Palladio (Part II): The Guide for Architects

Palladio appears as one of the greatest artists of all times and even today he is one of the closest to us.

It is mainly in the civilian architecture, especially in palaces and villas that Palladio unveils his continuous need to give his works a poetic meaning, in two constructions in Vincenza which are almost contemporary: the basilica and Palazzo Chiericati. He has not the same design as Sansovino who, in the "Libreria" of San Marco (that had just begun) looks for a coloured effect in a lively decoration. He proposes the same goal but in giving the most energetic relief to the architectural elements of the double loggia that he wants sober and with a great pictorial value. At the Palazzo Chiericati, the artist's sensitiveness is expressed through graceful and aristocratic forms with inventive tones transitions from luminous surfaces to transparent obscurities. He endlessly continues researches of this nature; the founding itself of Palladian architecture, i.e. the poetic interpretation of antiquarian style and exaltation of colour permanently is submitted to critical revisions. His will for renovation is also shown in the variety of compositions which, apart from the unique case of the Palazzo Chiericati, follows a progresive evolution. It is first the order in which Sammicheli's influence is the most evident; then almost at the same time, the idea of superimposed orders and lastly, the Gigantic Order that timidly appears in the Palazzo Valmarana and is vigorously affirmed in the Loggia del Capitanio and Palazzo Porto Breganze.

Another problem Palladio solves with an exquisite sense of architectural atmosphere is the villa. The first construction of Lonedo has forms animated by the rythm of empty spaces and motion of masses. Already here is revealed the spirit of the villa created for a perfect integration in the opulent Venetian plain. Thirty years later, at the Rotunda, Palladio reaches this supreme harmony which is the privilege of Greek Art; same impression at the Villa Piovene characterized by a large staircase. The originality in the design comes from the elements of Classical inspiration displayed not only on the façade but also in the development of secondary edifices surrounding it. The knowledge of imperial architecture leads Palladio to create the atriums, peristyles, tetrastyle rooms with great easiness, especially at the villas. The solution adopted by Bramante at the Belvedere Staircase in the Vatican leads him to build semi-circular loggias surrounded with niches giving any villa, even the simplest one, a welcoming and noble appearance. Thanks to the power of his talent and the force of his will, the humble "garzone" of the Pedemuro workshop had thus become an architect, an archaeologist, a theorician and even one of the most important personality of the XVIth century. For centuries, his works continued to inspire artists and made of him a guide for architects. Even today, among the masters of the past, he appears as one of the closest to us.

The architectural thought of Palladio was embraced by Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren in Great Britain. In France, Claude Nicolas Ledoux discovers Palladianism and builds  the "Salines Royales" at Arc-et-Senans. Thomas Jefferson  said "Palladio is my master and his Four Books of Architecture my Bible", he was of course inspired by the great Italian architect for Monticello. Contemporary architects like Ricardo Bofill, Aldo Rossi and Charles Moore were equally influenced by the master of architecture.

The four books of Architecture by Palladio.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Palladio_Titel_1642.jpg

Palazzo del Capitaniano.

image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Palazzo_del_Capitanio-Vicenza_04_cropped.jpg

Frescoed ceiling by Domenico Brusasorzi in Palladio's Pallazzo Porto.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Palazzo_Porto_soffitto_Brusasorzi.jpg

Villa Barbaro.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/Villa_Barbaro_panoramica_fronte_Marcok.jpg

Villa Cornaro.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/VillaCornaro_2007_07_14_back_4.jpg

Arc-et-Senans by Ledoux, France.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Arc-et-Senans_-_Pavillon_du_directeur_et_atelier.jpg

Antigone at Montpellier, France by Ricardo Bofill. A modern interpretation of Palladio's architectural thought.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Montpellier_-_Antigone_29.jpg

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Richard Wing
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