Classical architecture developed out of a straightforward construction & emerged as an expressive, poetic language of built form. Roman classicism is regarded as the foundation of the architecture of western civilization. The relearning of ancient roman culture occurred in the renaissance it began with the study of Roman literature, philosophy, history & sculpture.
Renaissance architects were at a loss on how to design new buildings using the classical language, that is until an important discovery was made in the ancient treatise on architecture by an architect named Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. This detailed documentation on construction, materials & techniques proved useful in reviving classical design principles.
Classical architecture refers to a style of buildings originally constructed by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, especially between the fifth century BC in Greece and the third century AD in Rome. The style of classical architecture has been reproduced throughout architectural history whenever architects looked to the ancient past for illumination and inspiration and in search of what they may have regarded as lost ideals.
Classical buildings in ancient Greek and Roman times were typically built from marble or some other attractive, durable stone, but since then, they have also been built in brick, concrete, and stone. The architecture was primarily trabeated (post and beam) and evolved from timber origins.
Greek architecture followed a highly structured system of proportions that related individual architectural components to the whole building. This system was developed according to three basic styles, or ‘orders’ – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – that formed the heart of classical Greek architecture. The Romans also used these widely but added two of their own orders: Tuscan and Composite.
1. Parthenon | Classical Architecture
The Parthenon was constructed between 447-432 BCE, to be the focus of the Acropolis building complex. The Parthenon is a temple of the Doric order with eight columns at the façade, and seventeen columns at the flanks. Parthenon’s position on the Acropolis dominates the city skyline of Athens.
The temple’s main function was to shelter the monumental statue of Athena. All temples in Greece were designed to be seen only from the outside. The viewers did not enter the temple and could only glance at the interior statues through the open doors.
The Parthenon was the most notable temple on the Acropolis. The Erechtheion was another building that was created to accommodate the religious rituals that the old temple housed. Construction of the Erechtheion began and was concluded around 406 B.C. The temple faces east and its entrance is lined with six long Ionic columns. To the north and west, the wall of the temple drops dramatically to almost twice the altitude of the front and south sides. The temple includes two porches; one at the northwest corner which is supported by tall Ionic columns, and one at the southwest corner which is supported by six massive female statues, the famous Caryatids.
The Hephaisteion, also known as the Temple of Hephaistos, is located at the top of the hill of the Agora. It was dedicated to Hephaistos, god of the furnace, and Athena, goddess of arts and craft. The construction started around 460-450 BCE. In ancient times, many artisans lived in the vicinity. Furthermore, the temple is almost entirely made of Pentelic marble. However, the base is made of limestone. Furthermore, it has 34 columns; 6 each in the front and rear, and 13 each side. In the seventh century, the temple was converted into the church of St. Georgios.
The Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was built in 70–80 A.D. and could accommodate 60,000 seated people and 10,000 standing individuals. The colosseum has 80 entrances. It is the largest amphitheater ever built and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering.
5. Maison Carree | Classical Architecture
Maison Carrée is one of the best-preserved temples of the Roman Empire and it is in Nîmes, southern France. It was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and opened around 16 – 20 B.C. It was so influential during the Classical Revival, that it inspired many monumental buildings such Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia State Capitol in 1788 and La Madeleine located in Paris in 1806. It was built using local limestone by architects from Rome. It is elevated on a tall podium nearly 10 feet high and approached by a monumental flight of stairs on the west end. Despite the temple’s French name, which means “Square House,” the building is rectangular and has a single portico on the west side, comprising of six 33-feet high Corinthian columns.
6. Temple of Apollo, Pompeii
The Temple of Apollo in Corinth Greece has been dated to be constructed around 540 BC. It was built to replace an earlier temple. The temple was built in the Doric style. It had 6 columns at each end, and 15 along each side. Furthermore, it was 53m (174 feet) long and 21m (70 feet) wide.
The Doric columns are made from single pieces of stone. The stone used was limestone and had a surface of white marble stucco apply to it. It is documented that the Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias who may have written his descriptions between 155 and 180 AD, recorded that there was a bronze statue of Apollo in the Temple.
The Pantheon is a building in Rome, Italy. The Pantheon is devoted to the worship of every god. “Pan” means every, and “Theon” refers to divinity. The Pantheon was built by Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D.
Statesman and General Marcus Agrippa were responsible for the construction of the original church and the inscription can be seen over the portico.
In 609, it was converted into a Christian Church by Pope Boniface IV and consecrated to Santa Maria of the Martyrs. Around 1870 it was converted into a memorial chapel for the kings of Italy. The tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I, and Margherita of Savoy are kept in the pantheon, along with the celebrated Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, who is more often referred to as simply Raphael.
8. Birmingham Town Hall
Birmingham Town Hall is a Grade I listed concert hall and venue for popular assemblies opened in 1834 and situated in Victoria Square, Birmingham, England. The first of the monumental town halls that would come to characterise the cities of Victorian England, Birmingham Town Hall was also the first significant work of the 19th century revival of Roman architecture, a style chosen here in the context of the highly charged radicalism of 1830s Birmingham, for its republican associations. The design was based on the proportions of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. “Perfect and aloof” on a tall, rusticated podium, it marked an entirely new concept in English
9. The Civic Center, San Francisco
The Civic Center in San Francisco, California, is an area of a few blocks north of the intersection of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue that contains many of the city’s largest government and cultural institutions. It has two large plazas (Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza) and a number of buildings in classical architectural style. The United Nations Charter was signed in the War Memorial Veterans Building’s Herbst Theatre in 1945, leading to the creation of the United Nations.
10. Hotel Ritz, Paris | Classical Architecture
The Hotel Ritz is a grand palatial hotel in the heart of Paris, in the 1st arrondissement. It overlooks the octagonal border of the Place Vendôme at number 15. The hotel is ranked highly among the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in the world and is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”. The hotel was constructed behind the façade of an eighteenth-century town house. It was among the first hotels in Europe to provide an en suite bathroom, electricity, and a telephone for each room. It quickly established a reputation for luxury and attracted a clientele that included royalty, politicians, writers, film stars, and singers. Several of its suites are named in honour of famous guests of the hotel including Coco Chanel, and the cocktail lounge Bar Hemingway pays tribute to writer Ernest Hemingway.