The Renewed Piazzetta


The Piazzetta, Venice (Photograph by Marjorie Och)

The Piazzetta, Venice (Photograph by Marjorie Och)


The Piazzetta, Venice (Photograph by Marjorie Och)

The Piazzetta, Venice (Photograph by Marjorie Och)


        As the Zecca, Library and Loggetta illustrate the myth of Venice individually, they also function together to do the same around the Piazzetta.  By wrapping so much of the space of the Piazzetta with his Roman inspired buildings, Sansovino imparted their character to the space itself.  Surrounding the square with arcades and columns Sansovino recast the heart of the city as a Roman forum.  Like the original forums the Piazzetta was a place where law was enacted and enforced.  Executions and edicts were carried out between the two monumental columns framing the lagoon.  Not only a political space, the Piazzetta held samplings of many facets of Venetian life.  Entertainers performed shows and numerous merchants peddled their stock.  Although Sansovino’s renovations removed some of the original clutter from the space, it remained bustling.  As each of these acts were framed by the classical architecture they animated the claim of Roman succession. 

        By cleverly manipulating the siting of his structures Sansovino maximized their impact.  He created dramatic single point perspective views to lead viewers to his all’antica structures.  Although Venetian topography does not encourage symmetrical planning, they used axes of movement and sight to maintain organization.  Sansovino extended this tradition by orienting his Loggetta to face the significant Arco Foscari and Scala dei Giganti.  As the visual terminus to the main artery to the Venetian government its facade classicized the earlier Gothic complex.  As shown, Sansovino’s Piazzetta included a keen sense of staging.

        The sense of theatricality extended to the library as well.  Although difficult to view fully frontally, its long repetitive facade creates strong orthogonals for viewers in the square and lagoon.  By pairing the library with the similarly horizontal and lengthy Ducal Palace Sansovino channeled views to a single central point.  From the lagoon, one’s eye is led inward towards the Horologium.  From the opposite end, the paired structures focus on the lagoon past the pair of columns.[1]   By incorporating elements exclusive to Venice like the eclectic basilica and lagoon Sansovino wove his classicism into the city’s fabric effectively.  Displaying Venetian grandeur in his classical context manifested the myth of Venice.



[1]  Eugene J. Johnson, “Jacopo Sansovino, Giacomo Torelli, and the Theatricality of the Piazzetta in Venice,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Dec., 2000), 438.



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