Thursday, November 30, 2017

Palladio in Vicenza: setting the course of Western architecture.

While in Venice we took a daytrip to the nearby architectural holy land: Vicenza. I say holy land because this was home to Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola - better known as Andrea Palladio.
Architecture enthusiasts from around the world visit Vicenza and they market the Palladian structures widely: maps and sign posts mark points of interest.
If you read this blog I assume you know who Palladio was. If not I'll briefly note he is credited with setting the course of Western Architecture;  the granddaddy of classicism.
Born in 1508, he worked his way up the apprentice ladder to become an accomplished architect in the Vicenza region designing churches, villas, and townhouses. Much of his work, which came as a surprise to me, was renovation to existing structures.
However what sealed his fate as the most well known architect (perhaps ever) is his writing of "The Four Books of Architecture" . This tome was his treatise on architecture featuring his own designs based on ancient Roman architecture and the rediscovered writings of  Vitruvius.
It must be pointed out that Palladio wasn't the only Renaissance architect of the time period working in this medium or even the only one to write a treatise! He had actually fallen into obscurity until being rediscovered in the early 18th century by French and English tourists on their Grand Tour.
His original works, many of them humble brick farm structures covered in stucco, were to be copied for centuries to come in marble and granite throughout the world.
Vicenza is a delightful Italian town and an easy train ride from Venice. Surprisingly clean (compared to other Italian towns, sorry it has to be said) and prosperous seeming, locals mingle with tourists and students in the many shops and cafes along the main streets.
I think one of the more interesting Palladian projects in Vicenza is the Palazzo Porto Breganze which was never completed. Above you can see the 2 bays of the Palazzo and entry as standing since 1571 and below is Palladio's drawing of the entire facade.
Many of his palazzo, or palatial townhouses, are completed throughout the town though as evidenced in these photos.
Another of his more interesting projects is the modest Casa Cogollo completed in 1559, seen below.
Oddly known as the House of Palladio (he never lived here!) the renovation to an existing structure was basically a town ordered facelift to an older house of the town's notary, Pietro Cogollo. The odd blank space above the townhouse's entry is the back of the main level's fireplace, oddly positioned.
The open lower level courtyard still exists, not having been filled in by later commercial space, and is currently being renovated. The windows facing this courtyard provide the light needed for the interiors, especially important as the front facade is blocked by a large and poorly planned fireplace!
Many of the Palazzo house institutions and museums so can be visited by the public. The interiors tend to be rather plain however, or decorated much later, so the exteriors are more interesting.
The Palazzo Chiericati is one of the buildings open to the public as it houses an art museum.  See a link to the lovely frescos inside HERE.
The Palazzo was built elevated, unlike his other townhouses, because this town square at the time of design (1550) had 2 streams which met and occasionally flooded.
These streams had been rerouted by the completion of the Palazzo in 1680 but the elevated platform provided privacy from the busy square which dealt in the sales of wood and cattle.
I loved the loggia's coffered ceiling.
Towards the end of his career Palladio was important enough to be working in nearby cosmopolitan Venice. The church known as Il Redentore (seen below) sits on the island of Giudecca facing St Marc's square (blurry photo taken while I waited for the Vaporetto near our apartment).
But of course, the most well known of Palladio's works were the villas. The most famous of these, known as La Rotonda (seen below), is actually a suburban house on the outskirts of Vicenza only 3/4 of a mile from the train station. This was the highlight of my trip which I'll feature in my next blog post.