Saturday, April 04, 2009

Keep-Dry Porticoes

TNY March 30, 2009

from Paul Goldberger's article on Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) "All He Surveyed":

Palladio was born in Padua and grew up in Vicenza. He was trained as a stonemason, but his potential must have been clear, because he had a knack for finding mentors.

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. . . he essentially invented the modern architectural career. The "Four Books [of Architecture]," which Palladio published in 1570, when he was in his sixties, is not just a book of rules and standards but also the first architectural monograph. Palladio included a portfolio of his own work, which disseminated his ideas and made his buildings more famous than anyone else's. 

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Yet the tradition of reverence that has sprung up around Palladio's work is in danger of obscuring its humbler but more interesting features. Since many villas were not only aristocratic retreats but also working farms, he made specific recommendations about where to place granaries, haylofts, quarters for animals, and wine cellars, prescribing that they be connected to the villa by covered arcades so that the owner could keep the agricultural functions at a distance but still inspect them without going outdoors. Palladio wrote that his porticoes were there at least as much to keep the owner dry as he went in and out as they were to add majesty to the facade. In the "Four Books" he tries to distill prescriptions from a lifetime's accumulation of know-how. . . . 

. . . But not being afraid of the ordinary side of his job was a key component of Palladio's genius. To him, architecture existed to solve problems, and he seems to have given equal weight to elevating the image of his clients, making their lives function more smoothly, and creating beautiful objects for the world. Figuring out where to put the farm animals and shaping designs of transcendent beauty were all in a day's work.


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