Palladian or Palladianism is named after Andrea Palladio (1508–1580), one the most influential architects responsible for the revival of classical architecture in the 16th century. His ‘Four Books of Architecture’ documented new design and construction rules inspired from the classical period and included detailed drawings of new building plans and concepts, many of which were built in Vicenza, west of Venice.
Originally an apprentice of a stone carver, Palladio became fascinated with the architecture of Ancient Rome ‘...and it was always my opinion, that the ancient Romans, as in many other things, so in building well, vastly excelled in all those who have been since their time, I proposed to myself Vitruvius for my master and guide…’. The proportions in nature, in particular the human body, were also hugely important in his work; Palladio believed that every element of a building should follow the same set of proportions for it to be perfectly balanced and well-formed.
However, the emergence of Palladian architecture in England was down to Inigo Jones (1573–1652), the most notable architect at the time. During his travels in Italy, Jones was inspired by the buildings of 16th century Italian architects, but was most impressed by Palladio’s works. He managed to obtain a copy of Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture along with some of his original drawings, and met Vicenza Scamozzi, the pupil of Palladio that was responsible for continuing the Palladian tradition.
Throughout his buildings, Jones combined the ideas of Palladio and Scamozzi with other Renaissance architects such as Sebastian Serlio to create his own style known as Anglo-Palladiansim. Unfortunately, due to many of Jones’ buildings being associated with the court of Charles I, many of them were destroyed in the Civil War. A few of his works in London have survived though, the more important being the Queen’s House at Greenwich, the Banqueting House at Whitehall, and The Queen’s Chapel at St James Palace.
After the Civil War and Jones’ death, Palladianism in Britain declined and the Baroque style took its place. However, it didn’t last long as Palladian architecture was quickly revived at the beginning of the 18th Century by architects such as Colen Campbell and Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington. Known as Neo-Palladian, the classically-influenced style was much more suited to the tastes of the British aristocracy, and was the most prominent architectural style throughout the 18th Century.
The characteristics of a Palladian building:
- a perfectly symmetrical building
- strict proportions
- plain-looking exteriors
- rustication: a masonry technique where blocks of stone with bevelled edges are arranged to create a texture on the surface of the building
- columns of the Corinthian order
- use of pediments over doors and windows
- a Venetian or Serlian window: a semi-circular headed central window with two smaller flat-headed windows on either side
- a Diocletian window: semi-circular in shape with two vertical glazing bars (mullions)
- classically-inspired decoration such as scallop shells, egg-and-dart, garlands