Project XIII (fols. 10v-12r)

With respect to the preceding project, that here resembles not so much a variant but a more evolved and more organic proposal, perfectly adapted to providing French commoditÓ but within an Italianising envelope. Serlio praises its fine aspect in as far as the villa is 'built as a square', that is, organised around the large central porticoed courtyard, at least as regards the forms of the elevations of the exterior.

This last qualification is essential, in that as regards the plan, there are two parallel longitudinal buildings separated by a central courtyard which is raised up five feet, and on the short sides by 'a private garden or a French ball-game court' which is on the level of the surrounding land.

[F/note: The section of the centre of the building on fol.12r, because of an error in drafting, does not give a perfect representation of the difference in level between the central courtyard and the lateral courtyards. Serlio uses only a single line to represent the infill of the central courtyard (which ought to have been shown in section) and the wall below the small porticoes in the lateral courtyards. The presence of these walls is revealed only by the drawing of the concave/convex flights of steps.]

In fact it is the perimeter walls (front to back) of the three courtyards which give the illusion of a building 'in quadro' ('in a square') around a central courtyard, following the traditional schema of the palazzos of central Italy. The term 'illusion' (used also in its theatrical/scenographic sense) is a good one here, in that only such a term can justify, for example, the presence of the dividing wall, with no openings on the ground floor, corresponding to the portico of the central courtyard and windowed on the first floor corresponding to the terrace supported by the portico: this wall separates the central courtyard from the lateral ones and thus for the visitor who enters the building along the main (vestibule-central courtyard-vestibule) axis these lateral courtyards do indeed become 'private'. Here we have an application of a dynamic ensemble of the French type, so brilliantly invented by Giuliano da Maiano for Poggio Reale and developed by Sansovino at Pontecasale. The specific dilemma (as far as we can deduce, only proposed by Da Maiano and brilliantly solved by Sansovino) between the rational, and particularly Italian Renaissance, desire to make a geometrically 'beautiful' and complete form, and the (similarly Humanist) liking for large openings 'in villa' addressing the outside, the light and the open forms of Nature, appears here in Serlio's design but all the more so in his text. In it, immediately after the underlining of the beauty of a 'square' building, he speaks of the views which can be enjoyed by those who walk the terraces between the two main bodies of the house, front and back, as a result of the fact that there are windows in the partition wall and the perimeter side walls extend only as far as the first floor. The two bodies have a hierarchical relationship. Matching the remarks on the parallel Project XVII in the city, the two front apartments are more sumptuous and spacious (in a certain sense more formal) with respect to the smaller number of larger rooms (sala-camera-retrocamera) and the emphasis given to the main staircase and the large service spiral staircase, external with respect to the nucleus of the apartment. The rear building is more private in character, and there, alongside the smaller rooms, there is the typical nucleus common in more sumptuous buildings - saletta, atrium, anticamera, camera, camerino-guardaroba - and there are spiral staircases set within the planimetry of the apartment. This privacy is underlined by the fact that the only entrances to the 'private gardens' are at the ends of the porticoes to the side of the central courtyard, in the immediate proximity of the rear part of the building, and that the upper rooms at the end of this part of the building give onto the small terraces supported by the small porticoes at the ends of the 'private gardens'.



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