14 December 2015

Palladian Design at the RIBA

RIBA's show reveals how Palladio influenced England and the world

About 85% of the 350 or so drawings by the architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80) which survive are held by RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects. A selection of them is on display in RIBA’s Architectural Gallery as part of Palladian Design: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected. Appropriately, it was 300 years ago that a translation of Palladio’s I Quattro Libri dell’Architectura (The Four Books of Architecture) and Colen Campbell’s Vitruvius Brittanicus were first published. The exhibition follows Palladio’s influence from his own works in the Veneto through English Palladianism to the US, India and elsewhere. Recent buildings appearing in drawings, photographs or as models range from Henbury Hall, which in the 1980s recreated Palladio’s Villa Rotunda of 1552, the Prince of Wales’s controversial Pendbury and a fine town hall at Borgoricco near Padua in Italy.

Having visited Chateau Margaux in the Gironde (SW France) in the summer (below lower), I was intrigued by the design for the building by Louis Combes (1754-1818) which was completed in 1816 (below upper):

I wonder when the chimneys were added. The exhibition catalogue makes the interesting point that:
Building a house in France in the English Palladian style was an unlikely project during the Napoleonic wars but the work of Louis Combes in and around Bordeaux demonstrates his interest in Palladianism. Combes owned a copy of Vitruvius Britannicus and, perhaps as an academic exercise, he copied a number of its plates exactly, even transcribing the English room names. Bertrand Douat, Marquis de la Colonilla, decided to replace the old chateau at Margaux in 1810. Combes's final design for the chateau was based on John Webb's Amesbury Abbey, as engraved for volume III of Vitruvius Britannicus (no 33), though with a different interior plan that does not require the staircase tower behind.
Palladian Design: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected (a free exhibition) ends on 9 January. However, RIBA is closed from 24 December to 3 January.

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