Friday, November 16, 2012

Vigevano's Piazza Ducale

Becket, November 16, 2012

Sorry I'm jumping from city to city, but talking about figural urban spaces I couldn't avoid thinking of Piazza Ducale in Vigevano (in Lombardy, not far from Milan.)  It's really an incredible place!  A long, narrow rectangle with  Renaissance arcades (attributed to Bramante, the great Vatican architect) ending in the concave Barroque façade of the cathedral.

And here is where the fun begins.  If you look at the façade of the cathedral, it's perfectly aligned with the long axis of the square.  Its four doors at the lower level modulate beautifully that bowed eastern end of the square.  Wait, four doors?  Yes, the building behind is a traditional church with a central nave, so which of the four is the main entrance?  I'll tell you, it's the second one counting from the right.  Actually, the first three doors from the right are entrances to the cathedral.  And the fourth door?  It's really an arch with nothing but a street behind.

But it gets even better.  The cathedral is embeded in the urban fabric behind and it's not at all aligned with the piazza, so the façade is really a paper-thin stage set with a complicated arrangement of oblique thresholds and small stairs padding the irregular leftover between the square and the church.

Talk about Barroque mise-en-scène! 

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