Palladio at Work: new exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents Palladio at Work, curated by Guido Beltramini with the collaboration of Charles Hind. On view in the museum’s Octagonal Gallery from March 3 until May 22, 2011, the focused examination of 15 drawings by the late Italian Renaissance master Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), from the collections of the Royal Institute of British Architects, also includes his influential book I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (1570) and other material from the CCA Collection. Guido Beltramini addresses contemporary questions and gives new insight on Palladio’s working method through extensive annotations in the form of diverse reference materials, images and texts.

For Palladio, who was introduced to draftsmanship as a stonecutter at the age of 13, drawing played a central role: it was his tool for acquiring knowledge, for measuring and for constructing, as well as his way to earn a living. Palladio at Work invites an investigation of his drawings not simply for their aesthetic beauty, but as a way to better understand this influential architect’s working process. By analyzing how Palladio constructed different types of drawings for different purposes – such as personal inspiration, persuading clients, or publishing – the exhibition brings visitors closer to his visionary thinking. The fact that just three of the 16 projects on view in the exhibition were built only emphasizes the important role paper plays in preserving and understanding Palladio’s work and legacy.

CCA Executive Director and Chief Curator Mirko Zardini states, “At the CCA we are always concerned with the working process, and our collection is focused on preserving archives that encourage scholarship and better understanding of architects’ thinking and methods. In line with this mandate, this exhibition offers our visitors an exciting new context for Palladio’s historical material, with a character not unlike that of a university seminar.” The exhibition distinguishes itself from others on the architect by investigating a concentrated body of his work from a contemporary perspective.

“The drawings selected for this exhibition create an itinerary that enables us to see Palladio at work, as if we were looking over his shoulder. We will try to witness how his ideas arise when he sets himself before a blank paper, thereby understanding his sources of inspiration, and how he shapes them for his own needs,” said Guido Beltramini.

Born in Padua, Italy in 1508, Andrea Palladio lived and worked in the city of Vicenza from the age of sixteen. He was a trained stonemason and began designing villas for the wealthy patrons of Vicenza in the 1540s. The influence of ancient architecture and the writing of Vitruvius can be seen early on in Palladio’s use of huge vaults and loggia façades of a scale uncommon in private homes of the period. Between 1542 and 1550 Palladio was also involved with the design of three major city palaces in Vicenza. Alongside the villas and palazzi in and surrounding Vicenza, Palladio built churches in Venice. His recognition as one of the most influential figures in Western architecture was bolstered by his architectural treatise I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, featuring many of his own designs. Palladio’s drawings encompass a range of techniques and styles that trace the key stages in his work: making detailed records of ancient ruins, creating personal drafts to capture his raw ideas, refining and perfecting those ideas for his own reference, communicating with clients or patrons, and finally translating his ideas for a larger audience through illustrated books.

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