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Wolfgang Lotz’s: Reflections of Palladio as Town Planner. Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

I. Wolfgang Lotz's Argument

Contextual architecture represents architecture and designing in particular context, i.e. historical or vernacular context. The theory of contextual often referred to compatible architecture by taking into account the building design surround or the urban concept in vaster sale. This notion can be easily understood through the analogy with the "Context" in the natural language by expressing the ranges of compatibility from superficial repetition of architectural styles or elements or cosmetic treatment of building facades to the meaningful inspirited designs and the symbolic representation of certain place in building. It has a wide range of applications, from the infill projects to the new building design in historical context (Abada, 2002). One of the cases of contextual architecture has been brought forward by Wolfgang Lotz in his criticism of Palladio's basilica in Vicenza. In his essay "Reflections of Palladio as Town Planner", Lotz mentioned the fact that the document concerning Palladio's basilica in Vicenza gives no indication that the architect ever thought about an overall arrangement of the building ringing the Piazza dei Signori and the Piazza delle Erbe. Further to this statement Lotz also indicated that regardless of the fact that Palladio took into account inherent structural and functional demands, the final outcome conceived as an independent monument by its stately bulk the buildings and dominates its surroundings hence incompatible with the earlier buildings around the basilica especially in the height of its loggias and horizontal articulation terms. The lack of integrations of the basilica at Vicenza with its neighbours seems to be not the result of external circumstances, but is rather due to some precise architectural intention on Palladio's part. Other evidence which simulate similar case has also been stated by Lotz during the construction of the Loggia del Capitano that planned several years before Palladio began work on and the Loggia Bernarda project which according to Lotz is anything but integrated with the surrounding buildings. The colossal order is no less dominant over the piazza than the superimposed orders of the basilica opposite. A similar judgement as a non contextual urban planning has also been drawn in the design of San Giorgio Maggiore's facades, the Redentore, the cathedrals of Milan, Siena, Florence, and Orvieto where Palladio recommended the Gothic structure should be adopted which led toward disintegration with the adjacent buildings in a unified piazza scheme and being reluctant in the use of portico. The arguments of Lotz towards Palladio's design can be viewed from following figures.

From figure 2 it can be indicated that regardless of the similar repetition pattern the implementation of structural columns on Palldio's design are indeed stood on its own right comparing to its surrounding which can be viewed from figure 1. The scale of each column and opening cosmetically form a bulk image which according to Lotz could not perfectly blend with the adjacent buildings which looks fairly flat. This worsened by the existence of the tower on the left wing of the basilica. Similar case has also been outlined in Piazza delle Erbe which can be viewed from following figure.

Comparing these two designs, it can be clearly indicated that both architects implement a similar treatment to each building façade design. Similar to Palladio's approach, the repetition pattern becomes a dominant aspect of the square. In the St Martin Square despite of the building style difference of each façade the whole building are brought unified by a reasonably similar scale. Moreover the size of the square itself plays a significant part for each building to be measured and appreciated. Villa Rotonda on the other hand possesses a slightly similar approach with respect to contextual design. As previously mentioned, Palladio found inspiration in large antique complexes which either resembled country houses surrounded by Villa Rotonda outbuildings. Contextual wise, both design had tried to take account the whole neighbourhood to be perfectly able to blend into its built environment.

IV. Argument of Lotz views

What is the actual definition or how to define the "contextual architecture" as architecture sensitive to its context? Systemic theory talks about a "relevant context" of a system, for example context, being in interaction with the system. For a building, it is not only its physical surroundings but also its social and cultural milieu, including its past and its future. However, as initially mentioned contextual architecture reflects a comprehensive awareness of the "context" within which one's design is to be "fit in". Once again it's very essential to notice that contextual architecture shouldn't be an obstacle to innovative and creative architecture that tends deliberately to stand out from the built environment and on the same time a creative contextual architecture that comprises a mixture of old and new need to captures successfully the spirits of both time and place which in turn will be a true challenge to all attempts towards achieving contextual compatibility. In many cases it is not as simple as "copying" the cosmetic ornaments built on the surrounded buildings and the scale of its surrounding especially when it comes to designing a monumental building in the middle of secular environment. This type of buildings such as basilica are meant to be built in how its supposed to be built in term of vertical and/or horizontal scale which becomes an inherit value from earlier period, a building which need to reflect its function such as a place where the government rules the place or a worshipping place. In some extent Palladio has indeed taken into account a heritage value where some building need to be designed in different scale both vertically and horizontally, hence in a way the contextual aspect is preserved. Additionally, Palladio makes use of a standard series of overall types, of room shapes, of forms for the orders such as structural columns and opening. Palladio considers the distance between the columns as an integral part of each order, for instance two and a quarter column diameters serving as the intercolumniation for the Ionic order, and two for the Corinthian. The order thus becomes a potential generator both of two dimensional and three dimensional schemes. His work displays an adherence to a system of design, which makes use of a grammar of forms and proportions, and a "controlled vocabulary" of motifs which if placed in an existing environment built from previous time period might triggers a contextual issue. However such contextual issues sometimes need to be wisely addressed as the aspect of contextual theory can be very broad and often can not be judged only by its appearance. In his essay Wolfgang Lotz indeed outlined what Palladio's designs lack, however that does not necessarily reflect the actual concept of the building itself.

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