From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, in which there was a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture.
The Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings.
Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities and then to France, Germany, England, Russia and elsewhere.
The word "Renaissance" derived from the term "la rinascita" ("rebirth") which first appeared in Giorgio Vasari's Vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori Italiani (The Lives of the Artists, 1550–68).
Although the term Renaissance was used first by the French historian Jules Michelet, it was given its more lasting definition from the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt, whose book, Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien 1860, was influential in the development of the modern interpretation of the Italian Renaissance. The folio of measured drawings Édifices de Rome moderne; ou, Recueil des palais, maisons, églises, couvents et autres monuments (The Buildings of Modern Rome), first published in 1840 by Paul Letarouilly, also played an important part in the revival of interest in this period. The Renaissance style was recognized by contemporaries in the term "all'antica", or "in the ancient manner" (of the Romans).
Spread of Renaissance architecture beyond Italy
The 16th century saw the economic and political ascendancy of France and Spain, and then later of Holland, England, Germany and Russia. The result was that these places began to import the Renaissance style as indicators of their new cultural position. This also meant that it was not until about 1500 and later that signs of Renaissance architectural style began to appear outside Italy.
Though Italian architects were highly sought after, such as Sebastiano Serlio in France, Aristotile Fioravanti in Russia, and Francesco Fiorentino in Poland, soon, non-Italians were studying Italian architecture and translating it into their own idiom. These included Philibert de l'Orme (1510–1570) in France, Juan Bautista de Toledo (died: 1567) in Spain and Inigo Jones (1573–1652) in England.
Books or ornament prints with engraved illustrations demonstrating plans and ornament were very important in spreading Renaissance styles in Northern Europe, with among the most important authors being Androuet du Cerceau in France, and Hans Vredeman de Vries in the Netherlands, with the German Wendel Dietterlin, in his Architectura of 1593-94, being perhaps the most extreme.