The Architectural Orders Academy, in collaboration with the Bogliasco Foundation, is pleased to announce a one-week course on Italian Classical Architecture and Traditional Cuisine.

Genoa is one of the oldest and most complex cities in Europe and has long been a natural meeting point for people from all over the Mediterranean and Europe. The rich splendour of Genoa’s “Strade Nuove” and its “Palazzi dei Rolli“, some of which are still owned by the families that had them built during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, is what has earned them their inscription in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Notwithstanding this important recognition, the genuine quality of the city’s urban life has not yet been eroded by mass tourism. Given this fortunate situation, the Architectural Orders Academy has decided to approach the city almost as an architectural treatise, taking its cue from Rubens’ famous book on the “Palazzi di Genova”.

Genoa’s long-standing artistic heritage makes it possible to follow the theory of Architectural Orders directly and to see how they have developed in the city across the centuries thanks to the work of generations of artists from various parts of Italy and Europe.

Through lectures and visits to various palaces, some of which are usually off limits to the general public, the course, titled “Genoa, the Taste of a Mediterranean City”, will enable participants to discover the interrelationship between the city’s taste for architecture and its cuisine.

Traditional architecture has indeed much in common with cooking: both are based on very simple and limited ingredients and for both the result depends equally on the quality of the ingredients and the way they are combined and prepared.

By directly experiencing and appreciating the nuances to be found in both the flavours of long-standing recipes (mainly based on “pesto”, olive oil and vegetables) and in 15th and 16th-century marble portals and stunning trompe-l’oeil frescoed palace decorations, the participants will thus gain an in-depth understanding of Genoa as a precious and unique place, still little known to the international public at large.

The course will be led by Stefano Fera, architect and director of the Architectural Orders Academy.

Please download the attached PDF document with the Program of the Course.


Finally: “L’Italia s’è desta”, Italy is waking up!

Finally, Italy is waking up! The following article is from today’s (September 17th, 2014) edition of “La Stampa”, one of the three major Italian newspapers.

Como contro archistar


It says that in Como, even the town Architectural Association (typically extremely moderate) is rebelling against the stupidity of a project proposed by a local industrialists’ association and supported by the Municipality.

Como contro archistar part 1

The proposal consists in what they call an “architectural sculpture”, meaning a twenty meters high (like a seven storeys building) translucent, empty and useless structure designed by Daniel Libeskind. This “sculptural artefact” should be placed right at the top of the wharf in the middle of the most beautiful of all Italian lakes.

The smart and generous industrialists are willing to pay 800.000 Euros (one million USD) just to have some kind of “international signature” to show off during the international Expo that (God willing) is going to be held in Milan, sometime next year? Maybe…

None of the politically correct Como architects is daring to attack Libeskind as a designer: they are just reminding everybody that both, lake and city, are beautiful enough to not need any further embellishment, particularly of this kind.

But the most interesting thing said by the article is that this is not an isolated case, rather one of the many that are arising all over the Country, proving with growing evidence that even the Italian population (one of the most patient of the entire Europe) is finally realizing that King is naked: enough is enough, no more crappy architecture, PER FAVORE!.


