Palladio's buildings

Palladio's buildings

Loggia del Capitaniato, Palazzo dei Signori, Vicenza

Architect: Andrea Palladio (1571). Photograph: Jonathon Makepeace (1999)
Copyright: Jonathan Makepeace / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Palladio is best known for his villas, an extraordinary clutch of some 29 country houses located around Vicenza. Illustrated in I Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura, these have long received the admiration of architects and writers, ranging from Inigo Jones and Goethe to Le Corbusier. Historically, the villas were a destination of the Grand Tour; now they are the highpoints of an architectural pilgrimage to Northern Italy.

However, Palladio’s oeuvre is far wider than the villas. What’s more, not all of his buildings were described in the Quattro Libri. After all, Palladio continued to work for another decade after its publication in 1570. The Loggia dei Capitaniato for example, shown here, does not feature in the book as building only began in 1571. And, like many of Palladio’s later buildings, it was unfinished.

Palladio’s career was successful and wide-ranging. He sought to create perfection in architecture through:

  • symmetry in planning and façades
  • a concentration on proportion, with a considered understanding of volume and mass and their relation to the human form
  • a delight in the use of the classical Orders
  • rich sculptural decoration
  • innovative construction and engineering

Beyond this, generalisations are difficult. Palladio was acutely aware that buildings had to be designed to reflect their function. This is seen throughout the Quattro Libri, most especially in Book Two, where Palladio described and illustrated his work. Thus, following Palladio’s own practice, to understand his work we need to consider:

Palladio’s architecture was full of variety, far greater than most of his imitators understood. His extraordinary creative force continues to impress to this day.