Explorearchitecture through the ages. This pageprovides a quick history of architecture in the Western world, from prehistoricmegaliths to modernist skyscrapers. Follow the links to find articles andphotos for each period and style. Please note that architecture is a fluid art.Architectural styles do not start and stop at precise times, and the dateslisted here are approximate.
Much ofwhat we know about ancient Egyptis based on great temples and tombs, which were made with granite and limestoneand decorated with hieroglyphics, carvings, and brightly colored frescoes. Theancient Egyptians didn't use mortar, so the stones were carefully cut to fittogether. The development of the pyramid form allowed Egyptians to buildenormous tombs for their kings. The sloping walls could reach great heightsbecause their weight was supported by the wide pyramid base. An innovativeEgyptian named Imhotep is said to have designed one of the earliest of themassive stone monuments, the Step Pyramid of Djoser (2,667 BC - 2,648 BC).
Archaeologicaldiscoveries in Egyptreawakened an interest in the ancient temples and monuments. Egyptian Revivalarchitecture became fashionable during the 1800s. In the early 1900s, thediscovery of King Tut's tomb stirred a fascination for Egyptian artifacts andthe rise of Art Deco architecture.
TheClassical architecture of ancient Greeceand Rome hasshaped the way we build today.
HowClassical Architecture Began?
From therise of ancient Greece untilthe fall of the Roman empire, great buildingswere constructed according to precise rules. The Roman architect MarcusVitruvius, who lived during first century BC, believed that builders should usemathematical principles when constructing temples. "For without symmetryand proportion no temple can have a regular plan," Vitruvius wrote in hisfamous treatise De Architectura, or Ten Books on Architecture (compare prices).
In hiswritings, Marcus Vitruvius introduced the Classical orders, which definedcolumn styles and frieze designs used in Classical architecture. The earliestClassical orders were Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
700 BC-323BC: Greek. The Doric column was first developed in Greeceand it was used for great temples, including the famous Parthenon in Athens. Simple Ioniccolumns were used for smaller temples and building interiors.
323 BC-146BC: Hellenistic. When Greecewas at the height of its power in Europe and Asia,the empire built elaborate temples and secular buildings with Ionic andCorinthian columns. The Hellenistic period ended with conquests by the Roman Empire.
44 BC-476 AD:Roman. The Romans borrowed heavily from the earlier Greek and Hellenisticstyles, but their buildings were more highly ornamented. They used Corinthianand composite style columns along with decorative brackets. The invention ofconcrete allowed the Romans to build arches, vaults, and domes. A famousexample of Roman architecture is the Roman Colosseum.
FromClassical to Neoclassical
More than1,500 years after the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote his important book, theRenaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola outlined Vitruvius's ideas in atreatise titled The Five Orders of Architecture. Published in 1563, The FiveOrders of Architecture became a guide for builders throughout western Europe.
In 1570,another Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio, used the new technology ofmovable type to publish I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura, or The Four Booksof Architecture. In this book, Palladio showed how Classical rules could beused not just for grand temples but also for private villas. Palladio's ideasspread across Europe and into the New World,giving rise to a variety of Neoclassical styles.
Between 373and 500 A.D.,European architecture moved from the rectangular basilica forms to theclassically inspired Byzantine style. Heavier, stocky Romanesque architecture,with rounded arches and other Roman features, became popular between 700 and 1200 A.D.
Theworld-famous Cathedral of Chartres which Rodin called the Acropolis of France,is a remarkable testament to medieval architecture. Must sees include thesculpture, the 12' and 13' century stained glass and the amazing collection ofancient musical instruments. The OldTown of medieval cobbledstreets, gabled houses and charming footbridges lies at the foot of thecathedral.
Romanesquearchitecture is the term that is used to describe the architecture of MedievalEurope, characterised by semi-circular arches, and evolving into the Gothicstyle, characterised by pointed arches, beginning in the 12th century. The term"Romanesque", meaning "descended from Roman", was firstused to describe the style in the early 19th century. Although there is no consensusfor the beginning date of the style, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the10th centuries, examples can be found across the continent, making Romanesquearchitecture the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial RomanArchitecture. The Romanesque style in England is more traditionallyreferred to as Norman architecture.
Combiningfeatures of Western Roman and Byzantine buildings, Romanesque architecture isknown by its massive quality, its thick walls, round arches, sturdy piers,groin vaults, large towers and decorative arcading. Each building has clearlydefined forms and they are frequently of very regular, symmetrical plan so thatthe overall appearance is one of simplicity when compared with the Gothicbuildings that were to follow. The style can be identified right across Europe, despite regional characteristics and differentmaterials.
Manycastles were built during this period, but they are greatly outnumbered bychurches. The most significant are the great abbey churches, many of which arestill standing, more or less complete and frequently in use
Early inthe 12th century, new ways of building meant that cathedrals and other largebuildings could reach soaring heights.
How GothicArchitecture Began?
Gothicarchitecture began mainly in Francewhere builders began to adapt the earlier Romanesque style. Builders were alsoinfluenced by the pointed arches and elaborate stonework of Moorisharchitecture in Spain.One of the earliest Gothic buildings was the ambulatory of the abbey of St.Denis in France, built between 1140 and 1144.
Originally,Gothic architecture was known as the French Style. During the Renaissance,after the French Style had fallen out of fashion, artisans mocked it. Theycoined the word Gothic to suggest that French Style buildings were the crudework of German (Goth) barbarians. Although the label wasn't accurate, the nameGothic remained.
Gothicarchitecture has many of these features:
-PointedArches. Gothic builders found that pointed arches could support more weightthan perpendicular walls. With pointed arches supporting the roof, walls couldbe thinner.
-RibbedVaulting. Instead of solid walls, builders used a series of columns thatbranched up into arches. With fewer solid walls, buildings appeared lighter andmore delicate.
-FlyingButtresses. Free-standing brick and stone arches helped support exterior walls,allowing them to reach greater heights.
-StainedGlass Windows. Since the walls were no longer the only supports, Gothicbuildings could include large areas of glass.
-ElaborateSculptures. Gargoyles and other sculptures had both practical and decorativefunctions.
Between 1400and 1600, Classical ideas were reborn in Italyand northern Europe. This period is known asthe Renaissance, which means born anew in French. Before thedawn of the Renaissance, Europe was dominatedby asymmetrical and ornate Gothic architecture. During the Renaissance,however, architects were inspired by the highly symmetrical and carefullyproportioned buildings of Classical Greece and Rome.
Features ofRenaissance Buildings:
-Symmetricalarrangement of windows and doors
-Extensiveuse of Classical columns and pilasters
Phases ofthe Renaissance:
Artists in Northern Italy were exploring new ideas for centuriesbefore the period we call the Renaissance. However, the 1400s and 1500s broughtan explosion of talent and innovation. During the early 1400s, the painter andarchitect Filippo Brunelleschi designed the great Duomo (cathedral) dome.Brunelleschi also rediscovered the principles of linear perspective.
During the1500s, the great Renaissance painter Michelangelo Buonarroti painted theceiling of the Sistine Chapel and designed the dome for St. Peter's Basilicain the Vatican.A Classical approach to architecture spread through Europe,thanks to books by two important Renaissance architects:
The FiveOrders of Architecture (compare prices) by Giacomo da Vignola
The FourBooks of Architecture (compare prices) by Andrea Palladio
AsRenaissance approaches to building spread to France,Spain, Holland,Germany, Russia, and England, each country incorporatedits own building traditions and created its own version of Classicism. By the1600s, ornate Baroque architecture emerged and became the dominant style in Europe.
Long afterthe Renaissance period ended, however, architects were inspired by Renaissanceideas. At the turn of the twentieth century, American architects like RichardMorris Hunt designed grand Renaissance Revival style homes that resembledpalaces and villas from Renaissance Italy.
Rococoarchitecture was a variation of baroque. It began in the eighteenth century at Versailles. It waslighter, more graceful, and more subdued than baroque architecture. Rococo gotits name from the French word rocaille, meaning rocks and shells. Most of therococo decorations were natural forms such as tree branches, clouds, flowers,sea shells, surf, coral, seaweed, spray, and scrolls. Many colors that wereused were pastels, but they also used lots of gold. Most rococorooms were rectangular with rounded corners, and the walls were mostly flat,and smooth. Doors and woodwork had minor carvings, the carvings were not deeplike in baroque buildings. The often had decorations and gilding on the walls,doors, and draperies. Windows, wall panels, and doors often went all the wayfrom the floor to the ceiling. Mirrors were also common. Rococoarchitecture was common among the French aristocracy. For that reason, it wasunpopular among the common people, and did not last long.
