Left: Filippo Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence
Above: Filippo Brunelleschi 1377-1446 Born in Florence, Italy
Architectural innovation combines new ideas in form-making along with the technical breakthroughs needed to accomplish them. This is true for Vancouver House, and was also true in the early 15th century, as Florentines finished their Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. This church is now almost universally called “il Duomo” or “The Dome” after its most prominent feature, an eight-sided dome constructed in brick and completed under the supervision of Filippo Brunelleschi. To this day Brunelleschi’s Dome dominates the centre of Florence as its tallest structure, but it is also an object of extraordinary beauty. While Roman domes such as that of the Pantheon were constructed in heavy concrete, Byzantine domes such as Hagia Sophia required massive masonry walls, and Gothic churches used extensive exterior or ‘flying’ buttresses, Brunelleschi won the 1419 design competition by using none of these previous techniques.
Instead, his design used an interior and exterior shell of masonry, with internal connectors between the shells to deal with internal structural forces. With these innovations, the Florence Dome was built out of cheap and flexible brick, did not need an expensive scaffolding of wood, and did not require buttresses or extra-thick walls, so its visual grace could be more evident from all sides. Similar structural innovations were used by BIG and Dialog Architects and their engineers Glotman-Simpson and Buro Happold for Vancouver House. As invisible as the structural innovations of Brunelleschi’s Dome were, a use of vertical plus horizontal post-tension steel cables set within both the floor slab and elevator core concrete enables the powerful cantilever of floor above floor, one of the most dramatic features of the residential tower.