The Landscape Guide

Villa 100 AD 

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Use: The idea of making villas developed in Greece and reached fulfillment in the Roman Empire. The word ‘palace’ comes from Augustus’ villa on Rome’s Palatine Hill. The villa became a palatial estate complete with dwellings, gardens and numerous subsidiary buildings. Both rustic and urban villas were made. Their use was to live, relax, exercise, entertain friends and conduct pleasant business, or, in Hadrian’s case, run an empire. The villa integrated elements of many earlier garden types: the domestic courtyard, the gymnasium (sacred grove), the temple garden (many emperors were considered Gods) and the hunting park. Owners enjoyed both the chase and the supply of fresh meat.

Form: Buildings and gardens were grouped together within a bounded enclosure. The spaces adjoining individual buildings were axially planned but, by the standards of renaissance villas, the lack of an axial relationship between buildings is surprising. Structures were scattered like parcels on a table. Either there was no overall plan or it was asymmetrical. In Southern Spain (c1250) the Moors built palatial villa-gardens, planned like their Roman predecessors but also drawing upon the Paradise gardens of the east. With the renaissance, the practice of villa-building resumed in Italy. Typical features included: pools, fountains, colonades, statuary, evergreens and adjacent hunting parks (as at the Villa Lante).

Alhambra, Generalife, Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa),