The Renaissance, a remarkable era characterized by boundless creativity and groundbreaking innovation, served as a pivotal turning point in history. It ushered in a profound shift from the medieval mindset, which was deeply rooted in tradition and religious dogma, towards a more enlightened and human-centric perspective. This transformative period witnessed the emergence of a secular outlook, emphasizing the potential of human achievement and the exploration of worldly pursuits. The groundbreaking work in question has served as a cornerstone for the advancement of contemporary ideas, leaving an indelible mark on numerous facets of society and culture.

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Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is a triumph of Renaissance Architecture_©Wolfgang Stuck

Birth of Renaissance 

The Renaissance, a transformative period in European history spanning from the 14th to the 17th centuries, emerged as a consequence of a multitude of factors that profoundly influenced the cultural, intellectual, and artistic milieu of the continent. 

In the vibrant city of Florence during the 15th century, two significant events unfolded, each vying for the prestigious title of the Birth of Renaissance Architecture. First was the completion of the renowned “Gates of Paradise,” a magnificent set of Bronze-Casted doors, that have graced the Baptistry of Florence Cathedral with their awe-inspiring presence.

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A close-up of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise_©Wolfgang Stuck

The resurgence of fascination with the wisdom and accomplishments of ancient Greece and Rome sparked the dawn of the Renaissance. In a remarkable turn of events, scholars had embarked on a journey to meticulously study and translate classical texts, a realm that had regrettably fallen onto during the middle ages. The rediscovery of classical knowledge has sparked a resurgence of classical ideas, igniting a wave of inspiration and fostering novel modes of thinking. The Renaissance also owes a great debt to the influential philosophical and intellectual movement known as humanism.

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The renowned Adam and Eve plate, featured in Ghiberti’s iconic Gates of Paradise _©

The growth of the Renaissance was propelled also by the generous support and patronage of affluent individuals, including rulers, nobles, and merchants. In a remarkable display of patronage such as the Medici family, these individuals took it upon themselves to commission the most talented artists, scholars, and architects of their time. Their goal was to bring forth awe-inspiring works of art, construct magnificent structures, and foster a climate of intellectual exploration and advancement.

Some of the Renaissance geniuses in the field of art, literature, science, art, and architecture are Leonardo da Vinci, Desiderius Erasmus, Galileo, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Titian, Michelangelo, Filippo Brunelleschi and many more.

With its origins deeply rooted in the heart of Florence, the profound influence of the Renaissance gradually extended its reach beyond the borders of Italy, ultimately permeating throughout Western Europe such as Germany, France, and Spain. 

In Europe, Renaissance Architecture emerged as the prevailing style, gradually superseding the late Gothic Period, despite some shared characteristics between the two. Despite each nation putting its unique twist on Renaissance Architecture, the core principles of the Italian Renaissance remain unmistakable.

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The Periods of Renaissance Architecture_©

Characteristics of Renaissance Architecture

The Renaissance, also known as the “Renaissance Revival” or “Classical Revival,” replicates the architectural forms and principles that characterized the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. It placed great emphasis on the principles of symmetry, proportion, and the incorporation of classical orders, including the renowned Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. Renowned architects such as Andrea Palladio in Italy and Inigo Jones in England have played pivotal roles in the widespread popularity of this architectural style.

The elemental characteristics of the Renaissance architecture style are: 

  • Harmony and balance: The importance of symmetry in Renaissance architecture is well-documented. Elements on each side of a central axis of a façade were either mirror images of one another or were symmetrical. Aesthetically pleasant compositions were achieved by using proportional relationships, such as the golden ratio.
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    St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City representing harmony and balance_©Vladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock

    Conical Roofs: The architectural triumphs of ancient Rome served as inspiration for Renaissance builders, who resumed the use of domes. Dome construction methods were refined; Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome for the Florence Cathedral is a prime example.

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    The dome of Brunelleschi at Florence cathedral_©Konstantin Europe

    Traditional Design Elements: Classical elements and decoration were prominent in Renaissance architecture. Pediments, pilasters, cornices, and friezes were all employed to adorn the exteriors of buildings.

  • Point of View: The linear perspective used by Renaissance architects gave the impression of depth and space. This method, which was adopted from Renaissance art, made building compositions seem more lifelike.
  • Patios, Courts, and Loggias: Loggias, or covered galleries, were commonplace in Renaissance architecture. These areas bridged the gap between the inside and outside, while also serving as protected gathering spots for friends and family.
  • Proportions: Architects used the Golden Ratio to create structures. Building elevations, plans, and sections utilized proportions to determine space heights and widths. The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence uses proportions. Leon Battista Alberti created the façade using the Golden Ratio and geometry.
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The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence made with golden ratio_©

Modernist Architecture Development

The Renaissance, with its groundbreaking ideas and architectural styles, played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of modern architectural development. The enduring impact of classical principles, including proportion, symmetry, and the incorporation of classical orders, has continued to shape architectural movements in the centuries that followed.  Neoclassicism, Baroque, and even elements of modernist architecture can all be traced back to the artistic and intellectual movements that emerged during this transformative era. The enduring influence of the Renaissance on architecture is evident in structures across the globe, where its tenets persistently serve as a wellspring of inspiration for architects and designers.

Despite the considerable time gap between these two periods, the Renaissance’s influence endured and left an indelible mark on the trajectory of architectural development. In analyzing the subject matter, several significant connections emerge between the two time periods. The exploration of classical principles, rationality, experimentation, and functional considerations during the Renaissance laid the foundation for the emergence of modernist architecture styles in the 20th century.

Distinguishing modern architecture from its traditional counterparts is a relatively straightforward task. In the realm of architecture, modern design has emerged as a paradigm that champions simplicity and minimalism. With its clean lines and absence of embellishments, this style wholeheartedly embraces the philosophy of “less is more.” The design places a strong emphasis on horizontal massing, featuring broad roof overhangs and inclined planes. In the pursuit of maximizing natural light within open-plan interiors, the utilization of glasses is employed generously.

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Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer’s Fagus Factory in Alfeld_©

In the realm of materials, modern architecture seamlessly integrates cutting-edge systems such as steel frames, exposed concrete blocks, curtain walls, ribbon windows, and column-free interiors. Natural materials have long been a familiar presence. In the realm of architectural design, materials such as wood, stone, and brick have been known to make occasional appearances, albeit in a more simplified manner.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago_©

In the realm of modern architecture, structural innovation was not a matter to be taken lightly. The functional design of architecture is defined by the style, which encompasses asymmetrical compositions and geometric forms. The prominence of the form follows function principle in modernism is a key factor contributing to this phenomenon.

Royal National Theatre by Denys Lasdun _©




A Postgraduate student of Architecture, developing an ability of Design led through Research. A perceptive observer who strives to get inspired and, in doing so, become one. Always intrigued by the harmonious relationships between people and space and the juxtaposition of the tangible and intangible in architecture.