Como contro archistar part 2


Como contro archistar part 3

Regola delli Cinque Ordini d’Architettura

In July, 1562, Vignola’s son, Giacinto, sent the Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura to Count Ottavio Farnese. It was certainly one of the very first printed copies, consisting of thirty-two copperplate folio engravings; the texts were not set, but also engraved on copperplates. The leaves were obviously sold separately, and could then be bound to make a book, but also, as the purchaser wished, be put together with other books or with other series of engravings. This explains the very great diversity of the copies we still have of this first edition. Furthermore, very quickly, Vignola modified the plates by giving current Italian names to the various parts represented (“base”, “capitello”, “colonna”, etc.) (2nd stage). In a paragraph added to the preface in smaller letters (plate III), he justifies these additions, saying that the book had reached a wider clientele than expected, unfamiliar with that vocabulary. 
The copy of the Regola at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts is one of the few copies known to this day which are without these changes. Nevertheless, the bookbinder inserted an additional leaf between the title page and the privilege (plates I and II). It is an inverted copy of the plate representing the five orders added to an subsequent anonymous edition, coming out around 1573. Therefore there is a total of thirty-three plates, corresponding to the handwritten numbering in Arabic numerals in the top right-hand corner, added by the buyer. In addition, he or a subsequent owner began to specifiy the names of the parts of the orders, even improving Vignola’s rather unclear indication “colonna” by writing “fusto della colonna” (plates IV and VII). 
The title page of the original edition specifies neither the name of the editor or the location of the printer. It seems that Vignola himself saw to the printing and distribution of his book. In that case, he might have collaborated with Antonio Labacco who had published his Libro appartenente all’architettura “impresso a Roma, in casa nostra” already in 1552. The two books are found frequently bindes; Labacco’s representation of antique buildings and Vignola’s account of the system of the orders complement each other, like Serlio’s Books III and IV. The privilege granted by Pius IV (plate II) was valid for ten years, after which a new enlarged edition had to come out. In the preface of the original edition Vignola had already implied that “altre cose maggiori in questo soggetto” was to follow if his work was received favorably. In the same way, Serlio’s Book IV already put forward examples of additional uses of the five orders (portals, porticos, façades). But Vignola’s death in 1573 ended the project. In all likelihood, he left drawings that he had done with that project in mind. Consequently his heirs had four portals and a chimney piece engraved in copperplate although their format does not correspond to the standards of the plates in the Regola. The heirs added them to the thirty-two engravings of the original edition, probably hoping to forestall the counterfeit copies that were going to follow. 
In fact, the editorial success of the Regola generated pirated copies immediately. The pontifical privilege, also valid for Venice, was ignored there; the printer Bolognini Zaltieri published a new edition as early as 1570, without being afraid to mention his name and the printing date on the title page. An anonymous pirated edition, without a date, appeared at about 1573, probably in Rome. It consists of exact replications of the thirty-two original plates from 1562, except that plate II, with the privilege, was replaced with an overview of the five orders freely inspired from Serlio. It was repeated in all later editions and even the Roman bookseller Andrea Vaccario, who reissued the original copperplates with the note Libro primo, et originale, repeated this engraving. From then on, the “Vignola” was subjected to innumerable copies, completed and developed with additions of all sorts. A recent bibliography consists of as many as five hundred titles, including translations in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, English, Russian, Portuguese and recently also Japanese. 
The global success of Vignola’s plates is based on the fact that they illustrate the book perfectly. These plates enable one, thanks to clear large illustrations, to visualize the shapes of the “five orders”. But at the beginning, Vignola intended something very different. As he specifies in the prologue, he had perfected a method to master the system of proportions of the five orders for his own use “solo per servirmene nelle mie occorenze”. Now he wanted to put it at the service of the public, or at least for professionals concerned by the subject (“quelli che habbino qualche introdutione nell’arte”), the issues being a matter for very experienced specialists. In fact the system of the “five orders” – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite – developed by Peruzzi and Serlio had been established in a general way without anyone creating a single canon which would govern the overall system. Since the measurements taken on the buildings were all different from each other, they resisted any type of standardization. Therefore, ideal proportions of the canon and measurements of details obtained empirically still remained juxtaposed in Serlio’s work, and the final choice was left to the “arbitrio del prudente architetto”. Vignola, a self-taught architect probably first educated by reading Serlio, could not become adapted to this situation. In all likelihood, he tackled the problem as soon as Serlio’s Regole generali came out in 1537, while he was working for Claudio Tolomei’s Accademia della Virtù in Rome.
 The solution he reached was radical: it rests upon a reversal – a revolution in the original sense of the term – of all the methods used up until then to determine proportions. Instead of piling up elements which have shapes defined by isolated proportions and therefore being incapable of getting a measurement of the whole, necessarily indeterminable, he took as his starting point the overall height given a priori, dividing it next into subparts. This approach corresponds inherently to his concept of architectural creation; he gives priority to the system as a whole, to the detriment of the design of specific motifs. Therefore he perfects a single “general rule” governing the five orders at the same time: the entablature must be a quarter of the height of the column, and in the case of a pedestal, it must be one-third of its height. This results in dividing the entire height of the order into 19 equal parts, of which 12 make up the column, 3 make up the entablature and 4 make up the pedestal. In the case of an order without a pedestal, there are 15 parts, 12 for the column and 3 for the entablature. It is only in a second stage that the columns get the particular proportions characterizing each of the five orders. In Serlio’s work and that of his predecessors, the columns “grow” starting from a diameter whose progressive multiplication determines their height; on the other hand, Vignola’s “general rule” starts from a constant height in which division gives one the diameter: one-seventh for the Tuscan, one-eighth for the Doric and so on. In accordance with Vitruvius’s example, Vignola then chose a “module” equal to a half-diameter which is the base of the system. All the other measurements are expressed in fractions or in multiples of this module. The result is an arithmetical model, and with its help each order, harmoniously proportioned, can easily be adapted to any given height, of a façade or an interior. 
From this point of view, Vignola’s Regola is a remarkable intellectual achievement. The reason it was neither understood or appreciated on its own merit, neither yesterday nor today, results from the way the author presented it. Instead of explaining his approach, he settled for a few instructions to guide the work on the drawing table. For each order, two key numbers are mentioned (for an order with a pedestal and for an order without), from which one can calculate the corresponding module. All the rest must be deduced from the plates; “in un’occhiata sola, senza gran fastidio di leggere”, the architect can find everything he wishes. The Regola was devised for practicians and not for readers. This earned it a reputation among theoreticians as being the stupidest of treatises. But the uniform line repeated five times, of a colonnade, an arcade, a pedestal with its base, a capital with its entablature, in no way results from a lack of imagination. It corresponds to the “ceteris partibus” of a scientific experiment; it attracts the eye to what changes from one order to another: the numbers. They are the actual essence of the work founding Vignola’s doctrines. All of which takes nothing away from the suggestive strength of the plates. None had ever seen the orders represented in this way: in folio format with exact gradations (each measurement indicated on the edge can be calipered with a compass on the plate) and an effect of relief rendered by the engraving, with the illustrations linked together with the precision of the parts of a machine. Whereas Serlio’s woodcuts were still devised only in connection with the buildings they referred to, Vignola’s copperplates substitute for the buildings, becoming objects themselves. It is true that one does find references to antique examples like the Doric order of the Theater of Marcellus and the frieze at the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, but their dimensions are subjected to the architect’s rigorous model, who moreover does not refuse to see it: “se qualche minimo membro non havrà cosi ubidito interamente alle proporzioni de numeri… questo l’havero accomodato nella mia regola”. 
This is where the revolutionary foundation of Vignola’s work appears: renunciation of the ideal of antique culture to the benefit of pure rationality. He had in view a drawing technique which was totally objective and arithmatically mastered, and in this sense he believed he would be able to contribute to his contemporaries’ improvement. Thanks to his method, even the “mediocri ingegni” would have been capable of creating good buildings, that is, architecture conforming to his rule. But this very approach contributed to isolate him, as a theoretician as well as a practioner, in relation to the dominant state of mind in Italy. His contemporaries did not ponder the problem in the same terms as Vignola did, the problems that he gloried in resolving. Except for a very few exceptions, the Regola remained an alphabet book for beginners, or a picture book for the “signori”. Vignola’s influence on architectural practice during the period remained negligeable.

