Aristocratic power exaltation between XVI and XVIII centuries in Palermo Area: psychological and symbolic aspects behind suburban villas' construction. Architectural composition, materials and constructive techniques

Risultato della ricerca: Conference contribution


From ancient times, due to a very favourable climate, and the presence of many pure water sources, the “Golden Valley” surrounding the city of Palermo saw the settlement of an elaborate system of rural farms, “industrial” buildings. During the XVI century, and especially towards the XVIII century, spending some time in the countryside became a real trend for the urbanized Sicilian aristocracy. Thus, such buildings were slowly renewed into sumptuous suburban palaces to exhibit feudal family richness and power as well as to make living in the countryside more pleasant. In western Sicilian area, the architectural typology of the suburban villa is locally characterized by a mixture of the luxury of an aristocratic residence, along with the functionalities connected to rural production and land control. Villas were built mindless of expenses and were characterized by an astonishing scenography that was perfectly integrated in large gardens. Their possess was considered a moral duty strictly related to the high social rank of the barons. In this sense that show of richness is not a simple and excessive expression of frivolity but it was just a respect of a strict and severe social code linked to the privilege of being a noble. From a psychological point of view, the feudal microcosm is transposed into the architectural configuration of the villa. A vertical climax leads from the main gate, through the court - where all the buildings face - towards the prince house; an articulate monumental stair brings up to the first floor apartment surmounted by the family coat of arms. This is the barons house apotheosis. In a certain way, the feudal hierarchy is reproduced from an architectural point of view: the prince is surrounded by common people who scenically exalt his higher social level. The aristocratic privilege is respected both socially and architecturally. The architectural configuration and construction of such manor houses were closely linked to the availability of local resources. The distance from the city suggested the exploitation of raw materials available in loco that were integrated in creative designs and original construction techniques by skilled local architects and craftsman. Their construction were ruled by scrupulous notarial deeds where architectural composition, construction techniques, decorations, materials, and even craftsmen were strictly described. Suburban villas, along with the large urban interventions, were mainly aimed to transmit a strong political and symbolic mean intended to show and celebrate the aristocrat civil power by means of a highly scenic and illusionistic tension.In this work, we will focus on these architectural machines discussing their particular and dedicated architectural composition aimed to represent an unlimited aristocratic power. Furthermore, we will analyse the constructive techniques employed to make villas astonishing centres of political power. More particularly we will focus on the executive techniques used to build masonry structures (monumental stairs, gates, walls), wooden structures (decorated roofs, ceilings, etc.), as well as finishing and decorations (stucco, mortars, majolica ceramic pavements, use of colour, etc.). What derives is an elaborate repertory of historical constructive techniques which are the typical expression of the Sicilian “rule of the art” strictly connected to the political significance of the act of building itself. A deep knowledge of this architectural typology is particularly useful to understand, and preserve, its most intimate meanings often linked to
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteMovements & Outsiders - ARCHHIST '14 - HISTORY of ARCHITECTURE
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2014


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