In Italian,the word barocco means bizarre, and Baroque architecture certainly was extravagant.
Buildings in the Baroque style have many of these features:
Elements ofthe elaborate Baroque style are found throughout Europe and also traveled to Latin America and European settlements around the world.While Baroque architecture was always highly decorated, it found expression inmany ways.
ItalianBaroque: Catholic Popes in Italywanted architecture to express holy splendor. They commissioned churches withenormous domes, swirling forms, huge spiraled columns, multicolored marble, andlavish murals. The same exuberance was expressed in non-religious buildings.Example: The Trevi Fountain in Rome.
FrenchBaroque: The Baroque style became more restrained in France. While lavish details wereused, French buildings were usually symmetrical and orderly. The Palace of Versailles shown above is a landmarkexample.
EnglishBaroque: Baroque architecture emerged in England after the Great Fire ofLondon in 1666. Architect Christopher Wren used restrained Baroque styling whenhe helped rebuild the city. Example: St.Paul's Cathedral
Spain and Latin America: Builders in Spain, Mexico,and South America combined Baroque ideas withexuberant sculptures, Moorish details, and extreme contrasts between light anddark. Called Churrigueresque after a Spanish family of sculptors andarchitects, Spanish Baroque architecture was used through the mid-1700s, andcontinued to be imitated much later. Example: Casa del Prado in California is a lavishre-invention of Spanish Baroque, or Churrigueresque, architecture.
Rococo: In Germany, Austria,Eastern Europe, and Russia,Baroque ideas were often applied with a lighter touch. Pale colors and curvingshell shapes gave buildings the delicate appearance of a frosted cake. The termRococo is often used to describe these softer versions of the Baroque style.Example: Hermitage Winter Palacein St. Petersburg, Russia
The BaroquePeriod in History
Music.Famous names include Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi.
Art. Famousnames include Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Velázquez.
Science andInventions. Famous names include Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton.
1690s - 1830: Georgian ColonialHouse Styles
GeorgianColonial homes usually have these features: Square, symmetrical shape, Paneledfront door at center, Decorativecrown over front door, Flattenedcolumns on each side of door, Fivewindows across front, Pairedchimneys, Mediumpitched roof, Minimalroof overhang, Square,symmetrical shape, Paneledfront door at center, Decorativecrown over front door, Flattenedcolumns on each side of door, Fivewindows across front, Pairedchimneys, Mediumpitched roof, Minimalroof overhang, ManyGeorgian Colonial homes also have: Nine or twelve small window panes in eachwindow sash, Dentil molding(square, tooth-like cuts) along the eaves, Nine ortwelve small window panes in each window sash, Dentilmolding (square, tooth-like cuts) along the eaves, About theGeorgian Colonial Style
GeorgianColonial became the rave in New England andthe Southern colonies during the 1700's. Stately and symmetrical, these homesimitated the larger, more elaborate Georgian homes which were being built in England. Butthe genesis of the style goes back much farther. During the reign of KingGeorge I in the early 1700's, and King George III later in the century, Britonsdrew inspiration from the Italian Renaissance and from ancient GreeceRome. Georgianideals came to New England via pattern books,and Georgian styling became a favorite of well-to-do colonists. More humbledwellings also took on characteristics of the Georgian style. America's Georgian homes tend to be less ornatethan those found in Britain.
Neoclassical,or "new" classical, architecture describes buildings that areinspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greeceand Rome. During the1700s, architects began to turn away from elaborate Baroque and Rococo styles.The Classical architecture of ancient Greeceand Rome becamea model for restrained Neoclassical, or Neo-classical, styles.
ANeoclassical building may have some (but not necessarily all) of thesefeatures:
Tallcolumns that rise the full height of the building
The Rise ofNeoclassical Architecture
In 1563,Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola outlined the principles of Classicalarchitecture in a treatise titled The Five Orders of Architecture. A few yearslater, another Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio, described his ownapproach to Classical architecture in The Four Books of Architecture. These bookswere widely translated and inspired builders throughout western Europe. In thelate 1700s and early 1800s, the newly-formed United States also drew uponclassical ideals to construct grand government buildings and smaller privatehomes.
The wordNeoclassical is often used to describe an architectural style, butNeoclassicism is not actually any one distinct style. Neoclassicism is a trend,or approach to design, that can describe several very different styles. Youwill find Neoclassicsm in: Antebellum Architecture, Statelyplantation homes built before America'sCivil War were often inspired by classical architecture, Beaux ArtsArchitecture
In the late1800s and early 1900s, ancient Greek and Roman ideas were combined withbalustrades, balconies, and lavish decoration.
