Subject: Villa Rotonda
Alongside the mosque of Cordoba, Villa Rotunda stands as an architectural marvel in Western Europe. The design, aesthetic grandeur, the décor and the landscape are perfectly blended to achieve a harmonised parallelism of the renaissance villas. The design, done by Andrea Palladio is a quintessential representative of the Venetian Renaissance art movement that was prominent during the construction and the excogitation of La Rotunda (Andreorio 18).
Direction and site of the Mansion
Currently, the mansion stands on the outskirts of Vicenza city in Italy and has been listed by the UNESCO as a world heritage site due to its unique and intelligible design. Facing the Western cardinal point, Palladio erected the building at the peak of the hillocks of Vicenza, a perfect location of the mansion considering the rocky nature of the area onto which the building is anchored onto.
Landscape of the mansion
Indicated on a hilly platform, the design of the mansion took into account a very key architectural principle in design – viewpoint. The focus of the designer, while locating the villa on the hilly location, was to establish a panoramic view of the surroundings (Mitrovic 119). Documented history reveals that Palladio himself, planned to locate the mansion at the centre of the hillocks overlooking the surrounding hills, this was to establish a decent façade for the villa, a marvel that contributes greatly to the aesthetical value of the building (Mitrovic 111).
In designing the location of the villa in terms of the landscape and the design of the surrounding environment, Palladio must have laid his main focus on getting maximum lighting from the sun (Bloszies 101).. The higher ground receives direct solar insolent (Parissien 118). The design was meant to capitalize on the full reception of the sun rays thereby providing maximum light to the building, a very important precept in design and construction. The patio erected by Palladio leading right into the front door of the house leaves a landmark terrace that has been termed as an extra reinforcement to the house. The design, according to analysts, was done to ease the accessibility to the main house; it linked the garden to the main house providing a perfect avenue for accessing the main house (Parissien 126).
La Rotunda: Landscape of the mansion
Ventilation and circulation
Analysts have attributed the design of the palatial mansion to the humanistic approach that the renaissance art instituted during the design era of la Rotunda Villa (Bloszies 322). For the building to achieve maximum ventilation, Palladio insisted that the location of the mansion must be on top of one of the small Hillocks in Vincenzia (Semenzato 132). This concept was established from the architectural concept of elevating the house so that circulation of the air is from the high pressure zone (area around the villa), to the lowlands where the gardens were located. This intelligible concept was to capitalize on the movement patterns of the wind to aerate the rooms in the building (Semenzato 128). The stale air would be perfectly eliminated with a surety of replacement with fresh circulation (Semenzato 128).
The symmetrical plan, established through by Scammozi, the designer who took over after Palladio, was meant to tap onto the oncoming mild wind with a view to offering ventilation into the house (Semenzato 144). The four facades of the building were intelligibly designed so than they would not impair the flow of air in and out of other rooms. The plan was to establish a multi structural design with several facades with a central dome in the middle of the building. In design circles, the movement of air would be enhanced by this intelligible concept. The centre of the main building being dome shaped as compared to the rectangular facades which are symmetrical in design (Mitrovic 129).
Before the renaissance period, the ventilation designs were based on very “manual” and simplistic designs. Framed windows were used in the controlling of stale air and substituting the stale air with fresh circulation from the outside environment. In terms of heat insulation, the erstwhile design systems were based on very thick walls that were to hold heat from the fireplace. However, the renaissance architectural designs employed the use of well structured designs in the aeration and the insulation of the buildings. In the mansion, La Rotunda, Palladio focused more on the use of natural ventilation to regulate the temperature of the house (Mitrovic 111).
Using the concepts of physical sciences and the convectional currents, the intelligible design adopted a system where the hot stale air would escape at the well designed ventilators at the meridian of the building. At the basement, where Palladio expected concentrated saturation of fresh air, several holes were drilled to provide a channel through which the fresh air would circulate into the main house from the basement to replenish the stale air within the main house. The stale air would be escaping through the vents that border the roofline. This concept ensures that the villa is in constant supply of fresh air from the basement. The location of the dome at the top provided a significant platform where the convectional currents would curl even as they leave the building. The large window panels were also responsible for the aeration of the mansion. This is as indicated in the illustrations below.
