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narrativa e di portafoglio

narrative and portfolio of Ian Siegel

The Palazzo Pubblico (the building at the head of the Campo with the tall tower) was the Sienese home base for the affluent Florentine Medici family. Its adjacency to both the countryside and the main public piazza in conjunction with the soaring height of its tower convey a clear message of the family’s status — we dominate both city and countryside.

Also interesting is that the building acts as a retaining wall: the lowest point of the Campo is an entire story higher in elevation than street level on the opposite “countryside” side of the building.

We also learned that the Medieval city grew incrementally as new fortified walls were built to adapt to increasing population. Old walls were not torn down, but homes and shops were built into them and they became a part of the urban fabric. As these spaces changed tenants and their uses changed, the spaces underwent similar reconstructions to cater to the needs of the new users. Since the Medieval city is built out of masonry, the layers of this method of reconstruction are evident on the street walls as infilled punched window and door openings:

The Duomo There’s a lot going on in terms of the Cathedral’s levels, and most of the genius behind the design comes from the knowledge of foundation engineering that the Sienese amassed because of their mountainous terrain.

First, the Cathedral was sited at the highest point in the city to give it a place of prominence. However, the Cathedral’s size (originally planned to dwarf the cathedral of their Florentine rivals, until the Sienese ran into issues like lack of funds and the plague) was too large to sit at the top of the mountain without sprawling off the edge. The solution was to place the Baptistery, which at that time was often a separate, nearby building, underneath the apse. The entire building reads as one clear construct, but its dual-purpose nature of cathedral+baptistery allows the interior space of the cathedral not to be interrupted by the downward level change that would have come with following the topography.

To the right of the Baptistery’s entrance is a tall arched opening that takes you up a street that winds to the left and arrives at the Cathedral’s entry westwork, but what that arch supports is the Bishop’s apartment, which is surprisingly at-level with the cathedral (it seems so high up in the air when you stand below it!) Similarly to the way the Baptistery serves as structural support for the east apse of the cathedral, the ground plane of the cathedral is extended even further out into the Bishop’s apartment (allowing free movement for the Bishop between his home and the church), which is held up by two or three other floors of apartments for rent. It was an advanced move for Medieval city planning to design this kind of arrangement, considering the city was mostly “grown” rather than planned.

Baptistery elevation


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