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".
The dome is also noted for its perfect hemisphericism - its diametre at the base of the dome is twice as wide as the height.
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:
The plan above (from Haddonstone) shows a rotunda with balustrading, like the picture below: