Loggia in Architecture: Definition & Designs

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The loggia is a common feature in architecture, and has been for millennia. In this lesson, we'll check out the loggia, and see how it is used in various kinds of architecture.

The Loggia

Roman architecture always feels so...logical. That was important to them. Architecture needed to reflect a geometric rationality, but it also needed to be practical and functional. One feature that both added a dynamic geometric component to a building and also helped create a more livable, airy interior was the loggia.

A loggia is a covered, open-walled room, corridor, or hallway supported by columns. While the name does not actually have anything to do with logic, the loggia is an undeniably logical feature. It helps circulate air through a building, it's an entry point for sunlight, and the rows of columns help create a consistent architectural aesthetic. It's just logic.

Second-story loggia in a German house
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Placement and Use

If there's one thing you probably know about the Romans, it's that they really liked columns. The loggia was far from the only place that these features appeared. So what makes the loggia different from other open-air, covered, column-filled architectural components, like the portico?

In Roman architecture, a portico is a porch, an entryway that transitions a person from the outside of a building to the inside. A loggia, on the other hand, is generally only accessible from inside the building. In many cases, the loggia is found in the center of the structure, surrounding an open-air courtyard.

This was perhaps the earliest use of the Roman loggia; the Romans loved their countryside villas, which were almost always built around such a courtyard. The loggia let people stroll around the courtyard while still being protected from the sun or other direct elements, and also helped circulate the refreshing Mediterranean breezes through their homes, keeping them cool. Technically, a loggia can only be one story tall, so two-story buildings with loggias on each floor are often said to have a double loggia.

Double loggia around a private courtyard in Italy
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In other cases, the loggia was built almost like a modern covered patio, protruding off the side of the building but still only accessible from the interior. This was less common in the Roman era, but became a prominent part of residential architecture in the Italian Renaissance. Renaissance architects loved Roman forms and motifs, as well as the Roman dedication to logic and rational, geometric space. They took Roman ideas and expanded them, finding new uses for ancient architectural features like the loggia.

Many of our modern ideas about how to use loggias actually come from the Renaissance more than from ancient Rome. Not only did Renaissance architects find new ways to incorporate loggias into homes and public buildings, they also introduced freestanding loggias in public squares and plazas. In this sense, the loggia can be defined as an open-air, single-room, colonnaded, covered building in a public space. Many public parks around the world, including in the United States, have similar structures today.

Styles

Loggias can be adapted to any style of architecture, and range in appearance from patios with three completely open-air sides to colonnaded walkways connecting buildings. As long as it contains columns, a roof, and open-air access from the interior, it can be fashioned as some sort of loggia.

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