Renaissance Reborn

Palladio and his architecture come alive in new film

Palladio: The Power of Architecture explores the work and impact of the Italian architect. (Graeme Churchard/Via Flickr)

A new feature-length documentary from Italian filmmaker Giacomo Gatti exploring the impact of 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio and his architecture is set to screen across the world this year, beginning with showings in Italy on May 20. Taking a roaming, non-linear approach, the 97-minute film, Palladio: The Power of Architecture, features the likes of Lionello Puppi, Kenneth Frampton, George Saumarez Smith, and Peter Eisenman reflecting on their relationship to his historic influence and outsize role in the architectural imagination.

The film was shot across both the United States and Europe, with students and scholars at Yale and Columbia talking about Palladio’s legacy intercut with footage of major sites like the Villa Foscari (often called La Malcontenta), Villa Capra (or “La Rotonda”), and other locations in Italy.

While the film does consider the more formal aspects of Palladio’s and his imitators’ work, the film is no mere celebration or aesthetic survey. It attempts to unpack the broader sociopolitical implications of the architecture that resonate to this day, no less so than in the United States, where, a favorite of the so-called Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, Palladio was declared the “Father of American Architecture” by Congress in 2010. (That political body’s own building’s Neoclassicism is itself inspired by Palladio’s aesthetic philosophy, though of course even more recognizably Palladian examples, like the University of Virginia Rotunda and Monticello, exist across the nation, especially in the D.C. area.) The film also wrestles with the place of conservation in architecture and what it’s like to live in a Palladian villa in the 21st century.

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