Humanist Moral Philosophy in Architecture

Combining the basic concepts inherent in the architecture of ancient Rome with a humanist moral philosophy, Andrea Palladio could be considered the most influential architect in the western world. His style of architecture became known as Palladianism and gained prominence towards the end of the Renaissance. His treatise on architecture, I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura, is described as a "manual of classicizing design" and would set the standard for many architects to follow for centuries (Sturgis, 118). Palladio's text revolutionized western architecture, founded several schools of study, and remains a major influence to all students of architecture (Sturgis, 118). One such architect, Thomas Jefferson, called his English translation of Palladio's text "the Bible" (Clark, 92). Taken in this context, the influence of Palladio on modern architecture can best be seen by comparing the similarities between Palladio's masterpiece, the Villa Rotunda, and Jefferson's own masterwork, Monticello.
It is very easy to discern the similarities of both structures when viewing them together for thefirst time. Both structures rest on hilltops, have facades that use Greco-Roman facades, and have a centrally located dome. Each adopts a central plan that combines the formal models of cube and sphere. Both derive their distinctive style from ancient Rome but are enriched with classical authority, dignity, and comfort. Atfirst, it may seem that Jefferson was attempting to produce a copy of Villa Rotunda, but the buildings do have some differences.
Palladio deeply believed in the importance of a buildings harmony with itself (Lotz, 291). As such, Villa Rotunda is a study in symmetry. The heart of the building is the centrally located dome, but it does not overpower the building. From this dome, four groups of rooms radiate outward in perfect proportion to the dome. The rooms are proportional to the…


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