Archive for the ‘Gian Lorenzo Bernini’ Category

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Saint Peter’s Square

Architect: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Location: Vatican City

Date: 1656-1667

Building Type: Piazza

Architecture Styles: Baroque Neoclassical

Architectural Time Period: 1600s

Construction Type: Bearing Masonry

Context: Urban

Introduction(Information mainly based on Internet and Readings):

Saint Peter’s Square  is located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome (the Piazza borders to the East the rione of Borgo).

The open space which lies before the basilica was redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1656 to 1667, under the direction of Pope Alexander VII, as an appropriate forecourt, designed “so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace” (Norwich 1975 p 175). Bernini had been working on the interior of St. Peter’s for decades; now he gave order to the space with his renowned colonnades, using the Tuscan form of Doric, the simplest order in the classical vocabulary, not to compete with the palace-like façade by Carlo Maderno, but he employed it on an unprecedented colossal scale to suit the space and evoke emotions awe.

The site’s possibilities were under many constraints from existing structures (illustration, right). The massed accretions of the Vatican Palace crowded the space to the right of the basilica’s façade; the structures needed to be masked without obscuring the papal apartments. The obelisk marked a center, and a granite fountain by Carlo Maderno stood to one side: Bernini made the fountain appear to be one of the foci of the ovato tondo embraced by his colonnades and eventually matched it on the other side, in 1675, just five years before his death. The trapezoidal shape of the piazza, which creates a heightened perspective for a visitor leaving the basilica and has been praised as a masterstroke of Baroque theater, is largely a product of site constraints.

My own exploration:

Keywords: Colonnades,Geometry&Floor Pattern


The colossal Tuscan colonnades, four columns deep,frame the trapezoidal entrance to the basilica and the massive elliptical area which precedes it. The ovato tondo’s long axis, parallel to the basilica’s façade, creates a pause in the sequence of forward movements that is characteristic of a Baroque monumental approach. The colonnades define the piazza. The elliptical center of the piazza, which contrasts with the trapezoidal entrance, encloses the visitor with “the maternal arms of Mother Church” in Bernini’s expression. On the south side, the colonnades define and formalize the space, with the Barberini Gardens still rising to a skyline of umbrella pines. On the north side, the colonnade masks an assortment of Vatican structures; the upper stories of the Vatican Palace rise above.

Geometry&Floor Pattern

The geometry of the square is ellipsis, which has a center occupied by an obelisk, it has symmetrical and self-centered spatial quality, what’s smart about the design is that the paving is varied by radiating lines in travertine, to relieve what might otherwise be a sea of cobblestones. Circular stones were set to mark the tip of the obelisk’s shadow at noon as the sun entered each of the signs of the zodiac, making the obelisk a gigantic sundial’s gnomon.

The plan diagram with the floor patterning

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Piazza Navona

Architect: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Location: Rome, Italy.

Building Type: Piazza

Architecture Styles: Baroque

Architectural Time Period: 1600s

Construction Type: Cut Stone Masonry

Context: Urban

Introduction(Information mainly based on Internet and Readings):

Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans came there to watch the agones (“games”), and hence it was known as ‘Circus Agonalis’ (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to ‘in agone’ to ‘navone’ and eventually to ‘navona’.

My own exploration:

Keywords: Baroque Roman Architecture, Fountains,Point In Space

Baroque Roman Architecture

Today we visited the famous piazza: Piazza Navona. it was defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century, the Piazza Navona was transformed into a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture and art. And I enjoyed ambling inside this Baroque pizza and I am trying to find what makes this place “Baroque”, and why it is so successful for people to use.

First notion for me was that facing onto the piazza, there are seveal important sculptural and architectural creations: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini,topped by the Obelisk of Domitian. As in the center of the piazza, it function as a attracting point in space, which attracts people in order to break the scale down and define circulation. In the photograph, standing as the background of Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Francesco Borromini, Girolamo Rainaldi, Carlo Rainaldi and others; It also add the Baroque language to the piazza and public.

Photograph of Pamphili palace, a palace facing onto the Piazza Navona also by Girolamo Rainaldi, that accommodates the long gallery designed by Borromini and frescoed by Pietro da Cortona.


There are fabulous fountains seating on the Piazza Navona: at the southern end is the Fontana del Moro and at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune.

La Fontana del Moro (the Moor Fountain) is a fountain located at the southern end of the Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy. It represents a Moor, standing in a conch shell, wrestling with a dolphin, surrounded by four Tritons. It is placed in a basin of rose-colored marble. The fountain was originally designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1575 with the dolphin and four Tritons. In 1653, the statue of the Moor, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was added. In 1874, during a restoration of the fountain, the original statues were moved to the Villa Borghese and replaced with copies.

Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is a fountain in Rome, Italy, located at the north end of the Piazza Navona. It was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” because it was located close to a small alley with blacksmith’s workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal based businesses, all of them generating heat.

The restoration of the Roman Aqua Virgo aqueduct in 1570 was immediately followed by the start of work on a continuation water supply pipe towards the district of the old Campo Marzio, which following the diminution of the city’s size and importance was left as the most densely populated part of the city. Restoration of a piped water supply in turn permitted the construction of several public fountains. The basin part of the Fontana del Nettuno, (without the sculptures) was designed in 1574 by Giacomo Della Porta, who also designed the Moor Fountain at the other side of the square. It was sponsored by pope Gregory XIII. The lower part of the basin consists of white marble and the upper part of the local stone from Pietrasanta. For the next 300 years, the fountain survived without statues.

Point In Space

I think the piazza works well because the idea of “Point In Space”, the fountains play the role of “point”, distributing strategically in the space.

Analytical sketch for “point in space”. For me, this space works well for the following reasons:

1.  The “point” attracts people

2. They define “zones”

3. They define circulations