1825 - 1860: Greek Revival
Withdetails reminiscent of the Parthenon, stately, pillared Greek Revival homesreflect a passion for antiquity.
GreekRevival houses usually have these features: Pedimented gable, Symmetricalshape, Heavycornice, Wide, plainfrieze, Bold,simple moldings, Pedimentedgable, Symmetricalshape, Heavycornice, Wide and plainfrieze, Bold and simple moldings
Many GreekRevival houses also have these features:
Entry porch with columns, Decorativepilasters, Narrowwindows around front door, Entry porchwith columns, Decorativepilaster, Narrowwindows around front door
About theGreek Revival Style
In themid-19th century, many prosperous Americans believed that ancient Greecerepresented the spirit of democracy. Interest in British styles had wanedduring the bitter War of 1812. Also, many Americans sympathized with Greece's ownstruggles for independence in the 1820s. GreekRevival architecture began with public buildings in Philadelphia. Many European-trainedarchitects designed in the popular Grecian style, and the fashion spread viacarpenter's guides and pattern books. Colonnaded Greek Revival mansions -sometimes called Southern Colonial houses - sprang up throughout the Americansouth. With its classic clapboard exterior and bold, simple lines, GreekRevival architecture became the most predominant housing style in the United States. During thesecond half of the 19th century, Gothic Revival and Italianate styles capturedthe American imagination. Grecian ideas faded from popularity. However,front-gable design - a trademark of the Greek Revival style - continued toinfluence the shape of American houses well into the 20th century. You willnotice the classic front-gable design in simple "National Style" farmhouses throughout the UnitedStates.
VictorianArchitecture 1840 to1900
What,exactly, is a Victorian? Many people use the term to describe an architecturalstyle. However, Victorian is not really a style but a period in history. TheVictorian era dates from about 1840 to 1900. During this time,industrialization brought many innovations in architecture. There are a varietyof Victorian styles, each with its own distinctive features.
The mostpopular Victorian styles spread quickly through widely published pattern books.Builders often borrowed characteristics from several different styles, creatingunique, and sometimes quirky, mixes. Buildings constructed during the Victoriantimes usually have characteristics of one or more these styles:
VictorianGothic buildings feature arches, pointed windows, and other details borrowedfrom the middle ages. Masonry Gothic Revival buildings were often closereplicas of Medieval cathedrals. Wood-frame Gothic Revival buildings often hadlacy "gingerbread" trim and other playful details.
Rebellingagainst formal, classical architecture, Italianate became the one of the mostpopular styles in the UnitedStates. With low roofs, wide eaves, andornamental brackets, Italianate is sometimes called the bracketed style
-Second Empire or Mansard Style
Characterizedby their boxy mansard roofs, these buildings were inspired by the architecturein Paris duringthe reign of Napoleon III.
Trusses andstickwork suggest medieval building techniques on these relatively plainVictorian buildings.
Just plainfolk could afford these no-fuss homes, using trimwork made possible by massproduction.
Often builtin costal areas, these shingle-sided homes are rambling and austere. But, thesimplicity of the style is deceptive. The Shingle Style was adopted by thewealthy for grand estates.
ArchitectHenry Hobson Richardson is often credited with popularizing these romanticbuildings. Constructed of stone, they resemble small castles. Romanesque wasused more often for large public buildings, but some private homes were alsobuilt in the imposing Romanesque style.
-VictorianQueen Anne Architecture
Queen Anneis the most elaborate of the Victorian styles. Buildings are ornamented withtowers, turrets, wrap around porches, and other fanciful details.
Arts and Crafts Architecture
Arts andCrafts was a late 19th-century movement to revive handicrafts. Arts and Craftsarchitecture sought a spiritual connection with the surrounding environment,both natural and manmade.
When wespeak of Craftsman houses, we often think of bungalows. But in the early 1900s,many types of homes were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement.
A Bungalowis an early 20th century home with these features:
One and ahalf stories
Most of theliving spaces on the ground floor
Low-pitchedroof and horizontal shape
Living roomat the center
Connectingrooms without hallways
Built-incabinets, shelves, and seats
Bungalowhouses may relect many different architectural styles, and the word Bungalow isoften used for any small 20th century home that uses space efficiently.
