Villa Rotonda. Palladio in the country again. Let's say 1566¹. Obdurate expression of figural object situated in Arcadia, un-adumbrated. Vicenza. Figural clarity ascribed, reinforced by site where it individuates. That immediacy, resting on a low hilltop², weary, assumes the posture and repose of absolute Renaissance ideality. Super-rational Super-harmonic Super-symmetrical. Perpetuate maximalist expressions of grandeur³ via Roman super frontality, pedimented, supported by Ionic columns. Temple front extruded from its hip roof, rotated four ways toward the borders of a Vitruvian sensibility. A sensibility locked in to the Classical limit/edge/border of the square, the circle, and the cardinality of those banal geometries reduced to mere points. La Rotunda is becoming gestural in its mannerist affectations, rotten with perfection⁴.
Temple portico as quotation derived from the Pantheon. Intellectual exercise in super redundancy. Rhetorical repetition in its four iterations as Dome marks hyper-idealized center responding to porticoes rotated round it. Semenzato, studying La Rotonda, marries the four porticoes to site. And though he finds porches expressing horizontality toward limitless vistas in the cardinal directions from a point on a hill, he envisions them returning, rooting themselves in less abstract conditions toward the “protective depths” within the figural object – and, even more intimately – “within the measure of human life”⁵. That other center. La Rotonda, farmhouse surmounted by temple porticoes in a gestural breach of classical decorum⁶. Rustic exile built of rough brickwork. A coating of stucco⁷. Rough “analogies of paradise⁸" and that intentionality. La Rotonda's site doesn't apply any more pressure than is needed to elevate and isolate the figural object (unlike La Malcontenta, for instance) beyond what is needed to sustain the hierarchical hilltop and slope with its views and peripheries. As such, La Rotonda sits in solitude, having at its core a Humanism, a Renaissance gaze re-centering man in the sublunary world guided by rationality and order emanating from a center. Man is at once separated from the periphery – the edge of his knowledge – but inquiring and connected from a distant core⁹. Simultaneously, La Rotonda appears rooted on its precious hill as part of the hill, centralized by the surrounding trees, meadows, and landscape but in continual dialogue with this circumscription. Gregotti's rant. Vittorio reminding us that man first recognized and circumscribed a site “in the midst of an unknown universe, in order to take account of it and modify it¹⁰" before building anything at all.
La Rotonda. Villa-Temple. Typological (p)reference. Palladio in Athens possibly adhering to the Pythagorean Monad. Ideal irreducible point that is either all things or the first thing, but divine in its singularity. Palladio returning from Plane to Line to Point¹¹. On a hill. Much is made of Trissino's Humanism and it's influence on Palladio. But, at the center of La Rotonda's circular room and square body is an attitude toward pure forms and harmony. A will toward the supralunary and divine ideality hiding beyond the container of the figural object, beyond edges of meadows and groves, and beyond the borders of the circle and square. La Rotonda constructs an “island” from which to experience a space of difference from the miscellany of the city. Polis as poor democratizing agent. Better to abstract the piano nobile separated and elevated above the bustle of the street. Flee to the country. Find a path toward a center, toward your Parthenon (this time) accessible from a species of cardinality. Sort that spiritual ascendancy remaindered but sacerdotal. Stairs facilitate an elevation into a Utopian realm of perfect order.
Escapism at its finest – rationalized.
- Semenzato, Camillo. The Rotonda (Italy: Pasqualotto-Schio, 1980) 11-12. Semenzato recognizes “a tendency common among certain scholars [including Wittkower] during the past decades to assign earlier dates to Palladian buildings in order to emphasize the rapidity with which the architect's ability matured.”
- Holberton, Paul. Palladio's Villas: Life in the Renaissance Countryside (London: Murray, 1990) 168. Villa dei Vescovi designed by Alvise Conaro was another retirement home built for an ex-Vatican member that lacked the grand temple front of the Rotonda but commanded multiple views from a precious site on a low hilltop in Padua (Palladio's old stomping ground).
- Ackerman, James S. Palladio. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966. 68. Ackerman sees the Temple front as “divorced from functional allusions [like the villa's dome] to become a symbol of grandeur.”
- Kenneth Burke, in his Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method, gives an expertly succinct but dense definition of Man as “the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection.”
- Semenzato, 14.
- Ackerman, 63-65. Vitruvian decorum and its Palladian implementations or deviations are discussed from Palladio’s own perspective and intent to “ennoble and classicize” the villa. Palladio (interpreting Vitruvius) apparently believed that the Temple Portico was an invention borrowed from dwellings (I Quattro Libri, II).
- Ackerman, 65, 68.
- Rowe, Colin. The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa, and Other Essays (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press 1976) 3.
- Rowe, p. 3 where he ponders appreciation for “the poignancy of contrast between the disengaged cube and its setting in the paysage agreste.”
- From his address to the New York Architectural League in 1983, Vittorio Gregotti stated that “Before transforming a support into a column, before placing stone on stone, man placed a stone on the ground to recognize a site in the midst of an unknown universe, in order to take account of it and modify it.”
- Klee or Kandinsky. From point to line to plane – the choice is yours!.