Four Books on
I quattro libri dell'architettura.
• WHEN: The 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, one of the
great masters of Renaissance culture, has had an enduring influence on
American architecture. Of even greater significance than Palladio's
buildings is his treatise I quattro libri dell'architettura (The Four Books On
Architecture), the most successful architectural treatise of the
Renaissance and one of the two or three most important books in the
literature of architecture. First published in Italian in 1570, it has been
translated into every major Western language.
• WHY: Venice had a tradition of producing high quality illustrated books
and the local aristocracy provided a ready clientele of highly educated
• HOW: Vitruvius (written in the 1st century BC) and Vignola (published in
1563), was a source of inspiration for Palladio’s treatise. What sets
Palladio’s work apart though is the clarity and precision of both the text
and the illustrations. Palladio concentrates on practical aspects of the
building process while at the same time providing his readers with a set of
rules and principles based on the examples of Roman antiquity.
• In his First Book he discusses building
materials and techniques, as well as the five
orders of architecture:
Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and
Composite. Palladio describes the
characteristics of each order and illustrates
as illustrated in his treatise
The second book discusses private town houses and country
estates, almost all designed by Palladio.
CASE STUDY OF VILLA ROTUNDA
• Palladio’s woodcut engravings for the Quattro libri 
were probably intended to express his architectural
ideals, not the buildings as they were actually built.
• Curiously, the history of the ownership of the Rotonda’s
estate is known down to the slightest detail, but little or
nothing is known regarding the villa’s proportions.
• The thickness of the walls and the height of the central vault
are not indicated; only the proportions of the rooms are
It seems thatPalladio wanted us to learn the ideals from his
treatise and the reality from his works,leaving our imagination
to bridge the gap between his theory and practice.
(NEXUS NETWORK JOURNAL – VOL. 10, NO. 2, 2008)
The significance of “the whole” and “the parts” in Palladio’s architecture becomes
clearer and more comprehensible when it is perceived in perspective allow us to visualize why the villa looks bigger than it
actually is Certainly, after walking for a while in the gardens, one can perceive the building
within a virtual volume, extending its dimensions beyond its walls
Deriving The Proportions
Of The Openings
• A rectangular grid
through its diagonals and
superimposed on one of
the the lateral arches of
the loggia reveals the
of all of the arch’s
• Thus, the opening of the
arch and its pilasters, the
imposts, and the lower
arch at the piano terra can
all be determined