(b. ca. 1400, Firenze, d. 1469, Roma)

Plan of Sforzinda

Biblioteca Nazionale, Florence

Between 1460 and 1464 Filarete wrote his famed Trattato d'architettura (Treatise on Architecture). The Trattato was the first Renaissance architectural treatise to be written in vernacular Italian and illustrated with drawings and was an important work in the development of Renaissance architectural theory. (An English translation by John R. Spencer was published in two volumes in 1965.)

Filarete's most significant contribution to Renaissance architectural theory lies in his remarks on the origin of architecture and its anthropomorphic proportions, planning stage method and finally in his project for the ideal town of Sforzinda. Like Vitruvius, Filarete traced the origin of architecture to primordial dwellings, but he gave the analysis a Christian slant by identifying Adam as the first architect. As the prototype of humanity, Adam is also seen as originating the proportions of columns. The proportions of the vertical supports in the first human habitation, which were subsequently developed into columns, therefore already correspond to those of the human body, and the anthropomorphic proportions of architecture are established in the first human dwelling. The human head becomes the basic unit for all measurements.

Inspired by Leon Battista Alberti's treatise De re aedificatoria, Filarete's work describes a model city called Sforzinda, the first ideal town of the Renaissance to be planned and illustrated in detail. Sforzinda is planned as an octagonal central town with a radial network of streets, in the middle of which is the principal square with the cathedral, the Palazzo Signorile and adjoining markets. Two further squares with public and commercial buildings adjoin the central square. The parish churches and monastery churches are placed in the main thoroughfares.

Among the projects he envisioned for this ideal Renaissance city was the tower of Vice and Virtue - a 10-story structure with a brothel on the first floor and an astronomical observatory on the 10th. Sforzinda was unusual for its time in providing for long-term imprisonment, since in the imagined community there was to be no death penalty.

The drawing is from Filarete's Trattato d'architettura.