Architecture in Europe narrates an enthralling tale of cultures, movements, war, kingdoms, governments, religions, and people. It is beyond cathedrals and castles, classical columns and flying buttresses, piazzas, and museums; it settles somewhere in between the Parthenon and Eiffel Tower and broadens its arm till the Guggenheim. Entire cities in Europe stand as breathing examples of values, beliefs, trends, and evolutions in architecture, technology, and urban mechanisms. It boasts a long and strong history and influences of varied cultures and traditions that blend to create the recipe to its distinct architectural identity. This article lists the different cultures, periods, revolutions, and movements that have built the architecture of Europe.
1. Ancient Greek
The Ancient Greek Civilization that flourished between 500BC and 300BC, holds its influence in the modern world. Their philosophy and life were based on rational thinking and contributed majorly to science and mathematics. Greek Architecture was focused on public spaces and temples. It was a physical manifestation of concepts of Geometry, Perspective, and Proportion. The classical architectural order – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian established a foundation of architecture to be followed in the coming centuries. The Greeks also built amphitheaters with astounding acoustical qualities and stadia for organizing the modern-day ‘Olympics’. Literature, Theatre, and Sports were a crucial part of the Greek culture, as evident in their architecture.
2. Ancient Roman
Lasting for almost 1200 years, the Ancient Roman Empire spread in most parts of Europe and Britain. Built on Grecian culture, it shaped almost every facet of the western culture as we know it. Roman architecture stands witness to the social life, engineering innovations, and military expansion of the era. Roman aqueducts, transported water, facilitating the rise of cities and public health. They built networks of roads to connect the widespread empire. Public baths with set temperatures and forums added to the social gathering places. The Romans invented concrete as a building material and developed a new construction system based on arch and dome. No wonder their buildings and bridges stand strong to date.
3. Early Christian
The period of the Roman Empire saw the birth of Jesus Christ and the emergence of Christianity. Until the 3rd century, Christianity had penetrated most Roman provinces and a need for architecture for the new religion aroused. Roman Basilicas, with long rectangular halls and timber roofs, essentially turned into the early churches and meeting places for Christians. In 380AD, under the rule of Constantine, Christianity became a state religion, and an entirely new vocabulary of architecture for churches, burial grounds, and baptisteries evolved. Variations in character and plans of churches reflected the local traditions and resources.
4. Byzantine Culture
The roots of Byzantine Culture lie in the Greek and Roman dogmas, mixed with Christian themes. The central idea of the Byzantine Culture, which flourished under Emperor Justinian in 550AD, was Christian Orthodoxy. Family life, marriage, celibacy were important parts of the culture and majorly revolved around religion. Churches were held with much reverence and adopted more centralized with Greek Cross plans. Heightened, elaborate interiors adorned with mosaics, clerestories, and use of pendentive arches to support the dome became characteristic features of Byzantine churches. Byzantine Culture was predominant in Eastern Europe, especially Russia.
By Gary Ullah from the UK – Basilica San Marco, CC BY 2.0, ©commons.wikimedia.org
5. Romanesque Period
The revival of arts and architecture towards the end of the Dark Ages in the 11th century is marked by the Romanesque period. The first distinctive style of architecture since the fall of the Roman Empire, Romanesque covered all the derivatives of Roman architecture in Western Europe. Massive castles and churches built in heavy stone masonry, with sturdy piers and thick walls, few windows, and groin vaults were typical of this period. The growing influence of Christianity in Rome led to the building of larger churches to accommodate numerous priests, monks, and pilgrims. Stone was used as a building material to prevent fires.
6. Gothic Architecture
Predominantly a style of architecture, Gothic flourished in the Late Middle Ages between the 12th and 16th centuries. Originating in France, it grew out of the Romanesque style and was representative of the prosperity and relative peace that enhanced cultural advances. Gothic cathedrals and churches were graceful expressions of geometrical harmony, flooded with light from the large stained windows, striving towards heaven. The pointed arch, a characteristic feature of Gothic architecture, was likely to be influenced by Islamic architecture in Spain. Ribbed vaults and flying buttresses were an engineering feat in the wake of building construction.
7. Renaissance Period
Renaissance, meaning ‘re-birth’, is a period that marked the revival of classical philosophy, art, literature, and architecture following the Middle Ages. Advances in international trade, economic and political stability set the stage for the ‘rebirth’ of art and culture. Humanism, a belief that portrayed humans at the center of the universe, gained momentum and led to the questioning of Christian values. A seamless understanding of interconnections between art, architecture, and science was established. Da Vinci, Bramante, Michelangelo, Shakespeare were amongst the Renaissance geniuses. Renaissance architecture featured the revival of the Roman order of columns and large spanning domes, resultant of developments in science and engineering.
8. Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution that came about in the 18th century, transformed the way people lived and worked. Manufacturing of goods shifted from small shops and houses to large factories leading people to move to cities for better job opportunities. Innovations in technology, construction materials, and transportations brought about a shift in cultural paradigms. An era of large spanning structures in cast iron, steel, and glass set in. The overcrowding of cities also led to the building of mass-housing for factory workers and infrastructure to support newer means of transport. Newer technologies and materials facilitated rapid building for the growing urban population.
9. Modern Movement
In the period between the two World Wars, Europe was swayed with the Modern Movement that continues to be a part of architectural practices to date. Modernism meant breaking free from the shackles of history and reflected a desire to create new art forms, dogmas, social organizations, and architecture to cater to a newly emerging world. Architects embraced the ideas of minimalism and philosophized that the form of a building must follow its function. Glass, Steel, and Reinforced Concrete combined with innovative construction technologies led the way distinct building typologies of the industrial world. Modern architecture further paved the way for Deconstructivist and Post-Modern styles.