PALLADIAN DESIGN _ A STYLE REVIEW AT RIBA

Palladianism is synonymous of a classical architectural style noted for its cool, refined elegance. RIBA London is now exploring the mastermind behind this -ism and introduces Andrea Palladio (1508 to 1580) – his life and work – to the public in an extensiv show at the Architecture Gallery. Three hundred years ago Palladio’s ground-breaking writings „Quattro Libri dell’Architettura“, The Four Books of Architecture, was published and proved so popular that by the middle of the 18th century Palladianism was the preferred style for new and remodelled country houses in many European countries.

The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) exhibition Palladian Design: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected follows the path of this great Italian tastemaker’s influence and has put together an impressive show drawn from its archival treasure of about 300 drawings and sketches. The show reflects on not only Palladio’s own work, but on how, almost uniquely among practitioners from his time, his ideas continue to influence designers in the 21st century.

Palladio came up with innovative and avant-garde thoughts such as giving the design of farmhouses and bridges were just as much importance as that of churches and palaces. He was also fascinated by the ruins of Roman antiquity. He spent a lot of time making drawings of the baths and basilicas of ancient Rome, and his most copied design feature, the large pedimented portico supported by classical columns and side arches, was derived from the Roman Portico of Octavia.

From his studies of the past, Palladio developed his ideas on symmetry, harmonic proportions and the use of the classical orders. Eventually, Palladio became the architect who translated ancient buildings for the modern world, a kind of timeless architectural style authority.

RIBA’s exhibition also reflects on the British entry point into the world of Palladianism, easy to define by the name of Inigo Jones, with buildings like Whitehall, the Queen’s House, Greenwich, and St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, where he actually used Palladio’s agricultural Tuscan order on the portico to meet the Earl of Bedford’s request for a simple church “not much better than a barn.” But it was Lord Burlington, an amateur architect in his own right who, by acquiring more of Palladio’s drawings and making them available for study, played a major role in ensuring that the Italian’s ideas influenced British architects and designers for decades to come.

By the late 18th century even the builders of London terraces were imitating Palladianism. And if Modernism banished it to the sidelines in the middle of the last century, in recent decades it has made a comeback, especially in the US. Many progressives reject these buildings as reactionary, and others fear an obsession with taste and style has been allowed to overshadow the core ideals of Palladio’s work and his ideas about harmony and integration.

PALLADIAN DESIGN
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UNEXPECTED
RIBA ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS
LONDON
Through 09 January
architecture.com



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