Ventilation of the mansion
Lighting of the villa
Modern architectural designs put a lot of emphasis on the lighting system. With the current concern on the conservation of energy, the significance of this thought in designs cannot be gainsaid. The villa had an elaborate framework of ensuring that circulation of light into the huge mansion was made efficient (Mitrovic 231). The robust size of the building and the towering dome was a brilliant thought of tapping into the rays of the sun to light the house. Note the chimney in the dome responsible as the “inlet” of light into the building. The windows of the mansion, for a fact, guarantees maximum lighting for the building. Palladio, nevertheless, wanted much more than that; the design demands of the renaissance were more than just simplistic approaches to design but rather an informed approach to design issues. The Palladian windows, to say the least are considered one of the most efficient designs in terms of ventilations due to their sizes (Bloszies 311).
The radiation of the passages from the central dome of the house was meant to provide maximum lighting at the centre of the building. This concept of course, had religious intonations in it but all in all, immensely contributed in the “ushering” of light into the mansion. Several designers have also attributed the landscaping of the mansion to the desire of Palladio to let in maximum lighting into the building. The planting of the garden was regularly done to allow for selected rooms to receive maximum lighting. But above all, the fact that Palladio raised the basement onto which the main house is anchored provided the solution to the lighting issues (Rybczynski 437). This elevation above the ground inherently exposed the building to the rays of the sun ensuring that there was no blockage of the sun’s rays but the trees which were planted at the garden located at a much lower elevation compared to the main house.
The illustration below highlights this concept as a well thought model of ensuring that the house receives maximum light and very little obstruction of the lighting pathways by the well manicures gardens. A clear indication of where design and aesthetics converge to form a harmonised concept (Mitrovic 200). Note the elevation of the mansion from the basement and the positioning of the house in reference to the gardens.
Accessibility to the structure has been eased by the numerous patios that emphatically attach to the main building from the centre and onto the left and the right of the mansion. With the undulating shape, comfort is ensured while entering into the mansion and accessibility to the gardens and the lawns eased (Rybczynski 433). An apologist of harmony and consonance with the mathematical concepts of geometry, Palladio ensured symmetry by the institution of patios on either side of the building with very similar features including the elevation, angle and even the design outlook.
The focus of the design was to direct the patios to meet at one central point of the mansion. This was to enhance accessibility into the house and also to facilitate the accessibility to the other four facades of the house from one central point – at the dome. Palladio borrowed the dome from the church designs which was a common feature in that era. The manner, in which all the three patios meet at the dome, as earlier mentioned, had hidden religious message. This was very significant in an era where religion formed the foundation of any intellectual work.
Of most significant to note, is the supporting role of these patios. It is disclosed that these structures enhanced the foundational tenacity of the building; they anchored the mansion firmly onto the ground providing a boost to the foundation laid from the basement of the building (Andreorio 443). Analysts and designers of the renaissance art attributes this to the provisions of the architectural design of that era, they focused so much on the strengthening the building firmly onto the ground but with features that improved upon the design of the building. This graspable concept is currently applied in the design of this era: finding the intersection between strength and design (Bloszies 181). The strength must be achieved but with the aspect of aesthetics in mind. The renaissance design seems to have been a very loyal proponent of this school of thought and for that matter; Palladio embraced its use in the villa Rotunda. This synthesis between the design endurance and the visual stimulation has been widely borrowed in the present architectural designs (Parrissien 51)
Patios of villa Rotunda
Andreorio, A. (2008). Venus in Venice: explorations of the mythological origins of Venetian identity in renaissance art. West Hartford, CT: University of Hartford.
Bloszies, C. (2012). Old buildings, new designs: architectural transformations. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Mitrovic, B. (2004). Learning from Palladio. New York: W.W. Norton.
Parissien, S. (2000). Palladian style. London: Phaidon.
Rybczynski, W. (2002). The perfect house: a journey with the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio. New York: Scribner.
Semenzato, C. (2008). The Rotonda of Andrea Palladio. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.