Filippo Brunelleschi lived from 1377-1446. He was a Florentine architect who was one of the key figures in the development of the Italian Renaissance. His revival of classical forms and his methods of architecture based on the mathematical, proportion, and a scientific understanding of perspective make him a key artistic figure in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era.
Brunelleschi was born in Florence in 1377 and received his early training as a silversmith and goldsmith. In 1401 he entered and lost the famous competition for the design of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery. He then turned to architecture and in 1418 received the commission to design and build the dome of the unfinished Duomo which was the Gothic cathedral in Florence.
Brunelleschi's dome was a great innovation both artistically and technically. It consists of two octagonal vaults, one inside the other. Its shape was dictated by structural necessity, making it one of the first examples of functionalism in architecture. Brunelleschi s design was the first time that a dome created with the same strong effect on the exterior as it did on the interior.
In other Florentine buildings, such as the church of San Lorenzo which he built in 1418-1428 and the Spedale degli Innocenti, a foundling hospital which he built in 1421-1455, Brunelleschi devised an difficult, geometric style inspired by the art of ancient Rome. Completely different from the style used in his time, Brunelleschi's style emphasized on mathematics in its use of straight lines, flat planes, and cubic spaces.
Later in his career he moved away from this linear, geometric style and adopted a somewhat more sculptural, rhythmic style. In the first of these buildings, for instance, the interior was formed not by flat walls, but by massive niches opening from a central octagon. This style, with its expressive interplay of solids and voids, was the first step towards an architecture that led eventually to the Baroque.
Brunelleschi was also an important innovator in other areas. Along with the painter Masaccio, he was one of the first Renaissance masters to codify the laws of scientific perspective. He made two perspective paintings which are now lost, probably between 1415 and 1420, and he is also credited with having painted the architectural background in one of Masaccio's early works.
Brunelleschi's influence on his contemporaries and immediate successors was very strong and has been felt even in the 20th century, when he is revered by modern architects as the first great exponent of rational architecture.