Palladianism - some definitions


Villa Rocca Pisani, Lonigo, near Vicenza plan and elevation

British Architectural Library
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection

At its purist, Palladianism describes the architectural style based on the work and theories of Andrea Palladio by his immediate successors and contemporaries, most of whom were Italian.

Balance, proportion and a sense of harmony were derived from a deceptively simple play of Palladian elements. These included:

  • careful attention to planning, with rooms derived from pure geometrical forms, such as cubes and spheres, creating sequences of spaces of pleasing variety
  • a piano nobile -  the placing of the grandest rooms of a building on the first floor
  • a delight in the Orders – using columns rather than pilasters to create rich, sculptural effects
  • classical porticos – pediments and columns; these were applied to churches, palaces and villas, echoing the grandeur of Ancient Rome
  • Palladian motifs – a triple opening, made up of four columns and an entablature, where the middle pair of columns support a rounded arch; when glazed, this is called a Venetian window
  • Diocletian or thermal windows – semi-circular windows, usually divided into three, derived from the bath buildings of Ancient Rome, such as those of Diocletian

Palladio's style was immensely influential. In part this was due to the sheer elegance of his buildings; equally important was the publication of his writings in Italian, and their translation into several European languages in subsequent centuries.

Palladio's principal follower was his pupil and assistant Scamozzi, who completed some of his master's projects, such as the Villa Rotonda and the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza. Scamozzi then developed his own extensive career around the Veneto and across Italy. His buildings tended to be more decorative than Palladio's and to show greater flexibility in their planning, as this image of the Villa Rocca Pisani reveals.