Werner Oechslin – The Reason for Palladios Success

Lecture date: 2009-02-05

Unlike most other famous ‘historical’ architects, Palladio can be understood in a way that easily overcomes the anti-historical claims of modern and avant-garde manifestos and programmes. Rather than hindering modernism, Palladio actually helped modern architecture recognise the ‘history of recent history’ as Reyner Banham has described it. In his book on Brutalism, Banham referred to a (neo-) neo-palladianism in the rigid geometries of the Smithsons. A few years earlier, Colin Rowe had canonised moden architecture by declaring that Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein in Garches and Palladio’s Villa Malcontenta were based on the same proportional laws. But this is just one aspect of Palladio’s modern success; equally important to this lecture is Palladio’s mastery of what would become the credo of Behrens, namely the Krpergestaltung, or the melting of material and form into architecture.

Werner Oechslin has taught at MIT, FU Berlin, Geneva, and Harvard, and continues to teach at ETH Zurich where he was the Head of the GTA Institute from 1986 to 2006. He is the author of Palladianismus: Andrea Palladio – Kontinuitt von Werk und Wirkung and the founder of the Werner Oechslin Library Foundation.’Ornament’ Lecture Series co-ordinated by Oliver Domeisen.


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