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Andrea Di Pietro Della Gondola

Andrea di Pietro della Gondola left an enormous influence on Renaissance architecture toward the end of the Renaissance period in Italy due to his wide variety of historic projects and innovation that was ahead of his time. He was born on November 30, 1508 in Padua, Italy and died in August 1580. He is regarded as the greatest architect of 16th-century northern Italy and is considered to be one of the most influential figures in Western architecture. In his early life, he was apprenticed to a sculptor in Padua until 16, when he moved to enroll in a guild of bricklayers and stonemasons. He then became employed as a mason in workshops specializing in monuments and decorative sculpture. In the 1530’s, Count Gian Giogrio Trissino was rebuilding his villa in the ancient Roman style. Andrea di Pietro della Gondola was working as a mason on the job and was noticed by Trissino, "who undertook to expand his practical experience with a Humanist education”1. The name Palladio was given to Andrea as an allusion to the mythological figure Pallas Athena. Pallas Athena, being the Greek goddess of Truth, indicated the hopes Trissino had for his protege. At the Villa Trissino, Pallacio met a wide array of aristocracies, some of whom would become his patrons and inspiration for his works.

Early Works

Palladio finished his first villa in about 1540, at Lonedo for Girolamo de’ Godi, and his first palace, in Vicenza for Giovanni Civena. The Villa Godi has a plan that was derived from the Villa Trissino infused with attributes of the traditional Venetian country house. “The villa, which stands on the slopes of the Lonedo hill, overlooks the Astico river and features some elements of architecture typical of castles, such as "la colombaia" or dovecote, resembling a small tower, which allowed them to view and control the plain below.”2 It also previews some of the elements of Palladio’s future villa designs including symmetrical flanking wings for stables and barns and a walled courtyard in front of the house. Palladio mimics the elevation of the High Renaissance palace type developed in early 16th century Rome in the Palazzo Civena. Its plan resembles Sanmicheli’s Palazzo Canossa in Verona, while incorporating an innovative feature that is the use of traditional arcaded pavement of northern Italy behind the main elevation. This was an idea that Palladio reinterpreted in imitation of an ancient Roman forum.

Rome’s Influence

In 1541 and 1547 Palladio visited Rome with Trissino where his palace design was greatly affected. On the trips he was able to study the work of some of the greatest architects of the Roman High Renaissance style such as, Donato Bramante, Peruzzi, and Raphael (who was more memorably a painter than an architect). It is evident that Palladio’s palace designs were reformed between his first works and his visit to Rome. In 1546, Palladio began preparing designs for the reconstruction of the 15th-century town hall in Vicenza that were eventually accepted in 1548, becoming his first major public commission. The work involved “recasting a vast hall with a two-story arcade of white stone to serve as a buttress to the old structure.”1 The project was not actually completed until 1617. The reconstructed town hall would suit both Gothic style of original structure and the dimensions of classical orders. Palladio used the architectural motifs of Serlo and from Sansovino’s library of St. Mark’s in Venice.


Until 1556, Palladio created three basic palace types. In 1550 he designed the Palazzo Chiericati, in which he extended his Palazzo Civena idea of a block with its axis parallel to pavement that envelops in a roofed open gallery. The second, in 1552, is seen in the Palazzo Iseppo Porto, Vicenza, where his reconstruction of a Roman house is vivid. The face of the house was closely based on the Roman Renaissance palace, such as Bramante’s House of Raphael, which Palladio drew in Rome during his visit. Palladio planned it to be in ancient Roman style, where “two tetrastyle halls with four columns each were placed on opposite sides of a court surrounded by a giant colonnade of Corinthian columns.”1 The third, in 1556, was in the Palazzo Antonini in Udine, where he uses a combination of Roman Renaissance style along with some of the attributes of his villa. This palace “has a square plan with a central four-column tetrastyle hall and the service quarters asymmetrically to one side. The facade has six columns, which are attached to the wall rather than freestanding and which are centrally placed on each of the two floors, surmounted by a pediment or a low-pitched gable…”1 Palladio furthered his basic plan of Palazzo Iseppo Porto in the Palazzo Thiene, Vicenza, which became the largest and most problematic of his designs. Only the side and the rear blocks were completed. The palace contains four wings, containing a combination of rectangular rooms and small octagons symmetrically place around a huge court. This work is unique compared to most of his others because it “is the first in which Palladio was influenced deeply by the prevailing contemporary style of Mannerism and especially by Giulio Romano, who was in Vicenza when the project was begun.”3

Early Literature

During his stay in Rome from 1554 to 1556, Palladio published Le antichità di Roma, or "The Antiquities of Rome” in 1554, which became the standard guidebook to Rome for the next 200 years. Then in 1556, he collaborated with the classical scholar Daniele Barbaro in reconstructing Roman buildings for the place of Vitruvius’ influential architectural treatise De architectura (“On Architecture”), which was published in Venice in 1556.

