Andrea Palladio was a favorite architect among the noble families, clergymen and builders that were based in and out of Venice. His building designs were highly influenced by ancient Roman-Greco architecture which he learned by observing the designs and learning the philosophies of Vitruvius, the greatest Roman architect of the classical times.
Although the concentration of Palladio’s works was in the Republic of Venice, he has gained country-wide popularity through The Four Books of Architecture, a treatise. Today, some buildings designed and built by the said architect in Vicenza are now considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Born on November 30, 1508, with a given name of Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, Palladio was a native of Padua, Italy. He never came from an aristocratic family as his father was a miller in his birth town. He also never received any formal education during his pre-adolescent years but his father’s job did expose him to home building.
Palladio’s first introduction to labor-intensive work took place when he entered the studio of Bartolomeo Cavazza da Sossano, who was a sculptor. He was only 13 years old when he served as an assistant for this sculptor and was responsible for cutting stones and other mason works in general. However, working under harsh conditions, Palladio ended his apprenticeship for Sossano after 18 months with him and decided to move to Vicenza.
At the age of 16, while in Vicenza, he earned apprenticeships for masters Giovanni da Porlezza and Girolamo Pittoni, both of whom were architects. His masters got impressed by his dedication to doing quality work that he immediately assumed an important position in the workshop. Palladio was entrusted key works like stone cutting and carving for churches and edifices.
His excellent workmanship at the studio served instrumental for earning a membership to the association of stonecutters and masons in the city. And this achievement was considered a highlight in his life because being a guild member at the age of 20 was rarely achieved by other masons. He obviously made the right decision to leave Cavazza’s studio in Padua.
From the mid- and towards the end of 1530’s, Palladio joined the workshop of Gian Giorgio Trissino, a Humanist scholar. He took Palladio under his care to help him reconstruct a villa called Villa Cricoli, using his experience in stonecutting and carving. But his skills went beyond stonecutting as he had a great potential in becoming an architect.
Trissino’s appreciation of Vitruvius’ philosophy on architecture and of his works during the ancient Rome period made it convenient for Palladio to learn the subject-matter that he was deeply interested in. Palladio has gained an in depth knowledge of ancient Roman and Greek building designs, geometry, landscaping and the building itself as well as his own characterization of classical architecture.
Trissino also helped Palladio to learn more about the sciences, arts and literature of Italy and of Venice that leveraged his knowledge of Roman architecture and apply it to actual work later on. And as his master and benefactor that time, Trissino had given him an artist name “Palladio” which was derived from the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Pallas Athene. Hence, his contemporaries and the rest of the work had come to know and call him as Andrea Palladio.
However, unfortunately, the Humanist scholar and architect died in 1550, leaving Palladio on his own. Good thing Trissino’s patrons such as Cardinal Daniele Barbaro and Marcantonio Barbaro have had already developed a great liking to Palladio’s works. Therefore, he received commissions from these patrons continually and even a scholarship granted by Cardinal D. Barbaro. And thus, Palladio went to Rome to study classical architecture in 1554.
Palladio was able to achieve a very successful career even after the death of his master in 1550. He traveled to Rome and Venice to advance his education and skills in the said discipline. In fact, he was awarded the title “Proto della Serenissima” or Chief Architect of Venice, which he was the predecessor to Jacopo Sansovino. This earned Palladio to widen his growing pool of clientele with the addition of Foscari, Corner and Pisani families.
But before he became the Chief Architect of Venice, he wrote a book entitled L’Antichita di Roma that was published in 1554. It was a practical handbook about the ancient Roman buildings and ruins. Although this didn’t put him on the staple of his writing career yet, it was a good foundation for his next treatise. In fact, by this time, he was already a well-known architect-scholar who was able to develop the so-called Palladian style. The base knowledge of this style was derived from ancient Roman principles he revisited and then made a thorough explanation in his treatises.
A Palladian building highly resembles a classical Roman edifice consisting of “temple-front porches, while the rest is a stripped, cubist design of crisp geometric clarity” according to Professor Spiro Kostof. As such, the Villa Rotonda is a prime example of a Palladian building that was built from 1566 to 1571 just outside Vicenza.
Villa Rotonda was one of Palladio’s masterpieces. The designed looked simple albeit its perfect symmetry around the hall, making it quite sophisticated and stylish for a classic Roman edifice. It also has grand pillars and entrance ways and it is apparent that Palladio utilized a simple stucco exterior while adding maroon clay roof tiles to somehow adorn the villa. To make sure that there will be excellent air ventilation around the house, he decided to put a central dome.
At the height of his career, around the 1540’s; he was contracted to either redesign or build new buildings that would become a national treasure. Many of the villas he constructed are located in Vicenza while the churches are in Venice. His first major commission was for constructing the town hall’s loggias in 1548.
Meanwhile, in Rome, he designed three palaces anywhere for its construction in 1556. These palaces included the Palazzo Chiericati, Iseppo Porto and Palazzo Antonini. The first one was completed in 1550 which Palladio applied some simple mathematical ratios for its rooms. The second one was completed in 1552 and can be found in Vicenza, though the main work was focused on rebuilding it by incorporating some touches of Italian Renaissance element. Lastly, the Palazzo Antonini which is located in Udine was completed in 1556. It is famous for its central hall adorned with four columns and porches. On the exterior, he added six columns to support the walls and ceilings of the façade.
Andrea Palladio spent the last couple of decades of his time in preparing designs for villas, which he found out to be his strength in the later years. He also published the groundbreaking Four Books of Architecture in 1570, which have been using by architects and students for centuries. The successful publication of this book made him famous all over Italy, and all over West for it was such a breakthrough to have explained the philosophies and principles of ancient Roman and Italian Renaissance architecture.
Palladio died in August 19, 1580 at the age of 72 in Vicenza, leaving the building of Teatro Olimpico to his assistants and contemporaries. It was believed that he got married to a carpenter’s daughter and had sons with her, but Palladio was never wealthy to leave a good amount of fortune and estate to his family after he died.