On Alberti and the Art of Building

Robert Tavernor

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Recognized in his own time for extraordinary architectural achievements, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) five hundred years after his death continues to influence the practice and theory of architecture. This book is the first full-scale study of Alberti’s life and architecture in more than a quarter century. Robert Tavernor provides a biographical account of the Italian architect and a detailed consideration of each of the building projects with which he was involved. With new reconstructions of Alberti’s buildings and new interpretations of his design intentions, this book will fascinate every reader with an interest in Renaissance architecture.

From Alberti’s supreme knowledge of the thought and buildings of antiquity, he developed a set of writings on science and the visual arts, including his important treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria. In this volume, Tavernor examines Alberti’s architectural writings and his practical example, his relations with his patrons, how he extended his theory into practice through major building projects across Italy, and how he succeeded in raising the status of architecture to an art—one that sought harmony with the natural world. Focusing on the analysis of Alberti’s buildings, the author sets each in historical context; provides a building history; and considers source material, proportional systems, and iconography. He concludes the book with a fresh view of Alberti’s theory and practice and a summary of his design process.

Robert Tavernor is professor of architecture at the University of Bath.

"Tavernor’s . . . sets out not just to leave us with Alberti’s built production as these fragments of beauty, compromised or clouded by circumstance. With great care and scholarship, he searches for the works as Alberti originally intended, reconstructing them meticulously in electronic images and timber models."—John McKean, Architects' Journal



"Trained as an architect, architectural historian, and linguist, Tavernor is well suited to the study of 15th-century humanist-architect Alberti, offering here the first comprehensive treatment of Alberti’s work since Franco Borsi. . . . [Tavernor] assesses Alberti’s architectural projects, built and unbuilt. He discusses each project beginning with the patron, providing a rich cultural context for each building. . . . [Recommended for] general readers; undergraduates through professionals."—Choice


"Robert Tavenor, in On Alberti and the Art of Building, concentrates on Alberti the architect but attempts to relate his architecture to his other activities and writings. . . . Tavernor is both an architect and a scholar, and his book is the result of some twenty years of research and reflection."—William Curtis, Times Literary Supplement


"This is the last and the best of the books on Alberti on this scale in the twentieth century. . . . Here we have the life and the works, with ground plans and drawings that are marvelously informative even to the layman, important even beside the lovely photographs. . . . It its understanding of a great architect it is worthy of high praise, and in its connecting architectural theories with architectural practice it is the perfect presentation of Alberti."—Chronique


ISBN: 9780300076158
Publication Date: January 11, 1999
292 pages, 8 3/4 x 11
100 b/w + 50 color illus.