Concept: Symmetry (“simmetria”)
As the book is written in Italian, I cannot understand too much but the word “simmetria” stood out to me. The text and drawings explain the structure of different basilicas, especially ones in Vicenza. The expression is used many times to describe the layout of the ground floor and the overall look of the facades, which I gathered by looking at the drawings. After some research I found out that apparently they really liked symmetry during the Renaissance. The facades of basilicas from this era consist of a system of columns and arches that are generally symmetric with respect to their vertical axis, while the biggest arches are usually right in the middle. The interior is aligned in a way which, after entering the basilica through an entrance on one of the shorter walls, gives you the impression that the right and the left sides are identical copies of each other. In a way it makes it much easier to grasp the sheer size of the basilica, because even if there are columns which separate the inside space, you know exactly how much space there is behind behind them, regardless of where you’re standing. I have a feeling that this exaggerates the effect of insignificance and puniness you feel when standing in a building of god too. Another thing that would magnify this feeling would be a big dome on top of a basilica, but to my surprise there isn’t really a mention of any domes in this book.
Obviously the symmetry in architecture wasn’t just a tool to express the size of the interior, so let me focus more on the outside facades: I already mentioned the system of arches and columns surrounding the walls of the basilicas, however I have not talked about the purpose of them yet. I believe that they were built to give the walls a sense of depth, but perhaps even more importantly to cut the big continuous walls into smaller segments that can then be cut into even smaller segments and decorated independently.
Furthermore, you can draw the viewer’s attention to the middle of the facade by placing smaller arches closer to the edges and bigger ones as you get to the middle. Of course it then makes sense to place the entrance there, and walking through a big entrance impresses people.
Keywords: Symmetry, proportions and geometry