Projects (V, VI) VII, VIII (fols. 45v-46r)

Even though Projects V and VI are placed (and have commentary on) the two previous folios, nevertheless they are better grouped with Projects VII and VIII for ‘comfortably wealthy craftsmen’, and these four projects correspond to the countryside Projects IV, V, VI, VII. Indeed, just as in countryside Project IV, the distinction between Italian and French models begins in Project V.

Initially the differences appear somewhat secondary, but they do demonstrate subtle variations between notions of habitability and, to a certain extent, concepts of individual and communal life. For example there is a single roof over the Italian Project V and there are two pyramidal roofs over the French Project VI. These two roofs, along with the arrangement of the windows on the façade, belie the sharing of the building between two families. On the plan, the Italian entrance is symmetrically tripartite comprising a small atrium, staircase zone and camerino as opposed to the French entrance, with its atrium and spiral staircase zone more naturally juxtaposed; the French entrance furthermore is much smaller than its Italian counterpart, with clear advantage for the rear parts of the building.

Already with Project V we see the beginnings of the characteristic planimetric scheme (which Serlio develops in all the successive ‘middle-class/bourgeois’ houses) of the separation of the front body from the rear by means of an internal courtyard, where a portico on one or more sides assures a covered passage from front to back. The concluding part of the scheme is reserved for the gardens or vegetable plots. The separation is absolute, inasmuch as the two sides of the courtyard going from front to back are up against perimeter walls and not against buildings. Hence the scheme is completely different from the traditional Italian palazzo with its internal courtyard.

Indeed the type is much more French. And this French character becomes more and more pronounced as the elaborations become more complex. The second body of the building takes on the character and function of the corps-de-logis. Thus here again, whilst maintaining the distinction between Italian and French ‘decorum’, Serlio prioritises however ‘commodity’, that is, the planimetric distribution of France.

In terms of this scheme, the distinction between Italy and France becomes more precise in Projects VII and VIII. In perfect parallel with the agricultural buildings for the ‘poor merchant’, Italian ‘decorum’ is characterised by a portico with an architrave on the ground floor, set against a ‘French’ solid wall with two sharp-pointed roofs. Serlio goes on to specify Bologna and Padua as the Italian sources for his porticoes (the (un-vaulted) portico with architrave was (and still is) particularly common in the Veneto). Indeed the continuity of the porticoes along the streets, to a certain extent oblivious of the variety of the fronts set above them, is clearly supposed to correspond to the idea of an ideal but concrete programme of conformity in minor buildings.


The same function would have been performed in the French type by the re-iteration of the triangular pitched roofs, providing effective correspondence with the urban street profile of many northern European cities, both in Gothic and subsequent Mannerist times. Also on the plan, the different distribution of the two projects has a precise meaning. The Italian project is dependent on the front body with its two successive series of rooms, reserving the single series for the rear service body, and finishing with a large vegetable garden with planting beds. The French project, whilst keeping the front part for habitable rooms (but concentrating them in a single ‘square’), nevertheless moves the interest to the rear building where the service rooms are followed by other large rooms (either for habitation or as a stable evidently for a horse and carriage – it is curious that Serlio grants the latter to the wealthy French artisan but not to the Italian). And at the end of the French house there is a small elegant garden, perfectly matching (both in size and in the carefully drawn design) northern European taste in its introduction of a piece of Nature into even the most modest of private lives.



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