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Sforzinda: Filarete's Ideal City

Sforzinda hospitalThe concept of the ideal city was amply explored by philosophers, architects, artists and academics during the Renaissance. One of the most detailed discussions of this subject was offered by the Florentine architect Antonio di Pietro Averlino (c. 1400-c. 1469) in his Trattato di architettura (Florence, ca. 1465). Better known as Filarete (Greek "lover of virtue"), he used an imaginary city Sforzinda as a literary device in the 25 volumes of this treatise on architecture, written in the popular form of a dialogue between a patron and his architect. Filarete’s ideal city was indeed named after his patron Francesco Sforza of Milan.

Sforzinda blueprintFilarete inscribed the imaginary city of Sforzinda within an eight-pointed star of walls within a circular moat, which formed the blueprint of the city. This plan was the first of many ideal star-shaped city plans that was the opposite of the crowded, irrational areas of the typical medieval city. In his work, Filarete compares the ideal city to a human body when proposing that it should function “like a communal organism.” The architect further theorized that its buildings not only had to be designed to respond to the desires and needs of its citizens and government, but that also had to be constructed adhering to three central values: permanence, beauty, and utility.

Filarete is also known for his work on the bronze central doors for the old St Peter's Basilica in Rome (1445) commissioned by Pope Eugene IV (preserved when Old St Peter's was demolished and reinstalled in the new St Peter's Basilica) and, under the patronage of Francesco Sforza, the Ospedale Maggiore (from ca 1456), the Castello Sforzesco and the Duomo di Milano.

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