Villa Rotonda and its influence

Chiswick House

Elevation of the entrance front, Chiswick Villa, London

Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

Built by Lord Burlington as an extension to his existing house, Chiswick House epitomises the Palladian villa.

It has no bedrooms or kitchen, and was probably intended as a purely social space in which to display collections acquired on the grand tour.

Lord Burlington drew inspiration from the Villa Rotonda: a portico with six columns fronts a square building surmounted by a dome. Both buildings cover 68 feet square, although Chiswick House is slightly smaller because of the difference in Italian and British units.

Burlington followed Palladio’s desire for harmony, proportion and symmetry, although in plan he deviated from the Villa Rotonda. His rooms are more varied in terms of shapes, perhaps reflecting an interest in Palladio’s reconstruction of Roman baths.

At the rear of the principal floor a central rectangular room with niched apses at either end leads to a circular room on one side and an octagonal room on the other.

Chiswick House differs further from the Villa Rotonda in terms of its dome, as well as the positioning of the portico and windows. Overall it is much closer to two other Italian structures: Serlio’s reinterpretation of the Odeo Cornaro, as published in book VII of his architectural treatise, and more significantly Scamozzi’s Rocca Pisani.