By CHRISTOF THOENES (Rome, Bibliotheca Hertziana) – 2013


Critical bibliography

B. Adorni, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Milan, Skira, 2008, pp. 211-221.

E. Bentivoglio, “L’inganno prospettico nel frontespizio della editio princeps della Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura di Giacomo Barozzi”, A. M. Affanni & P. Portoghesi (ed.), Studi su Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Rome, Gangemi, 2011, pp. 83-90.

F. Canali, “Il corpus ‘nascosto’. Individuazione e considerazioni sul corpus lessicale della Regola”, C. L. Frommel, M. Ricci & R. J. Tuttle (ed.), Vignola e i Farnese, Milan, Electa, 2003, pp. 206-218.

F. Lemerle, “Les versions françaises de la Regola de Vignole au XVIIe siècle”, In Monte artium. Journal of the Royal Library of Belgium, 1, 2008, pp. 101-121.

F. Marías, “Vignola e la Spagna : disegni, incisioni, letture e traduzioni”, A. M. Affanni, P. Portoghesi (ed.), Studi su Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Rome, Gangemi, 2011, pp. 379-396.

F. Mattei, “Giambattista Aleotti (1546-1636) e la Regola di Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola della Biblioteca Ariostea di Ferrara (ms. Cl. I, 217)”, Annali di architettura, 22, 2010, pp. 101-123.

G. Morolli, “Il ‘fiore della regola’. Le componenti modanari e il proporzionamento dei ‘Cinque Ordini’ di Vignola”, C. L. Frommel, M. Ricci & R. J. Tuttle (ed.), Vignola e i Farnese, Milan, Electa, 2003, pp. 174-205.

C. Thoenes, “Per la storia editoriale della ‘Regola delli Cinque Ordini’ ”, C. Thoenes (ed.), La vita e le opere di Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, 1507-1573, nel quarto centenario della morte, Bologna, Cassa di Risparmio di Vignola, 1974, pp. 179-189.

C. Thoenes, “Vignolas Regola delli cinque ordini, Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 20, 1983, pp. 345-376 (Ital. tr. : “La Regola delli cinque ordini”, Sostegno e adornamento. Saggi sull’architettura del Rinascimento : disegni, ordini, magnificenza, Milan, Electa, 1998, pp. 77-107).

C. Thoenes, “La Regola delli cinque ordini del Vignola”, J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 269-279.

C. Thoenes,“Vignola teorico”, R. J. Tuttle, B. Adorni, C. L. Frommel & C. Thoenes (ed.), Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Milan, Electa, 2002, pp. 88-91, 333-366.

C. Thoenes, “Riflessioni su Vignola”, Casabella, 710, 2003, pp. 48-57.

C. Thoenes, “Kanon, Zeitstil, Personalstil im Werk Vignolas”, S. Schweizer, J. Stabenow (ed.), Bauen als Kunst und historische Praxis, I, Göttingen, Wallstein, 2006, pp. 255-276.

M. Walcher Casotti, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura, “Chronologie des éditions”, Trattati di architettura, Milan, Il Polifilo, 1985, pp. 539-577.