The 2012–13 season at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery opened on August 20 with Palladio Virtuel. The exhibition, which is on view until October 27, presents a groundbreaking new analysis of the work of Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio by Peter Eisenman, renowned New York architect and Charles Gwathmey, Professor in Practice at Yale. It represents the culmination of ten years of study of Palladio’s villas by Eisenman, adding an important contribution to the sixteenth-century master’s already robust legacy. The exhibition proposes a reading of the buildings that undermines the traditional view of Palladio’s architecture as founded on ideal forms. For more information, please visit here. More images and information on the exhibition after the break.
Palladio Virtuel has been conceived and designed by Eisenman and Yale School of Architecture critic Matthew Roman. Focusing on twenty villas, the exhibition asks what might still be learned from an architect whose life and work has been exhaustively analyzed by both architects and historians. In the 1960s and `70s, Rudolf Wittkower’s typological research on Palladio and Colin Rowe’s linking of modern architecture to the Renaissance through a comparison of Le Corbusier and Palladio opened up new areas for research and design to architects. While inspired by these proposals—Eisenman first visited Palladio’s villas with Rowe in 1961—Palladio Virtuel introduces a fundamentally different way of understanding the work. Rather than seeing Palladio as a Mannerist, deviating from a Renaissance ideal, Eisenman finds complex, indeterminate internal relationships in Palladio’s work.
This discovery is presented in the exhibition in three sections: The Classical Villas: The Impending Crisis of Synthesis; The Barchessa Projects: Extensions into the Landscape; and The Virtual Villa: The Dissipation of the Villa Type. Each of the twenty buildings examined in the exhibition is represented by a diagrammatic model in which the traditional architectural components—the portico, circulation, and central figured spaces—are coded by color. Going beyond typology, proportion, and history, Eisenman’s models, along with 100-plus drawings, reveal adjacencies, superpositions, and overlays among these components, with no foundation in ideal symmetry or proportion. Indeed, in contrast to inherited ideas of harmonic proportions, Eisenman’s radical analysis displaces any notion of a part-to-whole stability or ideal in Palladio’s work and proposes that his villa forms dissipated over the course of his career, their components essentially becoming unrecognizable.
In Palladio Virtuel, Palladio’s legacy is read as a confrontation with certain persistent formal problems. This is also seen in his treatise I Quattro Libri (The Four Books), for which, at the end of his life, Palladio redrew his buildings as he wanted them to be—as “virtual” projects. But he was also, in a sense, redrawing the very boundaries of the discipline at the time by proposing a series of radically different villa plans, each an exercise in double and triple readings. The layering of building, drawing, and text in The Four Books renders Palladio’s architectural project conceptually incomplete.
Palladio Virtuel is supported in part by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and by Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown. The Yale School of Architecture’s exhibition program is supported in part by the James Wilder Green Dean’s Resource Fund, the Kibel Foundation Fund, The Nitkin Family Dean’s Discretionary Fund in Architecture, the Pickard Chilton Dean’s Resource Fund, The Paul Rudolph Publication Fund, the Robert A.M. Stern Fund, and the Rutherford Trowbridge Memorial Publication Fund.