Completed in 1592, La Villa Capra “La Rotonda” is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture designed by architect Andrea Palladio. Commissioned by Paolo Almerico, the villa was intended to serve as a recreational retreat, a harmonious blend of private living quarters and functional spaces, where Almerico could spend his final years indulging in leisure and spiritual activities pursuits. La Rotonda’s iconic central dome, symmetrical facade, and balanced proportions have made it one of Palladio’s most famous works and a cornerstone of Renaissance architectural design. Today, the villa inspires architects and designers worldwide and is a testament to Palladio’s exceptional talent and vision.
Villa La Rotonda Technical Information
- Architects: Andrea Palladio
- Location: Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
- Material: Natural Stone
- Topics: Villas, Palladianism, Renaissance, Unesco Heritage
- Project Year: 1567-1592
- Photographs: © Atelier XYZ, © Mario Ferrara
Beauty will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and compleat body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all necessary to compose what you intend to form.– Andrea Palladio1
Villa Rotonda Photographs
Villa La Rotonda is a Neoclassical villa outside Vicenza in northern Italy designed by Andrea Palladio. The villa’s correct name is Villa Almerico Capra Valmarana, but it is also known as “La Rotonda,” “Villa Rotonda,” “Villa Capra,” and “Villa Almerico Capra.” The name Capra derives from the Capra brothers, who completed the building after it was ceded to them in 1592. Along with other works by Palladio, the building is conserved as part of the World Heritage Site, “The City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.”
The choice of the location was fundamental: just about a quarter of a mile from the city walls, the hill on which la Rotonda stands was guaranteed to offer the clean air all Veneto nobility members desired at the time.
The villa’s square plan was rotated 45 degrees, its four corners facing the four cardinal points to mitigate sun exposure and winds. Unlike some other Palladian villas of the Veneto, the building was not designed from the start to accommodate a working farm. This sophisticated building was designed for a site that was, in modern terminology, “suburban.” Palladio classed the building as a “palazzo” rather than a villa.
La Rotonda is a symmetrical building having a square plan with four facades, each of which has a projecting portico. The whole is contained within an imaginary circle that touches each corner of the porticos’ building and centers. The name La Rotonda refers to the central circular hall with its dome. To describe the villa, as a whole, as a rotunda is technically incorrect, as the building is not circular but rather the intersection of a square with a cross. Each portico has steps leading up to it and opens via a small cabinet or corridor to the circular domed central hall. This and all other rooms were proportioned with mathematical precision according to Palladio’s own architecture rules, which he published in I Quattro Libri dell ‘Architettura. Works spaces for the villa’s servants are hidden in a low level underneath the first floor, accessed via staircases hidden inside the central hall walls.
La Rotonda has no foundations: it is self-sustaining thanks to the arches and the brick cross-vaults on the ground floor, which constitute the structural grid of the perpendicular axes on which the upper floors rest. If you look carefully at the villa’s perspective, you will notice that the noble floor and the attic each cave in a few centimeters compared to the floor below, acting as a sort of “step pyramid” on three levels, making the whole structure stable.
The design reflected the humanist values of Renaissance architecture. For each room to have some sun, the plan was rotated 45 degrees from each compass’s cardinal point. Each of the four porticos has pediments graced by statues of classical deities. The pediments were each supported by six Ionic columns. A single window flanked each porch. All principal rooms were on the second floor or piano mobile.
Alessandro, Giovanni Battista Maganza, and Anselmo Canera were commissioned to paint frescoes in the leading salons for the interiors. The main space is the central, circular hall, surrounded by a balcony and covered by the domed ceiling; it soars the main house’s full height up to the dome, with walls decorated in trompe l’oeil. Abundant frescoes create an atmosphere that is more reminiscent of a cathedral than a country house’s main salon.
Villa La Rotonda Plans
Villa Rotonda Image Gallery
About Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio ( 1508 – 1580) was an Italian Renaissance architect active in the Venetian Republic. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily Vitruvius, is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in architecture history. His teachings, summarized in the architectural treatise, The Four Books of Architecture, gained him full recognition.
Other works from Andrea Palladio