palazzo Strozzi is rigorously symmetrical on its two axes, with clearly differentiated scales of its principal rooms.

2. Piazza della Signoria

Comments: Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city. It is the meeting place of Florentines as well as the numerous tourists, located near Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo and gateway to Uffizi Gallery.

The impressive 14th century Palazzo Vecchio is still preeminent with its crenellated tower. The square is also shared with the Loggia della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palace of the Tribunale della Mercanzia (1359) (now the Bureau of Agriculture), and the Palazzo Uguccioni (1550, with a facade attributed to Raphael, who however died thirty years before its construction). Located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the Palace of the Assicurazioni Generali (1871, built in Renaissance style).

Plan Diagram

3.Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy.Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke’s residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.

Entrance: Above the front entrance door, there is a notable ornamental marble frontispiece, dating from 1528. In the middle, flanked by two gilded lions, is the Monogram of Christ, surrounded by a glory, above the text (in Latin): “Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium” (translation: “Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. This text dates from 1851 and does not replace an earlier text by Savonarola[4] as mentioned in guidebooks. Between 1529 and 1851 they were concealed behind a large shield with the grand-ducal coat of arms.

Michelangelo’s David also stood at the entrance from its completion in 1504 to 1873, when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery. A replica erected in 1910 now stands in its place, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus.

Three Courtyard:

The first courtyard was designed in 1453 by Michelozzo. In the lunettes, high around the courtyard, are crests of the Church and City Guilds. In the center, the porphyry fountain is by Battista del Tadda. The Putto with Dolphin on top of the basin is a copy of the original by Andrea del Verrocchio (1476), now on display on the second floor of the palace. This small statue was originally placed in the garden of the villa of the Medici in Careggi. The water, flowing through the nose of the dolphin, is brought here by pipes from the Boboli Gardens.The second courtyard, also called “The Customs”, contains the massive pillars built in 1494 by Cronaca to sustain the great “Salone dei Cinquecento” on the second floor.The third courtyard was used mainly for offices of the city. Between the first and second courtyard the massive and monumental stairs by Vasari lead up to the “Salone dei Cinquecento”.

Sketch standing in first courtyard depicting the stairway condition with the skewed window

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Chiesa dell’Autostrada del Sole

Architect: Giovanni Michelucci

Location: Florence, Italy.

Date: 1960-1963

Building Type: Church

Architecture Styles: Expressionist

Architectural Time Period: 1900s

Construction Type: Concrete and Brick

Context: Suburban

Introduction(Information mainly based on Internet and Readings):

Dell’Autostrada del Sole is a church in Florence, Italy, designed by architect Giovanni Michelucci. The church is formally named after John the Baptist but has also earned the name Church of the Freeway of the Sun for its location between autostrada del Sole (Freeway of the Sun) and the A11 Firenze-Mare highway.

The design of the church is meant to reflect both modern and traditional church design. The stone facing evokes a traditional feel while the tent-like vertical elements and copper roofing reflect modern design tastes. The church stands 27.5 meters (88.5 ft) high.

It was built between 1960 and 1963, based on plans by Giovanni Michelucci. The materials used for the building are stone and concrete for the walls, copper for the roof, oxidized to green on the outside and burnished blond on the inside. Marble, glass and bronze are used for the interior elements. The floorplan of the building is asymmetrical and follows sinuous curves creating a feeling of fluid space. The church is decorated with works of Marcello Avenali, Jorio Vivarelli, Dilvo Lotti and Luigi Venturini.

The intentions of the church builders was to honor the workers who had died during construction of the freeway and to provide a “parish for the tourists” so those who are traveling can have a place to worship.

The Autostrada del Sole is a reflection of two great societal changes of the 1960s, a society moving toward a more mobile and itinerant culture and the new religious ideas brought forward in the Second Vatican Council pronouncements.

