CLASS Outline
During the late 15th century and all of the 16th century, Spain grew both politically and economically. In the 16th century, Spain led the world in trade, exploration, and colonization. Under Carlos V, the wealth of Spain came from his inheritance of the Habsburg empire and conquested dominions of South and Central America, Florida, Cuba, and the Philippines. His empire was comparable to that of Ancient Rome or Macedonia of Alexander the Great. Gold and silver discoveries in America brought extreme wealth to Spain.

The Spanish Renaissance in architecture began as a grafted extension to the Gothic forms of the last decades of the 15th century. The new style was called Plateresque, because of the elaborated and decorated facades, portals and windows that brought to the mind the decorative motifs of the intricately detailed work of silversmiths, the “Plateros”. Classical orders and candelabra motifs (a candelieri) combined freely into the symmetrical facades, portals and windows.

Purism was a followup phase that sought simpler and more refined forms, in a sober and classical line of balance and technical perfection, paying more attention to structural issues and the harmony of proportions. Purism was characterized by the use of barrel vaults, Greco / Roman arches , cupolas /domes and reduced sculptural decoration limited to small strategic spaces, valuing smooth space as an exponent of the new pure and harmonious aesthetics. In general, the aspect of purist architecture is of balance and monumental size, in opposition to the fragility and decorativism of Plateresque.

From the mid 16th century under Felipe II, there was a much closer adherence to the art of ancient Rome. A new style emerged; the Herrerian style, which rejected all decorative elements for an extremely sober and naked design that reached higher levels of perfection with the use of granite ashlar work, and influenced the Spanish architecture of both the peninsula and the colonies for over a century.


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