Roaming Rome

Baths of Caracalla - 1540s

The Baths of Caracalla, Rome: reconstructed facades and sections

The Baths of Caracalla: Conjectural reconstruction of facades and sections, with annotations, 1540s
Artist: Andrea Palladio
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections 


Built when Imperial Rome was at its peak, between AD212 and 216, the Baths of Caracalla were an engineering and design wonder. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the baths were ransacked by the Goths and later dismantled for materials by various popes. Nevertheless, the building's enormous 27-acre site remains an evocative ruin.

This mid-16th century drawing by Andrea Palladio marked an important step in establishing the cultural legacy of the Baths of Caracalla. Palladio reconstructed on paper the ruins he saw in real life, and in the process took away lessons on Roman concrete construction. Palladio made notes about the structure across the page, highlighting features that would become trademarks of his own work, including bilateral symmetry, crossing vistas and clearly delineated hierarchies of space.


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