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Palladian Villas
18th-century English edition of The Four Books on Architecture
16th-century Italian edition of The Four Books on Architecture

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Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture
Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books

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Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture (1570)

Book II: Which contains drawings of many houses designed by him within and outside the city and the designs of the ancient houses of the Greeks and Latins

Chapter XI. On Choosing the Site for Buildings on Country Estates
Houses in cities really are splendid and convenient for the gentleman, since he has to live in them throughout the period that he needs for the administration of the community and running his own affairs. But he will perhaps find the buildings on his estate [casa di villa] no less useful and comforting, where he will pass the rest of the time watching over and improving his property and increasing his wealth through his skill in farming, and where, by means of the exercise that one usually takes on the country estate [villa] on foot or on horseback, his body will more readily maintain its healthiness and strength, and where, finally, someone whose spirit is tired by the aggravations of the city will be revitalized, soothed, and will be able to attend in tranquility to the study of literature and quiet contemplation; similarly, this was why the sensible men of the ancient world made a habit of withdrawing frequently to such places where, visited by brilliant friends and relatives, they could easily pursue that good life which they could enjoy there since they had lodgings, gardens, fountains, and similar soothing locales, and above all their own virtu. Consequently, having completed the discussion of town houses with the help of Almighty God, it is appropriate that we move on to buildings in the country where family and private business mainly takes place. But, before we come to the design of these, it seems to me particularly relevant to discuss the site and location to be chosen for those buildings and their planning [compartimento]; since we are not (as it usually the case in towns) enclosed by fixed and predetermined boundaries such as public walls and those of neighbors, it is the business of the sensible architect to investigate and assess a convenient and healthy location with the greatest care and diligence, because we stay in the country mainly in the summer when our bodies grow weak and sick because of the heat even in the healthiest spots. First of all, then, a site should be chosen that is as convenient as possible in relation to the estate, preferably at the center, so that the owner can, without much difficulty, oversee and improve his lands around it, and its produce can conveniently be carried to the owner’s house by the laborers. It will be most convenient and attractive if it can be built on a river, because the produce can be carried cheaply by boat to the city at any time, and it will satisfy the needs of the household and the animals; this will also make it very cool in the summer and will be a lovely sight, and is both useful and pleasing in that one can irrigate the grounds, the gardens, and the orchards [bruolo], which are the soul and delight of the estate. But if one cannot have navigable rivers, one must try to build near other forms of running water, which must, above all, be at a distance from water that is stagnant and does not flow, because it produces foul air; we can easily avoid it if we building in elevation and healthy locations, that is, where the air is moved by the continuous blowing of the wind and the land, because of its incline, is cleansed of its damp and noxious vapors so that the inhabitants remain healthy, happy, and of good complexion and are not annoyed by mosquitoes and other small insects that are produced by the decomposition of stagnant and marshy water….One must not build in valleys enclosed by mountains because the building hidden in valleys, besides not having great vistas and being invisible from a distance, have no presence or splendor, and are exceedingly unhealthy because the earth, saturated by the showers that fall there, emits vapors which are noxious to the mind and body; the spirit is weakened by them and the joints and tendons wasted away, and what is stored in granaries will rot because of the excessive humidity. Besides all this, if the sun shines there, the heat caused by the reflection of its rays will be excessive, and if it does not, the continuous shade will make the people seem stupid and have unpleasant complexions. Again the winds will be too fierce if they enter these valleys as though through narrow channels; and if they do not blow, the air concentrated there will become dense and unhealthy. When it is essential to build on a hill, one must select a site that faces a temperate region of the sky and does not lie continually in the shade of the larger hills; nor should it suffer the heat of two suns, as it were, because the sun constantly bounces off some rocky outcrop nearby, since in either case it will be dismal to live there. Finally when choosing the site for the building on the estate one must bear in mind all those considerations that relate to selecting a site in the city, because the city is nothing more or less than some great house and, contrariwise, the house is a small city.

Chapter XIII. On Planning [compartimento] Buidlings on Estates
Having found a pleasing, delightful, convenient, and healthy site, one must take care that it is planned elegantly and practically. Two types of building are needed on the estate; one for the owner and his household to live in, and the other in which to organize and look after the produce and the animals of the farm. The site, however, must be arranged in such a way that neither the former nor the latter interferes with one another. The house of the owner must be built taking into account the household and their status in the same way as is customary in towns, as discussed above. The covered outbuildings [coperto] for items belonging to the farm should be built for the produce and animals and connected to the owner’s house in such a way that he can go everywhere under cover so that neither the rain nor the blazing summer sun would bother him as he goes to supervise his business; this arrangement will also be of the greatest use for storing wood under cover and the infinite variety of other objects belonging to the farm that would be destroyed by the rain and sun; besides which these porticoes are extremely attractive. One will also consider housing the male farm workers, the animals, the produce, and the implements comfortably and without crowding. The lodgings of the estate manager [fattore], the accountant [gastaldo], and the laborers should be in a location which is convenient and handy for the gates and the security of all the other parts.

Chapter XVI. On the Building on the Estates of the Ancients
So far I have included drawings of many buildings on estates that I have designed [ordinare]; it remains for me to include the design of the estate buildings that the ancients usually built, according to what Vitruvius says on the subject, for in it one may see all the rooms appropriate for accommodation and for farm use appropriately positioned in relation to the sky. I will not include an account of what Pliny says about it because now my main aim is solely to demonstrate how one should understand Vitruvius on this subject. The main face looks south and has a loggia from which, through a passage, one enters the kitchen, which receives light from above the rooms next to it and has a hearth in the middle. On the left are the stables for the oxen, whose troughs are turned to the east and the heat of the sun; in the same part there are also baths, which, in view of the type of rooms required for them, are the same distance from the kitchen as the loggia. At the right is the press and the other places for producing oil, which correspond to the bathrooms, and they face east, south, and west. Behind this are the cellars, which receive light from the north and are distant from disturbance and the heat of the sun; above the cellars are the granaries, which also receive light from the same region of the sky. At the right and left of the courtyard are stables for the horses, sheep, and other animals, and the hay and straw lofts and grain mills, all of which must be a long way away from the heat. Behind, one sees the owner’s house, of which the main face [faccia prinipale] is opposite the façade [facciata] of the farm building, so that in these houses built outside the city the atria ended up at the back. In it we can see everything that must be catered for which I spoke about above when I presented the design of the private house of the ancients; so far, though, we have only considered the farm.

In all the buildings for farms and also for some of those in the city I have built a tympanum [frontespicio] on the front façade where the principal doors are, because tympanums accentuate the entrance of the house and contribute greatly to the grandeur and magnificence of the building, thus making the front part more imposing than the other; furthermore, they are perfectly suited to the insignia or arms of the patrons [edificatore], which are usually placed in the middle of facades. The ancients also employed them in their buildings, as one can see from the remains of temples and other public buildings; from what I have said in the preamble to the first book it is very likely that they took this invention and its form [ragione] from private buildings, that is from houses. Vitruvius instructs us about how they should be made in the last chapter of Book III.

Palladio, Andrea. The Four Books on Architecture. Transl. Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.

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