The architecture style of Renaissance Italy was a very conscious design, as particular architects sought to revive Classical Roman architecture. Instead of the style slowly growing and evolving out of the previous Gothic style, architects of the time actually made pilgrimages to Rome to study the ancient buildings and ruins. They included such elements as columns, pilasters, pediments, and arches into Renaissances buildings, as well as an obsession with art, as many of these buildings were adorned with such classic art as those by Michelangelo.
The Basilica and Sistine Chapel in Rome are prime examples of Renaissance architecture, with one of his most famous works – The Creation of Adam, painted on the roof of the Chapel by Michelangelo.
The Renaissance style of architecture was developed first in Florence with Filippo Brunelleschi. However, while the Classical Roman architecture was influential in the Renaissance style, the distinguishing features had to be adopted to fit the changed forms and purposes of buildings. For instance, the churches that were among the earliest buildings in this era never would have been constructed by the Romans. Furthermore, wealthy merchants of the 15th century required larger city dwellings and cities had no more use for public bath houses that the Romans built.
Brunelleschi’s first major commission was the brick dome that covered Florence’s cathedral. While the dome was stylistically Gothic, the structure was clearly influenced by the great dome of Ancient Rome. He also designed the churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito, both in Florence, which demostrate more clearly the classical revival period.
Leon Battista Alberti was another important architect of the time. His design of the Church of Sant’Andrea in Mantua included a façade reminiscent of a roman triumphal arch. However his best known buildings are in Florence: the Palazzo Rucellai and Santa Maria Novella.
From Italy, the Renaissance style was exported to France and Spain, and later Holland, England, Germany and Russia. This architectural style only began to appear outside of Italy around 1500 and later. It is interesting to note that chronology, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architectural design and then was succeeded by the Baroque style.