(b. 1508, Padova, d. 1580, Maser)

Exterior view

Basilica, Vicenza

In 1548 Palladio received his first public commission from the town of Vicenza. The reconstruction of the original loggia surrounding the medieval town hall had collapsed in 1496, and after gathering proposals for its replacement from many of the well-known architects of the time, including Jacopo Sansovino, Sebastiano Serlio, Michele Sanmicheli and Giulio Romano, the town council decided in favour of the design by the local architect Palladio, thus firmly establishing his reputation.

Palladio's solution for the loggia of the Palazzo della Ragione (also known as the Basilica) is brilliantly convincing, not least because of the use of the Serlian motif with which he concealed the irregularities of the inner structure, particularly the different widths of the bays, by varying the side openings while giving the building a harmonious general appearance. The idea of a double skin for the building derives from the structure of ancient Roman theatre walls, the vertical axes of which are articulated by equal-sized openings on the different floors and by engaged columns set in front of the walls. In addition, Palladio projected the Serliana - subsequently also called the Palladian motif - in the third dimension, since its columns are duplicated towards the interior of the loggia. The boundary between the building and the piazza was thus made permeable, as befitted the building's function as the seat of the town council.

Palladio's design combines various elements derived from the same historical source, but without producing a sense of monotony. The model for the two-storey casing was the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, which was surrounded by two-storey arcades in the first half of the 15th century. There, however, each arch on the ground floor is matched by two openings with slender marble columns on the upper floor. In the Basilica, instead of differentiating between the two levels, Palladio offered a uniform structure, albeit one that gives a general impression of variety despite its rigorous discipline. This effect results not least from the masons' virtuoso handling of the many details of the building, which was not completed until 1617.

View the first floor plan of the Basilica, Vicenza.