Project XIV (fols. 12v-14r)

As for the argument concerning Serlio's change of mind with respect to the logical order of the projects, see the introduction to this chapter. One of the reasons encouraging me to leave this project in the position given to it by Serlio is its essential planimetric character as a logical development of the preceding project, the only variants being brought in because of its function as a fortified villa for a 'Gentleman Condottiero'. For if in place of the two secret gardens we introduce two loggiamenti - thus bringing the project in line with a central Italian palazzo with a central porticoed courtyard - we then have Project XIV.

This project is one of Serlio's best, both in terms of his graphic solutions and also for his historical and psychological explanations in the text. Here we see Serlio as a 'professional', modest to a remarkable degree, but conscious of both the historico-political reality and the culture of his time, and above all able to amplify his architectural abilities with a broad experience of life. In this portrait of the condottiero it appears that Serlio has imbibed deeply the historico-political literature which culminates in Machiavelli, in addition to his personal experience when young spent in the Emilia, the Romagna and the Marches at the time of the Bentivoglios, the Montefeltros and Cesare Borgia. Particularly evocative is his remark that 'the Papal lands…[are] the nest and hot-bed of factiousness'.

The specific problem of designing a villa-fortress which is in a certain sense camouflaged, in other words without the 'public defences' of turrets and fortress walls, is resolved by Serlio in an excellent way, with a happy fusion (unfortunately not a frequent occurrence for him) of decorum with the functional. The features which in plan are real square corner towers, in elevation are completely absorbed into the curtain wall and expressed allusively by the replacing of the windows with large Rustic niches, producing an excellent effect as regards the layout of the building. As for the entrance to the villa, here we see for the first time the 'military' solution which Serlio was to re-use frequently, even in Ancy-le-Franc. Taking advantage of the usual difference in level between the ground and the internal courtyard (brought about by the semi-subterranean underground rooms), he places the entrance flight of steps internally rather than on the outside of the building, taking up half of the atrium (which in this case, given the narrowness, is in fact an easily-defended passageway) and setting arquebus emplacements in the side walls.

Serlio's language also reveals the immediacy of the revolution brought about by fire arms. It is symptomatic that for the gun ports under the windows on the ground floor hidden by moveable bricks (an idea perhaps taken from the cannon ports on board ships) Serlio uses the 13th century word 'balestriere' but the weapons poking out of them are the modern 'falconetto' and the 'archibuso'.



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