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Every building Palladio designed, from a simple farmhouse to his grand monastic churches such as San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, was a gem. Designed inside and out according to a sophisticated play of perfect geometry, each one remains an ideal to live up to. Handsomely crafted, imaginatively sited and bringing the best of classical Roman architecture up to date, his buildings had a profound influence on architecture worldwide.
Such was the compelling nature of their design that, after Palladio's death in 1580, British architects began to create buildings - from modest working-class terraces to magisterial country houses, along with town halls, assembly rooms, churches, inns, farmhouses and follies - that owe the essentials of their design, their proportions and much of their architectural spirit to the one-time Paduan stonecutter destined to become one of the greatest architects of all time.
What drew the Palladians, as these young British architects came to be known, to the master's work was its crystal-clear design, free of the pomp and theatrical circumstance of those architectural styles, especially the lavish baroque that came before an 18th-century revival of Palladianism. Here were classical buildings that seemed ideal for 18th-century, protestant Britain. Palladio showed how it was possible to shape a form of architecture that seemed almost timeless. Informed by mathematical logic, it was highly practical, rich in terms of its ideas, and lacked any over-elaborate decoration. No wonder the brightest British Modern movement architects of the 1930s were as in awe of Palladio as they were of Le Corbusier. They saw him, if not altogether correctly, as a kind of proto-Modern.
The work of the Palladians - spearheaded by the Anglo-Irish Earl of Burlington and Colen Campbell, a Scot - became the dominant force in British architecture. They in turn influenced the work of American architects, and by the mid-19th century, examples of Palladian design could be found around the globe, from St Petersburg to Cape Province. Even today, there are architects, notably the father and son team Quinlan and Francis Terry, who continue to work in a tradition descended from Palladio. In fact, the Terrys attract controversy precisely because they insist on pursuing a line of Palladianism, in the design of numerous country houses, as well as major urban shopping and office developments - as if the days of Palladio, or at least his ideals, were still part, parcel and pediment of everyday life.