Art Nouveau Architecture
During thelate 1800s, many European artists, graphic designers, and architects rebelledagainst formal, classical approaches to design. They believed that the greatestbeauty could be found in nature. Art Nouveau(French for "New Style") was popularized by the famous Maison del'Art Nouveau, a Parisart gallery operated by Siegfried Bing. Art Nouveau art and architectureflourished in major European cities between 1890 and 1914. In the United States,Art Nouveau ideas were expressed in the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, LouisSullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Art Nouveaubuildings have many of these features:
Extensiveuse of arches and curved forms
Other Namesfor Art Nouveau:
As it movedthrough Europe, Art Nouveau went throughseveral phases and took on a variety of names. Style Moderne, in France
Style Nouille(Noodle Style), in France
Stile Liberty, in Italy
Arte Noven,in Spain
In Riga, Art Nouveau
1885-1925: Beaux Arts
Combiningclassical Greek and Roman architecture with Renaissance ideas, Beaux Arts was afavored style for grand public buildings and opulent mansions.
Beaux Artsbuildings have many of these features: Massive andgrandiose, Constructedwith stone, Balustrades, Balconies, Columns, Cornices, Pilasters. Triangularpediments, Lavishdecorations, Grandstairway, Largearches, Symmetricalfaçade
About theBeaux Arts Style
The BeauxArts (French for "fine art") style originated in the École des BeauxArts in Paris.Many American architects studied at this legendary architectural school, wherethey learned about the aesthetic principles of classical design and broughtthem to the United States.
Also knownas Beaux Arts Classicism, Academic Classicism, or Classical Revival, Beaux Artsis a late and eclectic form of Neoclassicism. It combines classicalarchitecture from ancient Greeceand Rome withRenaissance ideas. Beaux Arts is characterized by order, symmetry, formaldesign, grandiosity, and elaborate ornamentation. In the United States,the Beaux Arts style led to planned neighborhoods with large, showy houses,wide boulevards, and vast parks. Due to the size and grandiosity of thebuildings, the Beaux Arts style is most commonly used for public buildings likemuseums, railway stations, libraries, banks, courthouses, and governmentbuildings.
Thepopularity of the Beaux Arts style waned in the 1920's, and within 25 years thebuildings were considered ostentatious. Later in the 20th century,postmodernists rediscovered an appreciation of the Beaux Arts ideals.
20thcentury Neo-Gothic skyscrapers borrowed details from medieval Gothicarchitecture. The Tribune Tower in Chicagois an example of Neo-Gothic design.
GothicRevival was a Victorian style that borrowed details from Gothic cathedrals andother medieval architecture. In the early twentieth century, Gothic Revivalideas were applied to modern skyscrapers. Twentieth Century Gothic Revivalbuildings are often called Neo-Gothic.
Neo-Gothicbuildings have many of these features: Strongvertical lines and a sense of great height, Pointedwindows with decorative tracery, Gargoylesand other carvings, Pinnacles
The Chicago Tribune Towershown here was built in 1924. The architects Raymond Hood and John Howells wereselected over many other architects to design the building. Their Neo-Gothicdesign may have appealed to the judges because it reflected a conservative(some critics said "regressive") approach.
1925-1937: Art Deco
With theirsleek forms and zigzag designs, Art Deco buildings embraced the machine age.
The ArtDeco style evolved from many sources. The austere shapes of the Bauhaus Schooland streamlined styling of modern technology combined with patterns and iconstaken from the Far East, classical Greece and Rome, Africa, Ancient Egypt,India, and Mayan and Aztec cultures.
Art Decobuildings have many of these features:
Zigguratshapes: Terraced pyramid with each story smaller than the one below it
Complexgroupings of rectangles or trapezoids
Strongsense of line
By the1930s, Art Deco evolved into a more simplified style known as StreamlinedModerne, or Art Moderne. The emphasis was on sleek, curving forms and longhorizontal lines. These buildings did not feature zigzag or colorful designsfound on earlier Art Deco architecture.
Famous ArtDeco Buildings
-The Chrysler Buildingin New York Citywas built in 1930. For a few months, this Art Deco skyscraper was the talleststructure in the world. It was also one of the first buildings composed ofstainless steel over a large exposed surface.
-Thearchitect, William Van Alen, drew inspiration from machine technology for theornamental details on the ChryslerBuilding: There are eaglehood ornaments, hubcaps and abstract images of cars.