Andrea Palladio lived in Italy more than four centuries ago, and built houses for wealthy Italian aristocracy. He designed some of the most beautiful homes of his time and his writings were translated into many languages and influenced architects for centuries to come. Because of his work, architects of houses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries began to imitate ancient Roman and Greek constructions such as the Parthenon in Athens. James Gandon, the architect at Emo Court, was deeply influenced by his teacher Sir William Chambers, who in turn was influenced by Palladio.



  • Like the ancient Romans and Greeks, Palladio believed that beauty comes from harmony and symmetry. His buildings are evenly balanced on each side of the entrance hall. Proportion is always maintained: at Emo Court, the library on one side is balanced by the dining room on the other, with the rotunda centrally between them and behind the entrance hall.
  • Palladio made extensive use of columns in different styles – Corinthian, Ionic, Doric – each differing in the distinctive section at the top. The columns at Emo Court are Ionic; the four at the front balance the four at the back.
  • The pediment of the house is the triangular shape over the entrance. This is often found in buildings from the Classical period such as the Parthenon in Athens and in many temples in Rome. At Emo Court, the pediment bears the coat of arms of the Dawson-Damer family.
  • A portico is an entrance porch with columns. There are only four columns at Emo on both the front and back porticos but some Palladian houses had up to six columns.
  • Rounded arches are obvious in the remains of Classical buildings such as the Coliseum in Rome. Palladio used arches in doorways, windows and wall niches. At Emo Court, Gandon designed arches to soften both windows and doors.
  • Ornamentation is usually restrained. The front of Emo Court is plain but perfectly balanced and harmonious.
  • Particular Classical buildings were especially influential – eg the octagonal Temple of the Winds in Athens. The Game Larder at the back of Emo Court is one example of a small beautifully designed octagonal building in Ireland.


Modern day architects still incorporate many of these features into their designs. Elegance, balance, proportion, harmony – these are all key words in Palladianism. ‘Neo-Classical’ also describes buildings that are inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, and these will have many of the same features that are found in a Palladian building. The term ‘neo-classical’ came into use from the mid-18th century onwards.


1.       Pupils could look at their own towns, public buildings, roads, housing estates, neighbours’ homes and their own homes to see if they can spot any of Palladio’s ideas still being used.

2.     Pupils could design the front of a house for themselves using Palladio’s principles.

3.     Pupils could design the front of a house avoiding the use of Palladio’s principles, and compare with (2) above to see which they prefer.


Examples of the influence of Emo Court and Palladianism on nearby modern houses