The perfect house : a journey with the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio

by Witold Rybczynski

Paper Book, 2002




New York : Scribner, c2002.


"Before Andrea Palladio began designing his simple, gracious, perfectly proportioned villas, architectural genius was reserved for temples and palaces. Palladio elevated the architecture of the private house into an art form, and he not only designed and built, he wrote. His late-sixteenth-century architectural treatises were read and studied by great thinkers as diverse as Thomas Jefferson and Inigo Jones, profoundly influencing the design of Monticello, the tidewater plantation houses of Virginia, and the White House. All across America today, Palladio's influence is evident in ample porches and columned porticoes, in grand ceiling heights and front-door pediments." "In The Perfect House, Witold Rybczynski, whose books on domestic and landscape architecture have transformed our understanding of parks and buildings, looks at Palladio's famous villas, not with the eye of an art historian but with the eye of an architect. He wanted to know why a handful of houses in an obscure corner of the Venetian Republic should have made their presence felt hundreds of years later and halfway across the globe."--Jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member pbadeer
Rybczynski offers an interesting biography of Andrea Palladio and a selection of his works. Although a Renaissance architect, Palladio’s building techniques and influences will be readily recognized by contemporary readers in the day to day buildings around America – including Monticello and the White House. Although “Neo-Classical” architecture can find its forms in many eras, it was (to me) somewhat surprising to discover that it was Palladio in the 16th century who first implemented some of the more recognizable architectural details of this style – including monumental front pediments and the Serliana (more commonly known as the Palladian Window).

While I enjoyed the book, the flow of writing seemed jumpy at times – primarily due to the fact that the works Rybczynski chose were not presented in a clearly delineated manner. Admittedly, since the scope of some of these buildings – and the time in which they were built – meant construction schedules lasting 6 to 12 years, many of the works were completed simultaneously making a chronological approach difficult at best. But the lack of a “path” meant circular references to buildings not elsewhere discussed in the book or not yet covered – even though they were built prior to the work at hand. Also, so much time was spent on the development of the building layouts, the biographical details of Palladio seemed insufficient to create a fully three-dimensional view of the man. Snippets referencing family, upbringing, professional jealousies, etc. left me wanting more – but maybe that is better served in a separate book.
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
The Perfect House is a quirky journey in the company of Witold Rybczynski to Andrea Palladio's Veneto villas. Easy and delightful to read (apart from occasional howlers such as "a flat plain", p.1), the book not only offers tourist minutiae of Rybczynski dining, trespassing, charming the locals and getting rear-ended (Who rents an Opel in Italy?), but also an introduction to the design, style and principles of Andrea Palladio, a description of many Palladio villas with floor plans, photographs and Rybczynski's own ink sketches, as well as a biography of Andrea di Pietro who called himself Palladio and the times he lived in, especially the economic history of his gilded Venetian patrons. A book that instills a passion to discover more about Andrea Palladio.… (more)


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