My own exploration:

Keywords: Sculpture&Organic, Material, Light&Opening, Structure Expression

Today we visited the famous Giovanni Michelucci’s church:Dell’Autostrada del Sole,as the photo indicates, you’ll see the highway church as you’re driving down the A1, negotiating the ramps around the Firenze Nord exit. As for me, it functions as an organic sculpture for people moving through this particular area, as the idea for Michelucci is to “stop” the drivers here, not so much for physical rest, but for some spiritual uplifting. The church was thus developed as a kind of “traffic stopper” that ought to slow motorists down. My own feeling is that its open shapes and continuity with the level and land of the highway itself were also intended as welcoming.

I started by circling all 360 degrees of the exterior as I felt invited to do so by a raised walkway that takes you around to admire each facet of the building. It’s surprising by walking around this structure because for every few steps,  I can see a different shape, shadow and texture, which gives me the feeling of organic.


From the exterior, I felt that the use of material is brilliant, on the base, the use of the rusticated stone indicates a feeling of heaviness, which benefits for a church: as a spiritual holly place for people to worship, the base has to be stable in order to show the strong “foundation”.

The material for the upper part is copper oxidized to green, which gives the feeling of lightness and modern, it reflects more light in order to show the contrast to the heavy base, as a result, the roof is light and bright, and the green color coordinates well with the surrounding green nature: trees and grass, which gives a harmoniousness and balance to the surrounding area.

This a quick sketch I did for analyze the building form and its relationship to the site. First, the building is spiraling up itself from the heavy base to the top cross. Second, the logic of choosing the material color is: heavy color connected to a light color, that is, the base connecting the roof, surrounding trees and the grass ground. It is a deep logic of combination of balanced color.


The church has some brilliant solution of openings, it tells us tectonic ideas and how to bring light into the interior, I focus on the apertures and effect of light while visiting the church, here is my discovery.

This is a small opening occurring  on the stone base, as we can see, it tells us the tectonic idea of how to make a opening: a concrete lintel seats above the load-bearing wall, since it is a small opening, I think the function of it was to bring spot light into space to draw people’s attention.

Large openings near the alter, from my point of view, the irregular mullion is mimicking the stone base supporting it.

The vertical apertures, there are three types of lintels: the end-supported, cantilever and sandwich. which are marked in the photo.

Different type of openings on the base and upper part, I think it is the architect’s notion to celebrate the different tectonic system of the base and upper part.

A stone stands right front the window all the way to the bottom of the lintel

A stone stands right front the window half way to the bottom of the lintel

Apertures at the entrance, it celebrate the transparency of the entrance as well as bring more light into the lobby

As we enter the church, the openings of the lobby seems more regular, because the lobby has a certain linear rhythm, the language of the openings and roof structure follow the rhythm, this is something I learn as a designer.

The interior light effect, we can see the different light reflecting quality of stone and concrete, the stone has a more rough surface, the light was absorbed a lot. The concrete surface is more smooth, thus reflecting more light, that why Michelucci place the concrete at upper level.

With the help of the concrete roof, as mentioned above, the space was well lighted.

The aperture here has two different types, at the bottom, the linear aperture brings vertical light and the view was framed along the edge of the adjacent mass, the aperture at the top opens up to the sky to give more depth for the space. At the same time, it is a separation of two materials.

This window frames the view of the courtyard, as a vertical linear visual experience.

The horizontal window appears at the alter of the church, both in lower level and upper level, the horizontality nature of the aperture brings more light into the space.

The well designed aperture helps light up the interior

Compared to horizontal window, the function of vertical window has a different quality of welcoming light

Vertical, spotted and large aperture work together based on the geometry and function of the space

This window show the depth of the courtyard

The aperture reflect the nature of the space

Interesting combination of geometry and materials

The mezzanine was well lighted by the aperture on both side: the alter and the gallery space.

Structure and Element Expression

The structure and element of the church is mimicking the irregularity and organic quality of the nature

The vertical tree like structural element give a feeling of nature, in fact is the concrete member painter with tree bark grains

The roofing structure above the lobby space

The guardrail for the mezzanine is the irregular cross

The irregular cross guardrail for a spiral stair

The organic roof structure