Neapolitan architect of Dutch descent. He came to public attention with his entry for the competition to design a new façade for San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome (1732), won by Galilei. As a result, he was commissioned to design the new lazaretto (hospital) in Ancona, a pentagonal fortress-like building (1733–8), and also built the Gesù Church (completed 1743) and the austere Arco Clementino (1735–8) in the same city. He added wings to the Odescalchi Palace (1745–50), enlarged Michelangelo's Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (1748–65—a tour-de-force), and designed the cloister of Sant'Agostino (1746–50—where Borromini's influence is overt), all in Rome.
In 1751 he was called to Naples to build a new Royal Palace of great splendour at Caserta for Carlo III di Borbone, King of the Two Sicilies (1738–59). With its vast internal and external scenographic vistas and octagonal entrance vestibule it had Baroque qualities, but many of the interiors leant towards Neo-Classicism. The building (the main fabric of which was completed in 1774) resembled Robert de Cotte's unexecuted visionary designs for the Royal Palace of Buenretiro near Madrid (1714–15), while Versailles proved another precedent. Associated with the palace were gardens, with elaborate waterworks and ancillary structures designed by Vanvitelli, who was responsible for the aqueduct system (including the 25-mile-long Acquedotto Carolino (1752–64). The Church of the Annunziata (1761—completed by his son Carlo (d. 1821) and the Piazza Dante (1755–67 influenced by Bernini's Piazza di San Pietro, Rome) were also designed by him. He was one of the greatest architects of his time.
Blunt (1975);Defilippis (1968);Fagiolo dell'Arco (1863);Fusco (eg.) (1973);Landolfi (1992);Meeks (1966);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Seta (1998);Strazzullo (ed.) (1976–7);Jane Turner (1996);Vanvitelli (1975);Varallo (2000);Wittkower (1982)