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2023 | Buch

The Working Method of Andrea Palladio

Palaces, Vicenza and the World


Über dieses Buch

This book shows through historical data, diagrams and drawings, the design system of an Italian historic center, that of Vicenza, Italy. Vicenza is the result of an urban construction process that has as its model the invention of the Palladian design system. The main argument is how the architectural vision of Andrea Palladio shaped Vincenza to the city it is today. Vicenza is an example of a collective dream, an expression of the best Renaissance artistic culture, a classic example that a city can reform itself through intellectual activity.


Chapter 1. Architect of the City
Andrea Palladio, starting from 1542, designed an impressive number of buildings within the walled perimeter of Vicenza. There are 31 Palladian buildings in the centre of Vicenza—of which only one completed in life—in a city that in the years of Palladio’s activity had just over 20,000 inhabitants. Michelangelo, one of the most active designers in Rome in the first half of the 1500s, designed only 14 buildings. Only Mi’mār Sinān in Constantinople in the same years could boast a record similar to that of Palladio, with 42 buildings in a city with a population of almost 700,000 inhabitants. Palladio starting from 1543, at the age of only 35, uses Vicenza as a test bed for the invention and refinement of a design system that will systematically transform the whole city over time. The individual Palladian artefacts are part of a single overall project, made explicit by Palladio on several occasions, which has determined the development, definition and design of the city in an incontrovertible way in the following years and eras. Vicenza is the result of an urban construction process that has as its model the invention of the new Palladian design system.
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Chapter 2. The Gothic Vicenza. An Empty City Full of Palaces
The image of medieval Vicenza is that of a huge, underpopulated, oversized, excessively militarised fortress, occupied by numerous and enormous religious buildings and from a single modest civil complex. Vicenza was at the head of a very large territory—as large as the republic of Florence in the same period—but extremely poor. With the beginning of the 1400s, Vicenza’s history takes a new course. Venice in 1404 annexed Vicenza to its territories. The Venetians maintain local powers in the political administration of the city, but impose juridical power within the city. Noble families maintain their feudal power within the city. Unlike other Italian realities such as Florence, Mantua, Urbino, Ferrara and Milan, where a single family dominated all the others, in Vicenza all the families meet in the city council and settle political issues. This is the time of the blooming of a brand new society.
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Chapter 3. Andrea Palladio’s Method and Work
The Palladian working method is based on the modular design of architectural elements and spaces, from the column to the pilaster, from the window to the entrance portal, from the atrium to the courtyard, from the staircase to the rooms, using a sort of algorithm. Palladio proposes an operative solution, a constructive logic set on the module and the Vitruvian proportion, a new common language for architecture which reflects the thought of Giangiorgio Trissino. Palladio adapts the Vitruvian module to specific architectural element, the bay. Palladio is aware that it is necessary to adapt to pre-existing structures, to measure himself against a context with many constraints, and he studies a series of optical expedients to adapt the architectural project to the existing structures. Palladio invents a design system designed to be completed in successive phases and times. The modular bay system is the real novelty of the Palladian approach. The bay is the trigger of a building growth process that starts from the construction of a building segment, and which can then be replicated until the completion of a building, left unfinished, or it can even be enlarged. The bays that Palladio designs are an open principle, they are mock-ups of the final building, they are 1:1 models of a basic module with which the entire building will then be built.
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Chapter 4. Vicenza After Palladio
Vicenza is entirely a project by Andrea Palladio, even if he never saw it finished. Vicenza itself is identified with Palladian architecture, with an ideal of design, with the working method of Palladio. Palladio triggers a system of modern architectural development in the strict sense because, as Leonardo Benevolo says about the Renaissance design culture “the preparation of the visual scenario is a primary task at this time, which engages the most genuine part of individuals and groups that, expanding to the urban scale, verify the coherence of the social body. The duration over time derives from the seriousness of this commitment: the forms developed by Renaissance society, as a projection of its own behaviours, become models of behaviour in subsequent eras, persuasive even when historical circumstances are radically changed”.
Marco Marino
The Working Method of Andrea Palladio
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Marco Marino
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