10 Jan

What is a loggia?

Often found attached to grand communal buildings in the Mediterranean, loggias can also be a stunning feature in residential properties, adding an element of theatre and grandeur to the exterior of your building. In this week’s blog post, we explain what a loggia is, where the concept comes from, and how it could transform your home...

What is a loggia?

A loggia (from the Italian word for ‘lodge’) is an outdoor corridor or gallery with a fully covered roof  and an outer wall that is open to the elements. Traditionally, loggias either ran along the facade of a building or could exist as a stand-alone feature. The open outer side of the loggia is usually supported by several columns or decorative arches.

These spaces looked idyllic, but they also had a very functional purpose in the hot and balmy conditions. Loggias provided a space that was fully connected to the outdoor environment and cooler air, while still providing a shady and covered retreat from the sun in which to relax or dine, making it an ideal architectural feature.

History & design

The first loggias were introduced by the Romans, but unlike the Roman portico, which served as an entrance porch, a true loggia should only be accessible from inside a building. During this era, many public buildings and large villas housed an open courtyard at the centre, therefore loggias were designed to provide a sheltered walkway around this enclosed area, allowing visitors to enjoy an outdoor stroll whilst remaining protected from the burning sun.

A classic loggia should only be single storey, however some buildings boast loggias on both the ground floor and the first floor; these are known as double loggias. A famous example of this is the beautiful Palazzo del Bo, a historical building at the University of Padua where Galileo once lectured.

Palazzo Bo, historical building home of the Padova University from 1539, in Padua, Italy

Renaissance architects shared their Roman predecessors’ taste in exquisite design and the high regard they held for mathematical ratios within their architecture. This inspiration is evident in the way the humble loggia has evolved over time, although many of its original features still remain. While early loggias served quite an important and functional purpose, loggia architecture has become far less about functionality and more about enhancing the aesthetics of a building and a space for entertainment.

The modern day loggia

Much like many households of the Renaissance period, this homeowner wanted to introduce a loggia to create a modern entertainment space that would give their evening dinner parties and summer dining experiences some added ‘wow’ factor.

French doors lead out from the south-facing orangery to an open-sided loggia which provides a shaded outdoor area ideal for dining al fresco or simply relaxing with friends on a warm summer’s evening. This also enabled them to create an almost seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living.

Black and dark grey shades on joinery that are likely to be exposed to the sun will absorb the heat and result in unattractive peeling, so these colours are usually avoided. A micro porous paint was used to ensure that it won’t peel, however, meaning that this loggia could be painted in a striking charcoal-black colour without any issues.

Want to find out more about this project? The full case study by Westbury Garden Rooms is available here.

Loggias throughout time

So we’ve seen an example of a modern day loggia, but how have their designs evolved over the years? Let’s take a look at some famous buildings…

Buonconsiglio Castle – Trento, Italy

With its striking appearance and rich history, the majestic Buonconsiglio Castle remains the most important secular example of architecture in Trentino today.

Over the years, additional buildings have been added to the castle, however the original 13th century structure, Castelvecchio, is still the most dominant. Castelvecchio (“Old Castle”), served as the seat of the Bishop of Trent from the mid 1200s until secularisation in the early 19th century. According to legend, this part of the castle was connected to the city’s cathedral by a network of secret tunnels, allowing the prince-bishops to travel between them undetected.

In the 16th century, the Italian Renaissance painter, Girolamo Romanino, was commissioned to decorate the ground-floor loggia in the Lions’ Court with Renaissance themes, including scenes from Roman mythology, biblical episodes and allusions to day-to-day life at the time. His masterful artwork can still be seen on the ceilings of the loggia today.

Since its restoration in 1924, the castle has been home to a national museum and houses several valuable collections including a range of medieval and modern artefacts, including paintings, sculptures and manuscripts, as well as several archaeological exhibitions.

The Chester Rows – Chester, England

If you’ve ever visited Chester’s town centre, you’ll be familiar with the rows of raised walkways that line its cobbled streets, giving this historic town its notable, period charm.

The Chester Rows are an iconic medley of architectural styles from several periods throughout history; while many of the Rows consist of Georgian and Victorian architecture, the ‘Three Old Arches’ date right back to the 13th century and are believed to be the oldest storefront in the UK.

Image by Stuart Rankin (CC by 2.0)

If you’ve ever visited Chester’s town centre, you’ll be familiar with the rows of raised walkways that line its cobbled streets, giving this historic town its notable, period charm.

The Chester Rows are an iconic medley of architectural styles from several periods throughout history; while many of the Rows consist of Georgian and Victorian architecture, the ‘Three Old Arches’ date right back to the 13th century and are believed to be the oldest storefront in the UK.

There are several theories about why the medieval Cestrians chose to construct their high streets in this fashion. Some historians believe it was a result of changes in planning regulations following a large fire in 1278, whereas other theorists believe it was an attempt to increase the commercial potential of the town’s shops and stores. Whatever the origin, the Chester Rows have certainly stood the test of time and remain a source of attraction to this day.

Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia

In 2005, the Sydney Opera House underwent its first major structural change since its opening in 1973, including the installation of a brand new loggia.

Designed by the original Sydney Opera House architect, Jørn Utzon, the $6 million loggia spans 45 metres in length and extends five metres out onto the broadwalk. The structure also incorporates a new semi-glazed facade along the western face of the building. This not only provides patrons with stunning panoramic views of the Sydney harbour, but also creates a beautiful transition from the natural daylight outside to the low-lit, atmospheric setting within the Opera House itself.

Image by Jack Atley

Through expert engineering and sympathetic design, the loggia has transformed what was previously a wasted space into a functional and ambient environment.