Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Roman Rotunda...

I just love this picture (above) from the archives of Country Life magazine, of a classical rotunda of decent proportions. Following on from our previous post on the Lime walk going to the rotunda, I thought it would be apt to do a post on rotundas and the sort of rotunda that we will have at Willowbrook.

In Classical architecture, a rotunda was a building (or room within a building) that was circular in plan and covered with a dome. The ancestor of the rotunda was the tholosof ancient Greece. They differed in as much as a tholos was shaped more like a beehive rather than a dome.

One of the better known examples of the rotunda is the Pantheon (pan-theos meaning all-gods), a temple started by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. However, he did not live to see it completed, and it was finished by Hadrian in 126 AD. Like many buildings, it has been rebuilt at times, and in its current incarnation is a Catholic church (the many alcoves once filled with statues of every god of Rome are noticeably empty).

Above: Picture taken of altar inside Pantheon last year.

The Latin inscription on the front of the pediment reads "M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT" (Marcus Agrippa, Lucii filius, consul tertium fecit), which translates as "'Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this".

Still nearly 2000 years later, it remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.

It is highly coffered on the inside, up to the large oculus at its zenith.

The dome is also noted for its perfect hemisphericism - its diametre at the base of the dome is twice as wide as the height.

It was built by building a huge mound of dirt, then creating the dome over the top and excavating the dirt out again.

The Villa Rotunda at Vicenza is an Italian Renaissance example, designed by the influential architect Andrea Palladio (post to follow).

It was begun in 1550, and features a large central hall that is circular with a low dome. For further information on Villa Rotunda, have at look at Architect Design's post about it here.

It was later copied by English architects in houses such as Lord Burlington's Chiswick House, which also features a rotunda pavilion in its gardens:

I am leaning more towards the styles of rotunda below:

The plan below (from Haddonstone) shows a rotunda without balustrading, like the picture above.

The plan above (from Haddonstone) shows a rotunda with balustrading, like the picture below:

Above and Below:
The Queens Theatre from the rotunda at Stowe House,Buckinghamshire.

More examples of charming rotundas:


  1. I really want to thank you for the nice comment on my blogpost! And oh my goodness, I am so delighted to have discovered your blog! Your blog is stunning! So classy! And full of beautiful architecture! I don't know what to say!!!....
    I saw that you wrote about Sir Luyten! On of my favorite architecs! And all those cultural and interesting articles! Thank you for putting so much time in your incredable posts!

    I added you immediately to my bloglist!
    I am really so glad that there are blogs of such a high quality standard!!!


  2. great place for a wedding ceremony too. I think another great example is the temple of love at the petit trianon that I did a post on a few weeks ago. So many great monuments take this form -such as the jefferson memorial here in Washington, DC - another great example.


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