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The Perfect House: A Journey with Renaissance Master Andrea Palladio Hardcover – September 3, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Italian Renaissance architect and architectural theorist Palladio (1508-1580), whose superb and influential buildings helped define the renaissance, has been lucky in his commentators. Palladio's unique way of relating art to nature and architecture to surrounding natural forms in order to reinvent ancient classicism has been well described in such previous books as Vincent Scully's The Villas of Palladio. Now Rybczynski (The Look of Architecture, etc.), the University of Pennsylvania professor of urbanism and Wharton Business School professor of real estate, offers a confident look at his own touristic visits to the surviving Palladian villas: 17 out of around 30 remain, such as the Villa Rotunda in Vicenza and the Villa Foscari at Malcontenta. In 10 concise chapters devoted to these and other villas, Rybczynski proves a deeply able and aptly enchanted guide. Actually renting Villa Saraceno at Finale di Agugliaro, he describes in detail how careful proportions foster a sense of "well-being" and make the small villa seem "palatial" "almost like being outside." While Rybczynski doesn't quite generate the personal interest that normally drives a travel diary, his careful observations of everything from climatic conditions to fender benders will have readers eagerly following in his footsteps and finding traces of Palladio everywhere. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

One of our most original, accessible, and stimulating writers on architecture builds on some of his earlier, and more personal, publications (e.g., Home: A Short History of an Idea) to offer an appreciation of the residential work of Andrea Palladio (1508-80). Pointing out in the preface that much of the most persistent architectural symbolism associated with houses derives from Palladio's villas, the author provides a detailed analysis, both historical and architectural, of ten of the 30 villas attributed to the architect. With its intriguing biographical detail, precise descriptions of design elements, and engaging insights into daily life in the 16th century, Rybczynski's book is a small but lasting gift to the reader. Despite the sparse illustrations, which consist of plans and elevations from Palladio's own publications and of fine freehand drawings by the author, this volume is an excellent companion to James S. Ackerman's Palladio. For more illustrated material, Manfred Wundram's Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580: Architect Between the Renaissance and the Baroque and Andrea Palladio: The Complete Illustrated Works are essential. Nevertheless, any collection with titles on Palladio or residential architecture should acquire this. Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743205863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743205863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Witold Rybczynski has written about architecture and urbanism for The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Home and the award-winning A Clearing in the Distance. His latest book is The Biography of a Building. The recipient of the National Building Museum's 2007 Vincent Scully Prize, he lives with his wife in Philadelphia, where he is emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Read his blog at http://www.witoldrybczynski.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Who is the greatest architect who ever lived? It's an impossible question, of course. Perhaps one that might get closer to a real answer is, Who is the most influential architect who ever lived? Witold Rybczynski has an answer, and it is a convincing one: Palladio. In _The Perfect House: A Journey with the Renaissance Master Andrea Palladio_ (Scribner), Rybczynski looks at the villas Palladio produced around the mainland of Venice in the sixteenth century, not as historic monuments but as useful and beautifully architectured homes. He places Palladio firmly within his times, but drawing on the classical architecture of Rome and drawn on by Inigo Jones, Thomas Jefferson, and countless others. It is hard to disagree with Rybczynski's conclusion about Palladio's influence, and after this book, a reader is likely to see Palladian themes not only in grand homes, but in diminished form in modern suburban ones as well.
Palladio was merely the son of a miller or maker of millstones; the historical record is not clear. He was trained as a stonemason, and early showed enough talent that Count Giangiorgio Trissino, of an old Vicenza family, noticed his ability. This was his introduction to higher things, especially his ticket to Rome, where the ancient buildings proved a continuing inspiration for his villas. He designed about thirty of them, several of which never were started and if started were not completed; clients of architects then and now faced over-optimism and reversals of fortune. Seventeen survive, some in excellent preservation and some a bit seedy. They are Palladio's main legacy, and remain beautiful and durable; most are still lived in. Rybczynski gives a wonderful introduction to the tools at Palladio's disposal - pediments, porches, entablatures, apses, and more.
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Format: Paperback
I'm sure anything I say about the scholarship of Witold Rybczynski's `The Perfect House' would be superfluous. Mr. Rybczynski has written several books (most of which I've also had the privilege to read) on the history, techniques, and important personages of the architectural trade; he holds a professorship at Penn; he clearly loves his subject matter. I therefore really can't quibble with the fundamental material here; the book is literally stuffed with facts. I did, however, have difficulties with the author's style and structure--which ultimately affected some, though gratefully not all, of his story.

To say that Mr. Rybczynski has an eye for detail would be the grossest of understatements. The book's very format--a visit to nearly every Palladio-designed villa still standing in Italy--seems to encourage the author to discourse on every entablature, frieze, and architrave in sight. If you don't immediately recognize these terms--and would be annoyed by constantly referring to the endnotes--Rybczynski nearly compensates by conveying his clear love for these centuries-old designs. Without sounding defensive, he lets the purpose of his journey (see below) unfold.

As with his other books on architectural history, the author clearly shows in `The Perfect House' how historical, even ancient work remains relevant to 21st century architecture. Palladio's work fits this pattern well: his residential villas - as opposed to, say, royal palaces or working factories -- ooze domesticity and we can attempt to identify with their inhabitant's daily lives. Keeping with this theme, Rybczynski strains to discover by the last chapter what he hints throughout the book as Palladio's "secret"--why his buildings are so *good* (i.e., livable).
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent prose. Fantastic selection of villas. It would be helpful if subsequent editions had more illustrations. I found myself constantly flipping back to try to determine what the author was mentioning. All in all, though, a worthwhile read.
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Format: Hardcover
Witold Rybczynski does it again. This book is definately up there with Home, A Clearing in the Distance and One Good Turn. Rybczynski's travelogue style suits his subject matter perfectly, turning a potentially dry academic subject into a gripping read for anyone remotely interested in history or architecture or both. In this hard-to-put-down book Rybczynski describes the genius and creativity that was Palladio, a man who is to architecture as Shakespeare is to the English language. Rybczynski uses this one telling comparison to make a clear point that as we walk through our world of 2001, echoes of Palladio are all around us. I'd recommend new readers to Rybczynski to follow this up with Rybczynski's One Good Turn.
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Format: Paperback
Prof. Rybczynski does it again - elegant prose makes a stylish match with its subject, excellent drawings by the author illustrate and clarify architectural concepts, biographical details enliven the text with elements of human interest. This book presents residential architecture of Palladio, but also it presents Palladio the man, a person with family life, career, accomplishments and setbacks. It does great credit to the author that he does not try to develop this personal area beyond known facts, even if those facts are few; we are spared fanciful conjectures and "educated guesses", and as a result Palladio seems truly human, someone we can understand and relate to in spite of the distance in time and geography.
There are ten chapters, dedicated to ten villas. There are a lot of illustrations.
Drawings are extremely important, because it is impossible to evaluate a work of visual art without visual aids. We get several plans, always a front view of the villa, sometimes a view in perspective. This device allows even casual reader to trace development of Palladio's ideas and understand various phases of design.
Rybczynski is an obvious fan of Palladio and does not try to hide his admiration for the famous colleague. He does stress the fact that many of the villas were just better farmhouses, where such considerations as location of the threshing floor constituted major project guidelines. And it is amazing that anybody would want to endow the center of a working farm, with granaries, barns, dovecotes and farmyards built into the arrangement, with imperial grandeur borrowed from antique Rome.
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