Although Brunelleschi laid out specific plans for Sta. Maria, they were not necessarily followed. Since the building was not completed until the 20th century, we have only his drawings to understand his intentions. The shape was retained, a centralized octagonal dome. Originally, it was meant to have 8 chapels surrounding the dome, which was to be supported by 8 piers and pilasters. The altar would have been in the center.
This was the first centralized building of the Renaissance, and it may have been inspired again by the ancient ruins in Rome, most likely the Temple of Minerva Medica. In the Sta. Maria there is a strong sense of symmetry, a longtime pursuit of Brunelleschi's. Moving away from the modular squares of San Croce, this building is more along the lines of the Santo Spirito with its sculptural tendencies. The rotunda shape has a sense of plasticity, it seems to be carved out of pre-existing material with molded interiors. Although this is a classically influenced structure, it maintains a refreshing vivacity.