Home > Architectural History > Villa La Rotunda, Vicenza

Villa La Rotunda, Vicenza

La Rotunda, Vicenza

One of the all time architectural greats has to be Palladio. A recent trip to the
Veneto region of Italy allowed me to see his work at first hand.

Andrea Palladio was born 1508, in the town of Padua. He originally trained as a stone
mason, before being sent to Vicenza, where he was mentored by Giangiorgio
Trissino. A two year stay in Rome allowed Palladio to collect accurate
information on the proportions of classical buildings, which he later explored
in his own work. Palladio was fascinated by Bramante, Raphael and classical
Rome. He also benefited from new translations of texts by Vitruvius and Alberti.

After winning a competition to remodel the Palazzo della Ragione, Vicenza, Palladio
built a steady career designing country villas. These grand estates were owned
by Venetian nobles, providing them with an additional income. Palladio had
already become skilled at incorporating agricultural functions such as livestock
stabling, hay storage and grain threshing into a single building. His designs are
often sited on a low hill, with a central living block and symmetrical end pavilions.
By adding Greek temple fronts to his villas, Palladio believed he was mimicking
Antiquity. In fact, he was doing something completely new. Harmonic ratios,
based on intervals in music, enabled Palladio to achieve mathematical
perfection between wall thickness, plan dimensions and room height.

The Villa Americo Capra (1566-70), known as La Rotonda, is perhaps the most famous
Palladian villa. Commissioned by a retired churchman, the villa is located on
the outskirts of Vicenza. The owner lived elsewhere, using the property for
agriculture and entertaining guests brought from the town. Palladio created a
square plan villa, with a large double-storey rotunda at the centre. Each face
has an identical portico, making the building appear the same on every side.
Internally, harmonic proportion and symmetry decide the layout and size of the
corner rooms on the main floor. Stucco and rich frescoes complete the interior.
To Palladio, pure geometric forms (such as the square and
circle), use of symmetry and proportions represented his idea of architectural
perfection.

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