Classical Architecture History
In order to truly understand classical architecture, which stemmed from Greek and Roman architecture during antiquity, one must first understand ancient architecture, which came before it. While, obviously, people were creating structures in the ancient world no matter where they resided, some cities in particular have become quite well known for their ancient architecture. A few sites famous for ancient architectural achievements include:
- Megalithic Europe
Architecture in Mesopotamia
When historians refer to ancient Mesopotamian architecture, they are usually referring to the architecture produced from around the 10th millennium BC to the 6th century BC. The people who built architecture during that period were not labeled as professional architects. Instead, the people behind the buildings were usually a mix of scribes and nobility.
The ancient Mesopotamians were particularly interested in using architecture to plan and advance their cities. Major building materials included clay and mud brick. From these raw materials, Mesopotamians were known for creating large houses with central courtyards and terraced pyramids called ziggurats.
Architecture in Egypt
Most people, even those who have not studied architecture, are familiar with ancient Egyptian architecture to some degree, especially when it comes to the pyramids. The Egyptians were one of history’s most influential and prolific civilizations, so it’s no surprise that they built many amazing structures. These structures include the famous Great Sphinx and Great Pyramid, both located in Giza.
Ancient Egyptians did not have a lot of access to wood, so their main building materials included limestone, other stones, mud brick, sandstone, and granite. Not only were the pyramids constructed from these materials, but so were a great many graves, temples, and palaces.
Architecture in Megalithic Europe
A surprisingly diverse amount of architecture existed in Megalithic Europe, but Europe during this time is best known for its portal tombs. The “walls” of these tombs were constructed with standing stones, while capstones were used to form the roof. While a great many portal tombs were used, as one might expect, to house human remains, historians believe there may have been other, unknown purposes for the structures, since not all of them contain remains.
While portal tombs are definitely the primary architectural structures of Megalithic Europe, other structures were produced, including:
- Port-house slabs
Architecture in Mesoamerica
Mesoamericans, like other peoples before them, did not produce architecture of any kind without sound, well-planned out purposes and reasons. Most structures were intended for public usage, to build and establish cities, and to perform important ceremonial rites. Also, like the Egyptians, the Mesoamericans did create many pyramids. In fact, their pyramids are next in size to the Egyptian pyramids.
It is widely believed that Mesoamerican architecture was heavily influenced by spiritual beliefs held at the time. Cities were likely built with an emphasis on cardinal directions, and almost all Mesoamerican architecture contains religious art or writing.
Classical architecture is architecture that is heavily influenced by or related to Greek and Roman architectural standards held during classical antiquity. This is not to say, however, that other cultures did not produce their own classical architecture. Indeed, much of the world’s architecture from about 600 BC on can be considered classical architecture. The influence of the Greeks and Romans was just that far reaching.
Architecture in Classical Greece
Classical Greece was a powerful cultural period, one that would heavily influence the Roman Empire and eventually lead to the fall of the western part of it. And, Greek architecture as it is now thought of, was largely developed during the classical period. In fact, Greek architecture would not exist, or at least not in the way it currently does, without the strides made during this time.
Architecture in Persia
During what was known as the “classical” period in Greece, important structures were being built in Persia as well, though these structures are not as widely talked about. Some structures commonly built in Persia during this time were:
- Courts of law
Architecture in India
At the same time, in India, the caste system was alive and well, having been recently revived. Another tradition that was alive and very strong was religion, which the people clung to seriously. In fact, because of the people’s devotion to religion, most of the architecture created around this time consisted of Hindu temples.
Without Imperial Rome and the architecture it produced, little, if any, ancient Roman architecture would exist today. Most of the surviving structures are from the later part of this period. And, those structures and the structures before them were heavily influenced by the Etruscans, who were very advanced architecturally. They are believed to have taught the Romans how to construct the arches which the Romans are now so well known for. However, Romans also learned from Greek and Phoenician architecture, making their distinctive style more like a great mix of different styles, though the Romans did improve upon the knowledge they took from other cultures.
The Qin and Han Dynasties
Though in existence much earlier than the classical period and defunct before the period began, the Qin and Han Dynasties must be discussed for the architectural influence they would have during the classical period and the periods to come.
The Han Dynasty saw buildings constructed mostly from timber. The most common types of buildings, which would later be improved upon by classical architects, included palaces, towers, and halls. Few of these structures exist, but their influence can still be seen today.
The Qin Dynasty was focused on making structures for protection during times of war. City walls were reinforced during the Dynasty’s existence, and structures such as towers, gates, and terraces were erected, all styles that would later come into play throughout the world.
Classical architecture is so vast and encompassing. In fact, it is because of this architectural style that today’s architecture now exists. As such, no student of architecture can truly understand the art without going back to its ancient and classical roots.
Classical architecture history courses:
This is Part One of the architecture history. History of Architecture: Classical Times. What are the principles and ideas that shaped architecture and cities through Classical world in Europe and Asia ?
Courses that cover the Classical Period:
- History of Ideas in Architecture 1: The Ancient & Classical Worlds
- Egyptian Pyramids
- The Ziggurat at Ur
- Stonehenge, England
- Viking Tombs Old Uppsala
- Tomb of Ch’in Shih Huang Ti, Mount Li
- Great Stupa at Sanchi
- Anuradhapura Dagobas,Sri Lanka
- Teotihuacan (Piramides de Teotihuacan)
- Temple of Amun-Re, Karnak
- Palace of Minos, Knossos
- The Parthenon, Ancient Athens
- Olympia and Greek Temple of Zeus
- Persepolis Persia
- Chaitya Hall, Karli
- Maison Carree, Nimes
These courses are also available here: Classical Architecture