This has happened once before.
After spending four solid months carefully reading through the five classical orders in Book I of Andrea Palladio’s Four Books on Architecture, I wanted to skim over the remaining few chapters and wrap up with a summary of the first book. I was anxious to move on. Something inside wouldn’t let me do it, though, and I ended up writing a few more articles on chapters I thought, at first, didn’t have enough content to stand on their own.
Here I am again.
After spending four months Googling, cataloguing, and mapping the palazzi and villas in Book II of the Four Books on Architecture, I again anxiously wanted to wrap up the book with a summary and move on, without any mention of the final two chapters.
I can’t do it.
Palladio follows his villa designs with a brief chapter on “Estates of the Ancients,” a description and an image of a Roman villa with associated farm buildings arranged according to Vitruvius’ description in his first century book, De architectura.
This probably would have been the end of Book II, but Palladio must have had a similar nagging feeling that I have right now. He had a few more designs in mind that he felt would be helpful to his readers and something inside compelled him to add one more chapter.
“On Some Projects for Different Sites” was not a small undertaking, either. He presents seven designs – in both plan and elevation – of proposed houses he designed for clients that were not built, but he puts as much effort in describing and drawing them as he did for all of his others that (supposedly) were.
My intention was to talk about only those buildings which were either finished, or begun and brought to such a stage that one could hope for their early completion…
…I then decided that it would not be irrelevant to our purpose to add to the designs included above a few projects that I have made at the request of various gentlemen, which they have not subsequently completed because of those difficulties that can arise.
His first two plans are assumed to be for sites in Venice, although the patrons are not named. He proposes a basement for one, which the translators point out would be unlikely in water-logged Venice. Through these designs, Palladio was demonstrating how one might design a house on a less than ideal site, i.e. a triangular one.
The next three plans are for gentlemen we have been introduced to before: brothers Francesco and Lodovico Trissino, Giacomo Angarano, and Giovanni Battista Della Torre. Palladio’s proposed design for the Trissinos was to be located in Vicenza and so must have been a palazzo, with a grand courtyard surrounded by Ionic columns. The Angarano proposal was also for a palazzo in Vicenza with two courtyards. I am guessing that the suggested design for Della Torre was to be a palazzo, versus a villa, because it was to be built near the “great gates popularly known as Della Brà,” which marks the entrance to Piazza Brà in the city of Verona.
It is very puzzling that he chose to include these three designs in his “never happened” chapter, even though previous designs for these same men in the “at least construction had started” chapters were not built either. (How much was completed of the Palazzo Della Torre of Chapter III is unknown, even though Palladio says a large portion was constructed before work stopped upon Della Torre’s death and what remained was bombed in World War II).
Next is a design for a gentleman of Vicenza for what could be either a palazzo or a villa; Palladio does not name its location. I am calling it a villa based on its two, two-story, opposing porticos, similar to Villa Cornaro.
Lastly is a villa with curved barchesse “wings” proposed for Leonardo Mocenigo on the Brenta river.
Mocenigo ended up pursuing construction of a villa with a different, and much simpler, design by Palladio for a site closer to Venice. However, he was the only Venetian patron of Palladio’s – of the nine presented in Chapter XIV, that is – whose villa was not finished.
I would love to understand the logic of Palladio’s choices for this final chapter of Book II, but as usual, he leaves me with more questions.
And I should say that my anxiousness to finish Book II, and Book I for that matter, is not because I don’t enjoy studying Palladio’s architecture. I could happily spend the next several years studying his Four Books, parsing out his theories, design process, and his mysteries. The anxiety comes from realizing there are more threads to pull and rabbit holes to follow, like this most recent one:
Colin Rowe’s unorthodox and non-chronological view of history then made it possible for him to develop theoretical formulations such as his famous essay “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” (1947) in which he theorised that there were compositional “rules” in Palladio’s villas that could be demonstrated to correspond to similar “rules” in Le Corbusier’s villas at Poissy and Garches.
~ Wikipedia, “Palladanism”
Who is Colin Rowe? My list of books, topics, people, and places related to Andrea Palladio that I want to learn more about is growing faster than I can keep up with.
Luckily, I should never run out of good material.