‘Architecture should speak of its Time and Place, but yearn for Timelessness.’ – Frank Ghery
Architecture is an ever-changing and incremental artform. The transition from the primitive stone construction prevailing in the Neolithic Age to the 3d printed stanchions was a gradual, yet significant one. The essence of this graceful transition is concealed within Traditional Architecture spread across multiple countries and cultures.
The Ancient Greeks laid the foundation for the fundamentals of building which were revered and implemented by the Romans followed by interventions in Eastern Asia. Elsewhere, in South Asia, Temple Traditions, and Mausoleums were paving a way for a new aesthetic containing classic lessons to be remembered.
Here are the ten fundamentals aspects we can learn from Traditional Architecture.
1. Aiming for Finesse
Constructed nearly four hundred years before the advent of the Common Era, the Parthenon is a symbol of liberal verdicts, autonomy and supremacy of Ancient Greece. Situated in the Athenian Acropolis, the complex is an excellent paradigm of perfection and refined detail in Traditional Greek Architecture. The complex manifests from the elemental Post and Lintel system featuring intricate embellishments on the Pediments and Columns.
Encompassing a Cella and two Porches, the elevation of the temple exhibits plain, towering Doric Orders whereas the Cella maintains slender Ionic Orders of remarkable elegance. The massive proportions, flawless finesse, and inimitable ornamentation establish the Greek Parthenon as a source of undying inspiration.
2. Use of Pure Forms
Engineered during the second century of the Common Era, the Pantheon is a marvel of Prehistoric Roman Architecture. The archaic temple is symmetrical in plan and it demonstrates a pure geometry in the area as well as volume. Legends suggest the meticulous scale of the temple enables it to be circumscribed in a cube accurately.
The entrance facade of the temple showcases two neat rows of Corinthian Orders sheltered by a Triangular Pediment. After entering via this doorway, the pilgrim encounters a Portico, an Antechamber, and then the sacred Cella.
3. Application of Sustaining Strategies
Unlike its contemporaries, the Cella of the Pantheon is molded in a Rotunda and is crowned by a Coffered Dome. To sustain its heavy weight, the dome comprises a Travertine base followed by lightweight Terracotta Tiles, porous Pumice, and Tufa stones forging the world’s largest Unreinforced Dome. The top of this concealed mound embraces a celebrated element of Traditional Roman Architecture, a puncture called the Oculus.
The Oculus is not only an inlet for light, but it also reduces the load of the dome at its weakest point and increases stability. Thus, simple geometric forms, sound construction strategies, and skillful use of light impart a timeless characteristic to a Roman Temple of the bygone era.
4. Associating with Tokens of the Present
Early Japanese Gardens obeyed Taoist doctrines prevailing in China, perceiving ‘Garden’ as an ‘Island’, consisting of a central, colossal boulder with Elliptical Evergreen Foliages surrounded by extensive amounts of water. However, Civil Wars ravaged the nation during the second half of the 11th Century.
As a result, the Evergreen Foliages were replaced by Deciduous shades blooming vibrantly in spring and fading in winter. This seemingly diminutive gesture resonated with the unpredictable state of the nation owing to an impending war. Moreover, the seasonal trees served as a reminder of altering affairs of life amidst fear and anxiety thus acting as a lens to view the present day.
5. Associating with Tokens of the Eternal Glory
Unlike its predecessor, the Zen Gardens in Japan were parched sandy plains dominated by rocks. Mirroring Buddhist postulates, Zen gardens were intended for achieving greater awareness of one’s surroundings, realizing the greater truths of life, and mastering the art of meditation.
Often, white sands were raked in wavy patterns which depicted ripples in a stream of water and also encouraged pupils to cultivate a calm demeanor. Thus, Zen Gardens draw inspiration from immortal attributes of life extracting a ceaseless relevance from Traditional Japanese Architecture.
6. Translating Symbolic Semblances
Located in the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, the Sanchi Stupa is the most notable memorial of Traditional Buddhist Architecture. The Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka, the propagator of Buddhism in India and is believed to encase the relics of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Conceived from a large mound of earth, the base of the Stupa resembles the Legs of the Enlightened One, the hemisphere resembles the Torso and the Chhatri at the top is a notion of Head of the great philosopher. Thus, the Stupa at Sanchi is a translation of figurative facets into realistic edifices.
7. Developing Dynamic Urbanscapes
The primordial city of Madurai is the nucleus of Ardent Veneration, Matriarchal Lineage, and Enduring Culture of the Southern plateaus of the Indian Subcontinent. Early records of the streetscape of Madurai suggest termination of all streets at a single Focal Point, the present-day Meenakshi Temple.
Over the centuries, the temple expanded in a series of fortified Concentric Courtyards, colloquially known as the ‘Prakramas’ transitioning first into a Fort and then a City. The bulky walls bounding the courtyards safeguarded the sacred centre from its Islamic counterparts and provided room for smaller shrines and multiple congregation spaces culminating at the Main Shrine.
8. Demarcating Cardinal Entrance Portals
While approaching the Meenakshi Temple, one comes across prodigious entrance portals, demarcating admission to holy complexes. Situated in all four directions piercing each concentric courtyard, the Gopurams colorful Gateways sculpted in Brick and Stucco with sculptures of deities narrating age-old legends.
The Gopurams are soaring masses in Traditional Dravidian Style Architecture visible from great distances, behaving as a silent emblem of Sovereignty of the Spiritual above All.
9. Blending Built with Unbuilt
In the 16th Century CE, when the native Indians were building Dravidian style Temple Towns in the South, the Islamic overlords, their counterparts were attempting to incorporate mosques and mausoleums in the Northern Plains. Hailing from the deserts in Kabul, the Mughals cherished congruous landscapes and water bodies popular in Traditional Islamic Architecture and blended them with marble complexes.
Situated in the city of Old Delhi, the Tomb of Humayun is one mausoleum where the Built blends with the Unbuilt. The mausoleum rests in the center of a ‘Charbagh’, a symmetric, quadrilateral split in four equal parts, an Islamic depiction of ‘Paradise on Earth’. The green vistas foster an amiable setting enabling the visitant to appreciate the surrounding before appreciating the structure itself.
10. Fabricating edifices Larger than Life
Located in the heart of the city of Bijapur, Gol Gumbaz is a renowned testament of the Adilshahi Dynasty. The monumental tomb is a combination of a cube adorned by a circular dome resting on eight interweaving arches emerging from two rotated squares bearing pendentives supporting the dome.
Flanking four corners of the tomb, octagonal in plan seven-storeyed minarets offer a panoramic view of the city. Envisioned as a structure that could not be outdone in sheer massiveness and scale, the mausoleum is equivalent to a modern twenty-storeyed high skyscraper. As a result, the volume and magnitude of Gol Gumbaz outshine all buildings in Bijapur even today.
Hence, the Greek Parthenon and Roman Pantheon endow fundamental principles of Proportion, Symmetry, Rhythm, and Universality. The Japanese Traditions offer some critical insights about designing landscapes. The Indian Temple Traditions introduce one to the postulates of Town-Planning along with the incorporation of symbolic elements in architecture and finally, the Islamic mausoleums behave as memorials leaving their imprint on the Indian Subcontinent.
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