Andrea Palladio was born 500 years ago, on Nov. 30, 1508, a mere 16 years after Christopher Columbus opened the Western hemisphere to European exploration. When Palladio published the first edition of I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (in 1570), it became the 16th century's equivalent of Vers une architecture, Complexity and Contradiction, and S, M, L, XL combined.

Palladio's Four Books features his measured drawings depicting the monuments of Rome, as well as his own designs for villas, palazzos, and public buildings. The tome remains available in two different editions on amazon.com, but it was Thomas Jefferson who brought the first folio copy of the book to America in the 18th century. The nation's third president owned at least five copies and sourced important works including Monticello, the Virginia Capitol, and the University of Virginia Lawn from its etched pages—establishing Palladio as America's first influential starchitect.

Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio

Credit: Getty Images

Significant events have been held around the world in 2008 to celebrate Palladio's continued relevance to contemporary practice. These included "Palladio, 500 Years: The Great Exhibition" in his native Veneto in northern Italy; a symposium evaluating Palladio's urban and American legacies at New York's Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America; and the completed restoration of James Madison's Montpelier in Orange, Va., a Palladian-inspired design.

But even among those who celebrated Palladio's quincentennial, questions arose about the nature of his legacy. Accepting the 2008 Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture in March, noted New Urbanist Andrés Duany described the narrow path Palladio's followers have hewed for five centuries. "The canon was very arbitrarily reduced by Palladio to four [books]," said Duany of the Quattro Libri. "The classical canon needs to be expanded for the 21st century."