Mannerist Influence

Palladio’s elevations tend to have central emphasis that reflects the axial symmetry of the plan. He developed this in the Palazzo Valmarana, Vicenza, in 1565 along with increased use of stucco surface reliefs and giant columns, extending more than one story. These elements are Mannerist in style, used in particular by Michelangelo. These columns were also used in the unfinished Palazzo Porto-Breganze in 1570 and Loggia de Capitanio in 1571. The Loggia de Capitanio was built in emulation of many similar loggias, such as those in Florence and Venice. The lower floor was designed to be a raised platform open to the square and the upper floor a meeting hall. The decoration was modified to portray the contribution of Vicenza to the Venetian victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. However, victory cost the city so much that they could only afford to build three sections out of the five or seven intended. Palladio did use Mannerist motifs in his work, but his plans and elevations always retain a repose not associated with Mannerist architecture, particularly to that of Michelangelo and Giulio Romano. The simplicity of his early designs was abandoned after his visits and influence of Roman architecture.

Influence on Villas

Of everything that was influenced by his visits to Rome, Palladio’s villas were of the least. His villas were aimed to recreate the Roman villas as he understood it from Latin descriptions in writings of Pliny and Vitruvius. He mainly built for the capitalist gentry, who came to fruition by finding new economic outlets in agricultural improvement and land reclamation. He created a prototype plan of Villa Trissino with variations at Cricoli. Palladio changed the prototype in terms of scale and function to serve as a summer residence for urban aristocrat or an estate headquarters of a gentleman farmer. The Villa Trissino at Meledo, was intended to be built with curved wings attached to the main porch. Palladio typically used this method when agriculture was less of a factor in building the Villa. Although it was never built, the Villa Trissino was the most influential design because it was illustrated in the Quattro libri.

Variety of Structure in Villas

Palladio adapted the classical temple front to the facades of his villas because he felt that it was a more suitable entrance to the structure. He drew this quality from ancient temples such as the Pantheon in Rome. Sometimes the portico is two stories with principal rooms on two floors, however normally the porch covers one story and the attic in which the entire structure is raised on a base that contains service areas and storage. In a third type, the temple front covers the entire front of the house. Palladio planned on building multiple houses with an inward-facing complex but not completed. These houses differ in concept from his normal villas due to its two stories forming loggias to rooms arranged around three sides of a court. It is reminiscent of the court to the Pitti Palace in Florence built by the Mannerist architect Bartolemmeo Ammannati. The villas were planned as complexes but could be modified to satisfy the owner’s immediate requirements.

Quattro libri dell’architettura

After 20 years of consistent building, Palladio published quattro libri dell’architettura in 1570. The literature was a summary of his studies of classical architecture, in which he uses a multitude of his own designs to exemplify the principles of Roman design. The first book comprises of materials, the classical orders, and decorative ornaments. The second book contains a variety of designs of town and country houses with his classical reconstructions. His designs, particularly his early work, are often corrected and marked with dimensions from a system of mathematical ratio. These ratios are based on musical intervals, and it was perceived that numerical equivalents would result in an alluring building since it is designed with a universal mathematical order. The third book encompasses designs for bridges, ancient town planning, and basilicas (ancient Roman halls for public assembly that were later adopted as a prototype for the Christian church). The fourth book is about the reconstruction of ancient Roman temples. The designs in these books “had enormous influence in England. William Benson, a Whig member of Parliament, had already built the first English Palladian house of the 18th century at Wilbury House, Wiltshire, in 1710. Campbell, the first important practitioner of the new and more literal English Palladianism, built Houghton Hall in Norfolk and Mereworth Castle in Kent… Burlington’s home, Chiswick House (begun 1725), was designed by him as a reinterpretation of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda. Holkham Hall, Norfolk (begun 1734), was built by Kent, who is also credited with having invented the English landscape garden.”4 These were only among the first structures of many to have been built in the revival of Palladianism, further proving how influential and relevant Palladian was even centuries past his time.

Venetian Period

After 1570 Palladio shifted his focus to building churches in Venice. Few churches

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