Polar Transformation of the Villa Rotonda

The Villa Rotonda (1550, completed 1591) is a representation of an anthropomorphic world.

“If we consider this beautiful machine of the world, with how many wonderful ornaments it is filled, and how the heavens, by their continual revolutions, change the seasons according as nature requires, and their motion preserves itself by the sweetest harmony of temperature; we cannot doubt but that the little temples we make, ought to resemble this very great one, which, by his immense goodness, was perfectly compleated with one word of his.” (Palladio, 1570, in Norberg-Schiulz, 1980: 127)

The circular space at the centre, which Palladio derived from the Pantheon, figures completeness and order. All the rooms of the house refer back to this stable centre. Another way to look at this is that the central space doubles the outer world in miniature. What happens if, rather than echoing the world in a rationalised way, we make the representation of the world and the world itself coincide, like they do in the legend of the 1:1 map.

By subjecting the plan of the Villa Rotonda to a polar transformation, we can effectively unroll it.  The static closure of the circle is replaced by open-ended linearity. The house becomes a demarcating line: the porches face one way, and all the passages lead through to an infinite interior. What happens to your fancy Renaissance humanism now, Andrea? Huh?

rotonda plan

rotonda plan polar

The result is different if the plan is rotated 45º : before / after

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