In the villa spectrum, villa Rotonda is about as iconic as they come. I got the chance to visit it a few weeks ago while in Veneto, and of course it didn’t disappoint. It is always a bit strange coming to places that you have seen so many times in photographs, to places that you think you know. This one in particular is a remarkable place, bearing in mind its status in architectural history and the meanings that have been bestowed on it for the last 447 years.
You enter through a later addition to the villa- the gates by Vincenzo Scamozzi-from the road leading to the neighbouring town. When it was originally built the entrance was on the opposite side, where the river flows, that was then the main transportation vein. The original entrance still shows traces of the path leading up to the building from the river and the statues marking the gate, see image below. The “new” entrance leads you along the monumental stables that are rather masterly placed in a slope that leads you up to the villa, while they are accessed from the path and from the other side, two floors down from the level of the Rotonda. Changing the entrance in this case has not comprimised the original design, because it is famously symmetrical with monumental stairs leading up to the piano nobile on all four sides. Underneath, the service area would power the villa when functional.
The villa was used as a representation of the wealthy landowner that commissioned it. Its purpose was to house short stays by the family that had a more permanent base in Vicenza. The space is one of the more extravagant things about the building. The ground floor is made up of a grand hall surrounded by a sequence of secondary spaces for dwelling. The hall is a contemplative space much like in a church, and it made me think back to the hall at Villa Necchi, that I visited a few days earlier (https://socialskillsarchive.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/villa-necchi-campiglio/). These two spaces are very similar, both in dimensions as well as they’re original function. In fact there are several several things these villas have in common, both a splendid representation of their respective owners potency and wealth from two different times. My interest in this villa, much like in the Villa Necchi is a rather down to earth, practical one. Before I had seen it, it was floating around in my head as a mythical being full of meaning and TRUTH (!), but once there I looked at it as I would any other interesting building. Of course it still has a mythical status, but the thing I appreciated and tend to examine where the more basic solutions and detailing that I can learn from and use in my daily work. Here you see the fundamental combination of things that we still work with now and in that aspect building hasn’t changed much since Palladio was working.
It is not allowed to take photographs on the inside but with these from the outside clearly show the important theme of framing/defining spaces and elements, as well as the ever important issue of dealing with water and one of our favourite gutters of all time…