Letter: Checks and balances | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Checks and balances

Question? What does our system of checks and balances have to do with the Santa Maria del Fiori, in Florence? Is there anything this building (some say is the beginning of the Renaissance) built in 1463 tell us about our present state of affairs? It turns out plenty.

First of all, we should start with this claim of it being the beginning of a new era and work back from there. Brunelleschi dome is what is considered to have pushed this structure (designed and built by one-upmanship and self-centered arrogance) out of the Gothic age. Why?

The problem presented to the artist to solve was an unprecedented schism. Not an ideological or religious breech but a gaping hole created by the warring egos of city/states wanting to show they’re better than their neighbors. Back then, self-aggrandizement was in the building of cathedrals.

The problem here is nobody had yet engineered a means to build a dome of this magnitude without structural supports. Something the inflation of the size of the edifice made impossible to deploy. Brunelleschi came up with a system of checks and balances to solve the problem.

The masonry had to be self-supporting as it curved inward. This was achieved by crossing the course of bricks creating a herring bone pattern. An upright brick checks the weaknesses of a straight course from spreading and toppling the whole edifice. However, the thing that makes it really work is the inverted arch hidden in the structure of the walls of the dome.

In our present situation, where we have to build a new era on the egotism of the old, we do have a governing system of checks and balance. Keep this in mind in trying to bridge this schism between rich and poor. Realize these keep the dome from crushing us all.

Eric Olander

Glenwood Springs


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