The Extraurban Belvedere: Dynamics of Change and the Beautiful View

By Phyllis J. Henderson.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Literally meaning “beautiful view,” the belvedere commands a unique position in the built environment designed and constructed precisely for the enjoyment or intellectual connection to the landscape. Current trends in architecture are blurring the distinct differences between “sustainable” and “meaningful.” The belief that because a building is sustainable, it bears an inherent connection to the landscape is unfounded and misleading. This work engages this modern issue, tracing the historical origins and development of the belvedere by correlating evidence of the desire for the view with the constructions that accompanied it.
The belvedere emerged as a product of an extraurban environment. As an appendage to the walled city, the belvedere was conceived within the summer dwellings along the coast of Italy. Here, the belvedere is brought to light through historical hermeneutic interpretation, archaeological analysis, and the case studies of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii and the Villa Medici at Fiesole. Initial research reveals the critical connection between the perception of the surrounding landscape and the cultural heritage of the ancient Roman. The role of the belvedere was not one of an isolated built object, but the transitional link between the building and the landscape, structured according to both physical and visual access to nature, social status, and daily ritual. Support for the continued rise of naturalism in art and architecture reflects the prevailing aesthetic of the time, illustrating the merger between the desire for the view and the construction of the belvedere by the 1700’s. This work pioneers the link between sustainable land use development and landscape conservation with architectural ideas that challenge how we perceive the fundamental relationship between buildings, nature, and ecology, keeping a focus on the history of human intention for the beautiful landscape and how this fundamental desire is embodied through poetical dwelling.

Keywords: Villa Medici Fiesole, Ambulatio, Pliny, Terrace, Giovanni di Medici, Villa of the Mysteries, Environment, Nature, View, Belvedere, Architecture, Experience, Extraurban

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.9-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.965MB).

Phyllis J. Henderson

PhD Candidate in Architectural History and Theory, Department of Design, Construction and Planning, School of Architecture, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

Phyllis J. Henderson is a Ph.D candidate in architectural history and theory at the University of Florida. She received her graduate education in both architecture and fine art. She has practiced architecture for years, is a LEED accredited professional and an associate member of the American Institute of Architects. Based on her research in adaptive reuse of brownfields in central Europe, she was awarded the American Association of University Women Selected Professions Fellowship in 2002–2003. Her current doctoral research focuses on the history of human intention for beautiful landscapes and how this fundamental desire is embodied through poetical dwelling.