Paola Modesti (Venice International University)


From 11:00
to 12:30
From 11:00
to 12:30

Course description

This course will introduce the students to the study of Venetian architecture in its historical, social, cultural and material context, focusing on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
We will start with an overview of the city’s history, in which we will take account of the ways in which Venice was represented and described, and the ‘myths’ that the Venetians forged to address political, social, religious and environmental issues.
We will then address the challenging lagoon environment that conditioned building techniques and practicalities as well as architectural solutions and the practice of architecture. In a city rising out of the water, all building materials were lacking. They were brought from ruined sites on the mainland and from far afield, from overseas even, in conjunction with trading and war ventures. In the Medieval age, Venetian builders and architects appear to have developed a capacity for blending elements of different provenance and age into something uniquely Venetian.
We will pass on to consider the church and the square of St Mark, and the Ducal Palace. Dating from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, St Mark’s church – a ducal chapel which upstaged Venice’s official cathedral – and the Ducal Palace, hosting the residential quarters of the doges as well as the meeting halls and offices of the city’s government – were powerful symbols of the glorious history and endurance of the Venetian Republic and constituted sources of inspiration for the designing of further architectural and decorative solutions.
These preliminary studies will enable us to discuss the architectural developments of private and public buildings in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: the palaces of the leading families, the simpler houses for the citizens, the populace and the poor, the buildings of the Scuole Grandi, and the churches. We will also focus on the work of ‘foreign’ Renaissance architects, such as Mauro Codussi, Jacopo Sansovino, and Andrea Palladio, to investigate their contribution to an architectural tradition that seems to have consciously expressed Venetian identity.


Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

- demonstrate knowledge and historical understanding of the architecture of Venice, focusing on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries;
- demonstrate awareness of the main issues relating to fifteenth and sixteenth-century architecture in Italy;
- understand and use the specific language of art and architectural history, including the fundamentals of the classical language of architecture;
- describe and interpret different study materials relating to architecture, from the buildings themselves, to drawings and written texts;
- produce and present a research paper involving visual analysis, reading research and critical thinking.


Teaching and Evaluation

The course will consist of classes and site visits in Venice.
Classes will include lectures and seminars. To enable students to acquire the preliminary knowledge and terminology to participate in discussions, reading and visual material will be provided in advance on the Moodle platform of the course.
To encourage awareness of cultural diversity, cultural exchanges and comparative views, students will start each class with five-minute presentations on historic buildings/sites in their own countries.

The final evaluation will be based on:
- attendance and class participation, including the five-minute presentation (20% of the final grade)
- written mid-term exam based on slides, in which the student must identify, describe, compare and contrast buildings (30%)
- final presentation of a research paper (50%)



Weekly readings on specific topics will be published on the e-learning Moodle platform. The books listed below are intended as a reference bibliography relating to the general contents of the course.

A historical introduction, with a useful glossary, to the classical language of architecture:
- John Summerson, The Classical Language of Architecture, Cambridge, The M.I.T. Press, 1963 (first edition) or following editions.

Architecture in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:
- The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo. The Representation of Architecture, edited by Henry A. Millon and Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, London, Thames and Hudson, 1994.
- Wolfgang Lotz, Architecture in Italy 1500-1600, revised edition with an introduction by Deborah Howard, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1995.

History of Venetian architecture:
- Ennio Concina, A History of Venetian Architecture, Cambridge (UK), New York, Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
- Deborah Howard, The Architectural History of Venice, revised and enlarged edition, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2002.

Architecture in Venice in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:
- John McAndrew, Venetian architecture of the early Renaissance, Cambridge Mass. The M.I.T. Press, 1980.
- Manfredo Tafuri, Venice and the Renaissance, translated by Jessica Levine, Cambridge Mass. and London, The M.I.T. Press, 1989 (original Italian edition Turin 1985).
- Norbert Huse and Wolfgang Wolters, The Art of Renaissance Venice: Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, 1460-1590, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1990 (original German edition München 1986), the chapters on architecture by Wolters, pp. 3-128.
- Manuela Morresi, “Treatises and the Architecture of Venice in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” in Paper Palaces. The Rise of the Renaissance Architectural Treatise, ed. by Vaughan Hart with Peter Hicks, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 263-280.
- Richard Goy, Building Renaissance Venice: patrons, architects and builders, c. 1430-1500, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2006.
- Deborah Howard, Venice disputed: Marc'Antonio Barbaro and Venetian architecture: 1550-1600, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2011.

The ‘myths’ of Venice:
- David Rosand, Myths of Venice. The Figuration of a State, Chapel Hill and London, The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
- Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, Venice Triumphant. The Horizons of a Myth, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 2002 (original French edition, Paris 1999). 



Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272