Wednesday, March 12, 2014

30 Venice

Before Christmas 2013 I had a job interview in a hotel lobby with a French guy for a marketing data and software company. I'm nearly fifty. I've got experience of the industry and the world, and I'm quite bright. Yer man probed around my resume, as you do. Then he made a swipe at my degree and postgrad subjects. Silly sod.

I studied Geography at Nottingham and went on to research housing estate design at the Joint Centre for Urban Design Oxford. "What has this got to do with retail marketing" (or something like that, he was French and had the accent) he piffled out.

I politely smiled and said nothing. Let it go. But I went back to my final year field trip to Venice, Italy with the Cultural Geography lecturer, Stephen Daniels and his mate Denis Cosgrove.
Without Venice I wouldn't be here. It was in Venice that I got it and started understanding the geography thing. That geography is as much about our relationship and interpretation and manipulation of the world as it is about your grid coordinates and what the mountains are made of and how they've been smashed about by the weather.
More particularly, without Vicenza I wouldn't be here. I'm here because of my work. I got into this work because of being in Oxford and needing a job. I was in Oxford because I was researching urban design. I was researching urban design because I was offered a research grant following the delivery of my final degree results in Geography. I got decent marks because I got into the Cultural Geography option which balanced my disinterest in Geographical Information Systems (comouters and the like) and a few other forced options I've forgotten about.    

Venice… the Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bruges and Saint Petersburg of the South.

Venice... the Zhouzhuang, Bangkok and Ayutthaya of the West.

"A movement by the small states in the region towards coalescence was interpreted by Venice as a threat and so in 1404 La Serenissima annexed the entire region. Vicenza remained part of the Venetian Republic until its fall at the end of the 18th century. The feudal aristocracy was stripped of its powers and replaced by a dominant mercantile class. Feudal lands were expropriated and sold to patrician Venetian families, who created great agricultural estates on which they built sumptuous mansions. The city also prospered under Venetian rule, benefiting from its situation on a major natural communication route. The town became polarized around the four main piazzas that still exist. There had been limited expansion to the east and west in the late 14th century but the city retained its basic form throughout the succeeding centuries. The wealth of its leading citizens resulted in the erection of many lavish buildings, strongly influenced by Venetian taste, but it was the advent of Andrea Palladio that gave Vicenza its enduring form.

Andrea Palladio (1508-80) was profoundly influenced by his study of the surviving monuments of classical Rome and of the works of Vitruvius. For Vicenza he created both public (Basilica, Loggia del Capitaniato, Teatro Olimpico) and private buildings. A total of 26 individual buildings or parts of buildings known to have been designed or reconstructed by Palladio or attributed to him make up the World Heritage site - 23 in the city itself and three villas in its immediate environs. The palazzi or town houses were fitted into the urban texture of the medieval city, creating picturesque ensembles and continuous street facades in which the Veneto Gothic style combines with Palladio's articulated classicism. These urban compositions closely related to theatre design, which link reality and make-believe, are unique to Vicenza. A similar approach to composition is shown by the location of the suburban villa known as La Rotonda, as seen from the Villa Cricoli.

Villa Capra, or Villa Rotunda Commentary
top of a hill just outside Vicenza, the Villa Capra is called the Villa Rotonda, 

 symmetrical plan with a central circular hall. 
a square plan with loggias on all four sides, which connect to terraces and the landscape. 

At the center of the plan, the two story circular hall with balconies intended to be roofed by a semicircular dome. 

after his death, a lower dome was built, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi and modeled after the Pantheon. 

The proportions mathematically precise
Palladio describes in the Quatro Libri.

"The place is nicely situated and one of the loveliest and most charming that one could hope to find; for it lies on the slopes of a hill, which is very easy to reach. The loveliest hills are arranged around it, which afford a view into an immense theatre. . .; because one takes pleasure in the beautiful view on all four sides, loggias were built on all four facades."Andrea Palladio. 

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