Above is a sketch of one of the bridge entrances to the Prato della Valle, in Padove, Italy.
Elliptical in plan, Prato della Valle is the largest grand piazza in Italy, covering more than 90,000 sq meters. It lies directly south of the Hotel Grand’Italia.
We entered through the north entrance and caught ourselves in a large shift in scale.
Compressed street entrance to plaza.
Looking back at the our entry into the piazza.
The view coming from place of entry.
The piazza program extends beyond the canal perimeter to include shops.
The massive scale of one of the four paths leading to the center of the piazza dwarfs any pedestrian using it.
Despite such a large open space, the Prato Della Valle remains vibrant and full of life, with public seating, performances, and other recreational activities.
The Prato Della Valle is also surrounded by two rows of statues on the perimeter of the canals.
Capella Degli Scrovegni, or Scrovegni Chapel, is a church situated not too far from Hotel Grand’Italia, the hotel we are currently staying at—it lies just on the outside edge of the ¼ mile radius circle from our residence.
A wealthy banker, Enrico Scrovegni, commissioned such a project in fear of his financial trade threatened his place in the afterlife. Giotto, an already well-known fresco artist and story teller, paints every edifice of this chapel of religious stories and symbols.
These highly detailed and ornate paintings give life to such a small area.
The diagrammatic plan shows the simplicity of such a space, but the previous perspective of the interior dictates the exact opposite.
The actual wall, represented above, are flat surfaces that simply enclose a space.
However, Giotto’s paintings expand the space beyond its actual walls. His mastery of perspective, shadow, and texture adds depth and dimensions that break the physical boundaries into a fantasy, rich in story, emotion, and of course perfectly executed paintings.
Interestingly enough, such a motif of using frescos to extend a space is present all over. Palazzo del Ragione (a detail pictures above) shows a similar execution of manipulating perspective.
We begin in a small northern Italian city of Padua, where we would set up “camp” for the next couple of days. Our homebase at Hotel Grand’Italia is situated less than a 1/4 mile, making easy runs to the trains for a fast commute.
Before venturing into the neighboring cities, we explored Padova, itself. It was quickly noted that Padova shared characteristics with that of Verona and other medieval cities in that their urban layout resembles organic growth. The irregularities in the grid allowed for buildings to push and pull against the street edge, creating unique entries to these buildings.
Buildings along a street, or “strada,” impede lanes of circulation, funneling pedestrians through the building’s arcade to hopefully grab potential shoppers. The irregularity also allows for unique public spaces, or “plazas,” that are dispersed around Padua and the rest of Italy. These “unique” spaces take the form of building edifaces, often leading to polygonal geometries that would contrast the rectangular grid of New York and others of the like. One specific spot that exhibits this characteristic in Padova is the Plaza della Fruta, located a little over half a mile from homebase.
Hotel Grand’Italia towards the north stands alittle over half a mile from Plaza della Fruta and Palazzo della Ragione.
Not only does the site plan of Plaza della Fruta show a non-rectangular space, but it also shows every which direction that feeds into this plaza, making it an ideal location for public markets and commercial activities.
Entering the markets of Plaza della Fruta.
Birds-Eye view of the East side of the Plaza.
Birds-eye view of the west of the plaza. Both perspectives were taken from Palazzo della Ragione, which forms the southern boundary of Plaza della Fruta.
Perspective of the Palazzo Della Ragione.
The first/ground floor of the palazzo extends the commercial programming of its neighboring plaza due to its porous arcade that facilitates movement as well as viewing opportunities of the shops.
Additional shops located within the long first floor corridor.
The second floor, however is reserved for more private occasions. The open, column-less floor plan allows for any exhibits and functions. Upon visiting the Palazzo della Ragione, the exhibit called for a replica of a grand-scale horse, along with a separate private exhibition space—only made possible with the large expanses of the palazzo’s second floor.
What made this possible is the ribbed structure. Much like the hull of a ship, the ribbed roof structure allowed the room to be hollowed out of vestigial structures and create such spans of buildings and expanses of space.