Palladio: Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

On our way to the Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

On the way to the Villa Capra "La Rotonda"
photo: David Nicholls

The Villa Valmarana

We then take a left turn to walk along the Villa Valmarana towards the Villa Capra “La Rotonda.”

Entrance of the Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda”

Villa Capra "La Rotonda" Entrance
photo: vince42

The Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

photo: Sebastià Giralt

The Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

Villa Capra "La Rotonda" from a distance
photo: Mia Battaglia

Palladio writes about the Villa Capra La Rotonda and the loggias the following

“It is a beautiful place and one of the loveliest and charming that can be found, for it is on the top of a hill which can be reached without difficulty. Around it are the most beautiful hills, which give the impression of a huge theater …; because one has a magnificent view on all four sides, loggias have been built on all facades.” Andrea Palladio, The four Books of Architecture 1570.

The Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

photo: Mia Battaglia

The Villa Rotonda was built between 1550 and 1552. The design is by Palladio, but Scamozzi completed it. I will offer a brief explanation when we get there, but this time it will be paired with an assignment based on the knowledge you already have.

Villa Capara “La Rotonda”

Villa Capra "La Rotonda" facade
photo: barnyz

The question is about the following text written by Kees Fens with the title La Rotonda [translated]:

“What is perfect seems almost surreal. That it exists, is a reaction to it. And that is how an artwork can be outside of art. […] La Rotonda is built vertically. It has a view of all sides. The location and that view is what gave Palladio the genius idea of the square home with four equal walls on all sides. […] No front, no back, no side. No hierarchy. And on all four sides, perhaps its most appealing element, the Ionic colonnade.” Kees Fens, La Rotonda, Volkskrant 10 juli 1999

The Villa Capra “La Rotonda”      Aerial

Villa Capra "La Rotonda" Two sides
photo: David Nicholls

Fens describes the villa as the square house with the equal facades on all four sides. Compare this to the map and the cross-section of the Rotonda. The question is, and it’s a typical question that can pop up during the final history exams, is: To what degree is the perfect symmetry assumed by Kees Fens – after all, he writes about equal facades on all four sides –  correct? Any question that begins with ‘to what degree’ means there is some deliberation to be done. ‘On the one hand it is, because… but on the other hand it isn’t, because…’

As you delve into this question, please ponder on the following steps for your answer. Have an up close look at the exterior and then the interior. Personally, I regularly walked inside, back out and back inside again. (The interior of the Villa Rotonda can only be viewed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday check official website scroll down)

  1. As you look at this building (map), what does symmetry mean?
  2. Does symmetry mean all four facades are equal?
  3. Are all exterior facades completely equal?
  4. Is the interior behind the four facades completely identical?
  5. For each room or each hallway, Palladio decides upon width versus length versus height (ceiling) according to fixed proportions. Can you detect this if you measure the width with your feet?
  6. What do you notice as you stand in the domed hall and compare the symmetry of all sides in the ‘halls‘ with each other? What is the explanation?

Once you have discovered the answer, can you then provide an explanation for the well-hidden ‘asymmetry‘? If you depict the building three-dimensionally, the Rotonda contains peculiar ‘hidden’, or better put, ’empty’ space. Where and why? The question is very tricky. Back in May of 1999 it took me over thirty minutes to discover this villa’s hidden problem. Fens writes magnificently about the Rotonda, but he failed to see all of it.

‘The centerpiece of La Rotonda’s interior is, believe it or not, a decorative air-duct cover on the floor, directly underneath the frescoed cupola. It is here, on this spot, that La Rotonda’s honored guests would be positioned to receive those in attendance who came to admire and applaud their achievements.’ Source: Tom Weber

Dome Villa Capra "La Rotonda"

Part of the central hall      Hall and corridor

Villa Capra "La Rotonda" interior hall
photos: David Nicholls

Path to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani

We walk back towards Vicenza, towards another villa where we can admire some of Tiepolo’s works.

Path to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani
photo: Teggelaar

Continuation Vicenza: Tiepolo and the Villa Valmarana