What is Classical Architecture?

Ancient Greece and Rome gave rise to classical architecture, which is distinguished by symmetry, columns, rectangular windows, and marble, to name a few. Throughout the ages, architects have drawn inspiration from these civilizations and incorporated traditional values into later architectural forms. In a broad sense, every architecture that is descended from the ancient Greeks and Romans can be considered classical. In this article, we will talk about the Greek and Roman classical architecture.

In the continuation of the article, you will find many details on the characteristics of classical architecture, how it emerged in history, and the effects of Roman and Greek architecture on the classical architectural period.

Erechtheion Credit: Classic Architecture: 10 Iconic structures of Classical Architecture (re-thinkingthefuture.com)

Emergence of Classical Architecture in History

In the 5th century BC in Greece and the 3rd century AD in Rome, classical architecture was built. Over time, the look underwent numerous revivals. Romanesque architecture was being restored by architects throughout the Italian Renaissance. Greek architecture was revived by Pompeii excavations centuries later in Europe. Greek Revival, the equivalent architectural style, gained popularity. Greek proportion and structural soundness were major themes in this design.

Temple of Apollo Pompeii Credit: Classic Architecture: 10 Iconic structures of Classical Architecture (re-thinkingthefuture.com)

For a very long time, roughly from the Renaissance to the rise of modernism, classical architectural styles dominated Western architecture. That is to say, during a significant portion of Modern history, architectural endeavors in the West were thought to be primarily inspired by ancient antiquity, at least in theory.

Classical Greek Architecture

Architecture is one of the greatest artistic disciplines that ancient Greece contributed to the globe. The first time that standardized norms were introduced, they were in ancient Greek architecture, which later greatly affected Roman architecture and, via it, modern architecture.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus Credit: 10 Best Examples of Ancient Greek Architecture (thearchitecturedesigns.com)

The Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian architectural orders emerged in ancient Greek architecture during its early development in the Classical period. The columns of each of these orders have distinctive characteristics that made them stand out in formal public structures like stadiums and theaters.

3 Types of Greek Columns Credit: The Three Orders of Greek Architecture – Athens and Beyond

The Doric order is the earliest of the three orders of classical architecture, and it also marks a significant turning point in the development of Mediterranean architecture because it marks the transition of monumental construction from temporary materials, such as wood, to permanent ones, namely stone.

Choragic Monument of Lysicrates Credit: The Three Orders of Greek Architecture – Athens and Beyond

Classical Roman Architecture

For the needs of the ancient Romans, ancient Roman architecture borrowed the outside language of classical Greek architecture, but was distinct from Greek buildings and developed into a new architectural style. They are frequently regarded as one body of classical architecture.

The Roman Colosseum Credit: A Guide to Classical Roman Architecture – A Scholarly Skater

Roman architecture flourished throughout the Roman Republic and even more so during the Roman Empire, when the vast majority of the remaining structures were built. Buildings were often robust and well-engineered thanks to the use of new materials, including Roman concrete, and more modern techniques like the arch and the dome.

Once they had combined elements of the originally Etruscan architecture with others taken from Greece, including the majority of the style we now call classical architecture, the Romans only really started to achieve significant originality in architecture around the beginning of the Imperial period

Pantheon Credit: The Pantheon (article) | Ancient Rome | Khan Academy
Pantheon Credit: The Pantheon (article) | Ancient Rome | Khan Academy

They transitioned from trabeated structure, which was mostly focused on columns and lintels, to one that was based on thick walls, interrupted by arches, and subsequently domes, both of which underwent significant development under the Romans. With the exception of colonnades, the ancient orders were now primarily aesthetic rather than structural.

The Pont du Gard Credit: A Guide to Classical Roman Architecture – A Scholarly Skate
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