Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Piazza Ducale, Sabbioneta

The decorum of the square is maintained by the comparative simplicity of the structures which surround it. The edges are lined by three-storeyd buildings, arcaded on the southern side, unremarkable but dignified in proportion. Against this background of largely private structures, then, the monumental buildings are individually treated. Santa Maria Assunta is distinguished by its facade clad in pink and white marble, and the presence of its tall campanile. The Palazzo della Ragione sits almost as a pavilion moored at the eastern end of the square, the wide spacing of its six bay colonnade and its comparatively low eaves line distinguishing it from its context. Finally, the Palazzo Ducale dominates the square, as its patron Vespasiano no doubt intended. Its scale is grander than its context, with five bays, two large storeys and crowned by a central tower which rises from the pyramidal roof. A short flight of steps raises the level of the spacious ground floor arcade, which is faced in rusticated stone work. Above, the stucco of the facade is pierced by five framed and pedimented windows, the central one emphasised by a shallow balcony, from where the duke could address his subjects. The foregoing description suggests that Sabbioneta is entirely conventional in its layout as the seat of power of a minor autocrat. What is unusual is its completeness and its date, which places it as contemporaneous with the influence of renaissance urban theorists. The piazza roughly accords with the double square proportion recommended by Alberti. In so far as this scale of application of architectural instruction tends towards the pragmatic, the theoretical origins of the planning of Sabbioneta are perhaps more closely related to the connections between theatrical and urban design outlined by Serlio, and the last structure to be completed during Vespasiano’s life was the theatre, designed by Scamozzi.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Torre del Orologio, Piazza San Marco, Venice

Successive Venetian administrations sought to enhance the physical majesty of Piazza San Marco, beginning with the construction of the Clock Tower in the 1490s to designs attributed to Mauro Codussi (d. 1504). This structure, in the latest classical manner, made a terminus both for the view from the entry point to the city and was a triumphal ornament to the densely packed route through the city to the Rialto.
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