Architects celebrate Palladio

“I love architecture, but I also love chocolate. Like Josephine Baker, ‘j’ai deux amours,’ with the difference that I don’t sing about Paris but about Palladio,” said Kurt Forster, the Vincent Scully visiting professor of architectural history.

With these words, Forster began his keynote address on Friday evening during a two-day symposium on Andrea Palladio, who is considered the most influential architect in the history of Western architecture. “What Modern Times Have Made of Palladio,” co-sponsored by the Yale School of Architecture and the Department of History of Art, examined the influence of Palladio, a Venetian, and his legacy over the last five centuries.

Last year marked the 500th anniversary of Palladio’s birth. Throughout his life, Palladio worked his way from being a talented mason to a learned state architect of the Venetian Republic, eventually garnering the title “master architect,” event speakers said in their lectures. Though his work was later criticized for various reasons throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Forster noted a re-emerging interest in Palladio, who he called a “historical figure” and “ageless thinker.”

“In a word, his reputation escaped the familiar fate by his mutation into a sage at the very moment his buildings began to fall into ruin,” Forster said.

Throughout his keynote address, “How Many Palladios Can You Count on One Hand?,” Forster raised the contradictory issues of remembering, forgetting and reinventing an architect for posterity. Of his accomplishments, Palladio is credited with developing a conceptual link between private and public buildings that resonated in the architecture community for centuries, Forster explained.

Following Forster’s address, eight audience members interviewed said the subject of the symposium reignited discussion about Palladio’s enduring reputation as an architectural icon.

“Palladio was the first person to grapple with the paradigm of continuity — the difference between built work and publication,” Daria Zolotareva ARC ’11 said. “We constantly reinterpret him, and the way we do it defines who we are.”

Many architecture alumni filled the packed auditorium at the keynote address. Margo Leach ARC ’77, founder of M.G Leach Architects, said she drove all the way from Pennsylvania to attend the symposium and visit her alma mater. While she said she thoroughly enjoyed the event, it was also an opportunity to see the restoration of the Art & Architecture Building, renamed Paul Rudolph Hall after renovations completed last fall.

“It has indeed stood the test of time,” she said.

At a round-table discussion during the symposium “Points of View: Biography and Legacy,” leading Palladio scholars, including Yale School of Architecture visiting professor Peter Eisenman, debated the significance of Palladio’s work today.

“It was wonderful to see the separate effect of his theories and his buildings, although they are inextricably bound,” Mark Simon ARC ’72, a partner at the architecture firm Centerbrook, said.

In an interview with the News, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M Stern ARC ’65 summed up the symposium: “We have a perfect constellation of scholars, students and faculty, all bound together by a fascination for Palladio. After 500 years, very few people have made that cut.”

The symposium was held in Paul Rudolph Hall on Feb. 13 and 14 and led by Forster and Daniele Sherer, a lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture.

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