We continue our way and walk towards the old city centre, where the cardo and decumanus roads met and which is now called the Piazza della Repubblica.
Close to the nineteenth century square, Piazza della Repubblica, lies the Palazzo Strozzi. This palace is the apotheosis in palazzi development we have seen thus far. The original plan was based on an enormous freestanding plot. Filippo Strozzi, a rich merchant, commissioned Benedetto da Maiano in 1480 to build the largest palace in Florence. The cost was over two hundred thousand florins. Filippo had already purchased sizeable plots in the city centre, including a plot with the graves of Poppi. Some fifteen homes were demolished before construction could start. Shop owner and diarist Landucci complained about the noise and dust levels when the enormous terrain was being prepared for construction.
Da Maiano likely based himself on a wooden model by Giuliano da Sangallo that has remained preserved. The construction, which has been documented remarkably well, lasted for over fifty years from 1480 to 1536. When Filippo dies in 1491, he leaves behind a wall that states how the family palace should be expressly finished according to the existing plans. It was also expressly mentioned that the palace had to remain in family hands at all costs. The family did just that until 1937. Maintenance costs were so high that the Strozzi family now shares the palace with a number of commercial organisations. In view of this, we can definitely commend the astrologist tasked with laying the first stone on August 6th 1489, as he predicted that ‘this day is marked by the Lion symbol – representing strength and sustainability and safeguarding a long stay in the building for Filippo’s descendants.
When Filippo dies in 1491, construction had progressed up to the iron rings used for the horses. Of course, throughout the project, Filippo had to account for the most powerful family in Florence: the Medici. Would Lorenzo de Medici, who was quite fond of architecture himself, not become jealous and prevent the construction? Filippo played into Lorenzo’s thoughts quite cleverly. He often complained how architects had a tendency towards megalomania and were only interesting in building large, larger and largest. And naturally, he did not like it one bit. He also did not want rustication, as it wasn’t folksy enough. Filippo even managed to persuade Lorenzo into being a patron of his ‘modest project’. In his will, he ordered his descendants that Lorenzo de’Medici was to supervise construction if the palace had not yet been completed by 1496
The layout now has full symmetry and the courtyard is situated exactly in the centre of the enormous building block. The facade has a large door spot-on in the middle. The four bays on each side of the centre bay are fully identical. The facade at the Piazza Strozzi is repeated in the two side walls at the Via Strozzi and the Via de Tornabuoni. If you take a close look at the rustication, you will see noticeable differences with those of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Da Maiano used heavy brickwork on the ground floor. This is in stark contrast with the ornamental windows. The rectangular windows on the ground floor were copied from the Palazzo Rucellai. The windows on the first and second floor have the traditional bifore shape. The rustication has a fine finish and looks nothing like the rough stone used for keeps in Medieval times. Back then, the rustication actually served to give an impression of heavy and rough chunks of stone. In reality, it was just ordinary stuccowork. The rustication becomes smoother each floor up. This is entirely in line with Florentine tradition like we have seen earlier at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The facade also has banner holders. Usual items like bird cages or, during festivities, nice draperies would be attached to them, as you can see in the frescos by Masaccio in the Brancacci chapel.
Something really new is the courtyard; a work by the hand of Da Maiano. You can rightfully rank this architect among the High Renaissance. While Alberti, Michelozzo and Brunelleschi still worked from a flat surface, Maiano bases himself from block-shaped and thus three-dimensional structures. Benedetto da Maiano used mass as he had seen it with classical ruins in Rome. More information: Wikipedia.