On a recent family trip to Italy and Switzerland, I made the point during one journey to stop in at a building that I’ve always wanted to see. Just on the outskirts of Vicenza is a seemingly ordinary, if rather pretty, villa that looks rather new. It is in fact “La Rotonda“, or Villa Capra to use its proper name. Completed in 1591, it was designed by Andrea Palladio. Palladio was a Venetian architect who was greatly influenced by Greek and Roman architecture and was the first to re-introduce these styles back into fashion. La Rotonda is seen as the peak of his style with classical features, absolute symmetry (all four sides are identical) and perfection in usage of space, materials and size. Such is his influence that much of western architecture is based upon Palladian teachings. Almost every major building in the west is influenced by him from London to Washington, Berlin to Paris, etc. The Victorians particularly loved his classical style and many buildings throughout Britain are very “Palladian”.
La Rotonda was built as a “palazzo” rather than an actual villa, meaning that it was a place of symbolic wealth rather than a living, working home. The inside is richly decorated with abundant frescoes, however the building is only open certain days and we were not there on an open day. Outside, the building sits quietly in simple gardens with a view over the surrounding countryside.
It is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been carefully looked after by a private owner, hence the almost “new” look. We were only there for half an hour but it was enough to get a feel for the building that has influenced 500 years of architecture right down to the very house that I live in.