PERFECT HOUSE: A Journey with the Renaissance Architect Andrea Palladio

Witold Rybczynski, Author . Scribner $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7432-0586-3

Italian Renaissance architect and architectural theorist Palladio (1508–1580), whose superb and influential buildings helped define the renaissance, has been lucky in his commentators. Palladio's unique way of relating art to nature and architecture to surrounding natural forms in order to reinvent ancient classicism has been well described in such previous books as Vincent Scully's The Villas of Palladio. Now Rybczynski (The Look of Architecture, etc.), the University of Pennsylvania professor of urbanism and Wharton Business School professor of real estate, offers a confident look at his own touristic visits to the surviving Palladian villas: 17 out of around 30 remain, such as the Villa Rotunda in Vicenza and the Villa Foscari at Malcontenta. In 10 concise chapters devoted to these and other villas, Rybczynski proves a deeply able and aptly enchanted guide. Actually renting Villa Saraceno at Finale di Agugliaro, he describes in detail how careful proportions foster a sense of "well-being" and make the small villa seem "palatial"—"almost like being outside." While Rybczynski doesn't quite generate the personal interest that normally drives a travel diary, his careful observations of everything from climatic conditions to fender benders will have readers eagerly following in his footsteps and finding traces of Palladio everywhere. Illus. not seen by PW. (Sept.)

Forecast:Rybczynski's frequent journalistic forays in the New York Times and the New Yorker provide the name recognition that should ensure a lot of attention for this book, though it comes too late for a summer travel read. This title and Julia Blackburn's recent Old Man Goya (Forecasts, Apr. 8) show a resurgence of the art of travel writing and could form the basis of a display.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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