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    Villa Adriana an ancient artifact in Tivoli, Italy.

    By CameronRRodman
    Mar 17, '14 8:31 PM EST


    Historical Context

    Classical designs such as Hadrian’s villa enjoy a wealth of influence from preceding eras, current ideologies, philosophies, & religions. They also greatly influence future designs.

    Historically, classical design sought to emphasize symmetry and emphasize humanistic and philosophical values. During the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s reign as Roman Emperor from 117 AD to 138 AD the city held itself as the locus of man. Rationality and order dominated design both in architecture and garden design. This time experienced practical and pragmatic approaches and developed technological advances such as water engineering.

    No longer did man see nature as a mystical & sacred place where divinity resided. Nature was now subservient to the control of man and design. Mythical Gods were soon transformed into allegorical ideals which were then applied to the ruling aristocracy of the time. As humanism took hold, site designs abandoned the previous methods of designing with nature with its embedded symbolism and positioned design in such a way to emphasize the importance of the Roman city and its ruling elite.

    If all roads lead to Rome, these villas would have a relation to Rome whether by road or symbolism. Like the structures of Rome, the Villa was designed to express material wealth, imperial power, administration, and a sensual enjoyment of plants, water and open-air living. Buildings were designed with inward focused spaces. This is not to say that there was no appreciation for nature in the garden or surrounding landscape. Landscape was appreciated within these buildings and their spaces. They were controlled by engineers and reflected in frescos.

    Villas (or country homes), were thematic. Often compared to modern day theme parks, the Villa utilized symbolism to communicate a message. The design of spaces and placement of art made allusions to other places, to myths, and to literature. The villa was a place of allegory which articulated human aspirations and power where confidence is placed in man’s ability.


    Set aside the Aniene River and south of the town of Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa is estimated to have been approximately 120 ha. (300 acres). It is situated between two valleys with a southeast-northwest orientation. It was constructed between 118 AD and 138 AD. It is speculated that this location was chosen either due to the prime higher elevations already having inhabitants; due to the land being under the ownership of Hadrian’s’ wife, or due to the proximity of water.

    Hadrian’s Villa was a setting for an imperial court. Here Emperor Hadrian lavished upon his guests and administrators the wealth which he held. While no principal axis exists, an overall master plan seems to be in place. This supposition is based on the villas extensive infrastructure of water works and tremendous amount of earth moving which took place. Hadrian’s villa focused not only on the detail of areas but on the over spatial volumetrics of each space.

    Landscape design and architecture was conducted differently in Roman times. Gardens were the main canvas that landscape designs were expressed on. These were most often the properties of the rich aristocracy. Also important during this era was the technological strides made in hydraulic engineering.

    Key Features:

    The Pecile

    The One Hundred Rooms

    The Tower of Rocca Bruna

    The Canopus

    The Pretorio

    The Great Baths

    The Little Baths

    The Golden Court

    The Quarters of the Vigiles

    The Heliocaminus Baths

    The Greek and Latin Libraries

    The Maritime Theatre

    The Temple of Venus

    The Palestra


    AD 118 – A.D. 138 Construction

    AD 138 Emperor Hadrian Dies

    15th Century excavations by Pope Pius 2

    16th Century excavations continued by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este to obtain works of art

    18th Centruy Excavations by Piranesi and others. – Continue sporadically until 1870

    1999 UNESCO Site World Heritage Site

    2006 Listed in 100 Most Endangered Sites by World Monuments Watch


    Phillips, R., Foy, N., A Photographic Garden History (New York, Random House, 1995).

    Richardson, T., The Garden Book (London, Phaidon Press Limited, 2003).

    Rogers, E. B., Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History (New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.,

    Publishers, 2001)

    A Really cool website documenting the artifacts and other information.

    For more photo graphs of Villa Adriana go to my website here:


    • x-jla

      I must go there.  

      Mar 17, 14 8:47 pm  · 

      One of the best days I have ever spent. Thanks for sharing this. I particularly remember all of the graffiti from GSD classes of the 80s and 90s carved ruthlessly into the stones.

      Mar 17, 14 9:54 pm  · 

      My pleasure. It's crazy to think that these wonderful places are older than so much of the developed world. jla-x, Itlay is amazing. Keep watching my website this year to learn about 10 additional locations and gardens throughout Italy.

      Mar 18, 14 3:41 pm  · 

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I currently maintain a blog which features monthly firm interviews about their firm and specific projects in the Knoxville or near Knoxville area. Readers can also find information on photography, current trends in representation, or even social equality issues.

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