Paola Modesti (Venice International University)


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.



Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

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

VAT: 02928970272