Inspired by Palladio
The Rules of Architecture
Although John Drayton's master architect did not copy the designs in Palladio's books directly, he did follow many of the rules of architecture set forth in the text of the book. For instance, Palladio called for a loggia, or porch, to allow visitors space to gather before entering the house, and an entry, or hall, to be used to welcome guests. The lower level of the portico and the great hall serve these functions at Drayton Hall.
Palladio also stated that smaller rooms, or chambers, should flank the hall and that the stairway to the upper level should be a prominent element with good light and a view to an impressive space. At Drayton Hall, the great hall is flanked by four chambers, one at each corner of the house, and the stair hall is certainly prominent and well lit. The stair hall also serves the double function of stairway and entry, as John's guests would often have arrived by water and entered at the river front of the house. From the stair hall, they would have seen the great hall, one of the most impressive spaces in the house.
Another Palladian feature incorporated into the original design for Drayton Hall, but not completed until some years later, was the use of flanker buildings, visually connected to the main house by low, curving walls. A number of Palladian villas incorporated flankers and colonnades to form courtyards, much like the courtyard or forecourt that was created on the land side of the house, once the two flanker buildings were constructed.
Some of Palladio's dictates, however, were ignored when John had Drayton Hall built. Rather than have the ceiling heights diminish with each succeeding floor level, as Palladio recommended, Drayton Hall's spaces grow progressively taller from the raised basement to the first floor and on to the second floor. Where Palladio was concerned with structural strength, John Drayton may have been more concerned with comfort in a hot, humid climate and with the theatricality of a grand hall on the upper floor.
Despite these variations, Drayton Hall is, nonetheless, a building that was heavily influenced by Palladio's body of work. In fact, Drayton Hall is likely one of the earliest Palladian buildings in America. To distinguish it from the buildings actually built during the life of Palladio, architectural historians refer to Drayton Hall as Georgian Palladian — a Palladian building built during the Georgian era.