Frontispiece to William Pain's 'Pain's British Palladio: or, The Builder's General Assistant'
British Architectural Library
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection
In Britain, and elsewhere, Palladian buildings are usually thought of as refined. This is an architecture of status, the legacy of a wealthy seventeenth and eighteenth-century elite.
However, Palladio himself would have trouble recognising many buildings described as 'Palladian'. His rules of proportion, tight planning and thoughtul detailing, outlined in I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura, were not followed.
Instead, decoration matters. Terraces, semi-detached villas, churches, mills and banks boast Palladian features. Doorcases, elaborate window surrounds, pediments and porches abound, all claiming allegiance to Palladio. Inside, columns, cornices and fine fireplaces bring a certain touch of class.
But how and when did these decorative elements become so popular? Who was responsible, and how did they disseminate these designs? How was Palladio traded?
The RIBA British Architectural Library has a renowned Early Works collection. Many of these books are large volumes, splendidly illustrated. Costly when published, in effect these were the first coffee table books. But there are also some remarkably small books, pocket-sized, crammed full of measurements, facts and figures. And, from the state of many of them, it is clear that they were well-used.
Explore these trade manuals, meet their authors, and understand how they changed the face of Britain, a legacy detailed in Palladio in the regions. Find out how Palladio has been a brand for centuries.