Andromaca at Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico


I looked forward with great excitement to the recent production of Euripide’s Andromaca at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. Not necessarily for the performance itself, which is a bit of a grim story especially for a non-Italian-speaking visitor, but for the manner in which the magnificent fixed stage set was to be utilised. The classical street scenes could surely be interpreted as the mythical Greek world.

However, a temporary, naturalistic and organic installation had been placed in front of the permanent set. It did have the aura of a barren and hot land, but, oddly, the drama made no reference to Palladio’s masterpiece.

Blueprint for Vicenza


The August issue of ‘Blueprint’ magazine features 50 of the Best UK Design Graduates, two of them, Sophie Corkhill and Matthew Duggan, being from the ‘Continuity in Architecture: The City, the Building, the Room’ group. The projects were intended to complement the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza in celebration of the quincentenary of Palladio’s birth. Sophie’s and Matthew’s work was selected by Nick Johnson who praised it in the following terms.


A bold, brave plan wrapping inventively around the Palladio building. A ‘stealth’ building – as much ‘this year’ as the barcode facade was last, and the sloping roofscape before it – seems to work and be an appropriate and articulate response. A believable and convincing plan with a bold yet sensitive rendering.


In a world of architecture obsessed by itself and the veneer of stylistic appeal, this student started from a fundamentally different point of view, concentrating on the ‘feel’ of the space rather than the look. The light into, and the view out of, the space is fundamental. An antidote to so many students intent on stylistic rather than human responses to creating space.

An Architectural Gesture?


If the commentators on this early photograph (1850s) of the Roman architect Luigi Canina (1795-1856) ascribe his discreet ‘horn’ gesture to superstition regarding the Evil Eye, what might be the meaning of Andrea Palladio’s right hand in his portrait by El Greco (1570s) currently on display at the Royal Academy in London?


Five Hundred Years of Andrea Palladio

Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, born 30 November 1508.


The Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza. The red plan is Palladio’s design as depicted in his Quattro Libri. The black plan is the structure as built, incorporating elements of the previous buildings on the site.

Graphic by Denis of CiA BArch Studio, Manchester School of Architecture.

Our other Palladio posts.

The ‘high game’ of Palladio


The recent lecture by Peter Eisenman in Liverpool affirmed the current interests of one group of CiA students in the work of Andrea Palladio. Eisenman declared his faith in the value of drawing as a demonstration of thought, in contrast to the thoughtless production of computer generated ‘architecture’. He furthermore asserted that he taught the work of Palladio (along with that of Vignola and Carlo Maderno) as an example of the unity of form and meaning, a relationship which is an increasingly rare commodity. This unexpected endorsement of the playful nature of Palladio’s rules, that discipline of beauty which Lutyens characterised as his ‘high game’, will only amplify interest in an extraordinary body of work which has continued to delight and divert architects for 500 years since Palladio’s birth on 30 November 1508. Here’s to the next 500.

Palladio 500 Anni: La Grande Mostra


The exhibition (LINK) celebrating the quincentenary of the birth of Andrea Palladio currently at the Palazzo Barabaran da Porto in Vicenza (until January 6 2009 and then transferring to the Royal Academy of Arts in London) is a stunning collection of work, which will renew interest and scholarship in its subject from both academics and practitioners. The magnificent setting in the piano nobile apartments of the palazzo are fully exploited to display engaging models and paintings of a significant portion of his work

The models, largely the property of the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio housed in the palazzo provide sectional studies of the volumes and spaces of churches, palaces and villas, and amplify the brilliance evident in the superb selection of Palladio’s original drawings (mainly from the RIBA Drawings Collection in London). The narrative sequence of the exhibition works well in the context of its setting and leads both the afficionado and the ingenue through the complex and specific context of work that changed the direction of architecture in Italy and Britain. This is a ‘must see’ show.

The RIBA promise a new online resource Palladio and Britain (LINK) coming soon.

(Even local Mancunian interest is satisfied for CiA by the presence of a pair of Canaletto’s paintings from Manchester Art Gallery depicting Palladio’s Venetian churches of San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore).


Name Dropping


In what can only be described as an architectural celebrity bumper period for the northwest, we have been honoured by a number of distinguished guests.

Peter Eisenman delivered the RIBA Annual Discourse 2008 at the John Moores University. His lecture entitled: “Textual Heresies: Le Corbusier and the Palais des Congrès-Strasbourg, 1962 to 1964” was an extremely thorough discussion of the building. He also examined the relationship between available technologies and architectural design, not just technology in the construction industry, but also that, which is available in the architects studio. He commented that computers do tend to become the design drivers, complaining that: “Student work all looks the same to me, that’s why I teach Palladio, I don’t know what else to teach”. Apparently the student retort to this one is “Drawin’ Palladio poché aint gonna get me a job in Frank Gehry’s office”.

Charles Jencks introduced Peter Eisenman, describing him as “A conscience for architecture”…and… “A thorn in the side of cliché”. I think that we can all agree with that.

Restauro della Basilica Palladiana


Palladio’s Basilica in Vicenza is undergoing an intensive period of restoration. The stonework is being cleaned and repaired and the famous curving roof is being replaced. On a recent CiA visit it was possible to witness the individual sections being lifted into position.

A tour guide was overheard explaining that during WW2 the roof of the Basilica was damaged. Immediately after the war it was replaced with a concrete structure. Over the last sixty years, this has created problems of its own: the internal structure was starting to sink! It was therefore decided to replace this structure with a wooden and metal construction that is not dissimilar to the original.


If you are visiting, CiA recommends the Ristorante Al Pestello, a small restaurant that serves delicious, traditional Vicenzan food.

CiA Studio 2008-2009


And so the hustings are once again upon us at the Manchester School of Architecture. This year Continuity in Architecture will be offering two BArch studio units.

The first is a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andrea Palladio. The City The Building The Room is an exploration of urban and interior space in the Veneto. Projects will be based in Venice, Vicenza and Verona. Students will be asked to propose a new building on a site adjacent to the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza

The second CIA unit is running two cross-disciplinary projects, both of which are in conjunction with the MA Design at the Manchester School of Art. Ways of Worldly Wisdom is an examination of the qualities of a specific urban area in Manchester with the possibility of developing the site as an extension to an existing educational institution. Off the Beaten Track will investigate the notion of “The Illuminations”, a phenomenon particular to seaside towns. The project will explore the viability of re-introducing this seasonal highlight into Morecambe on the north-west coast of England.

Studio staff (to be confirmed): Sally Stone, Eamonn Canniffe, Helen Felcey (Manchester School of Art), John Lee (Arca), Dominic Roberts (Francis Roberts Architects).