“An Architectural Style is an expression of an attitude and an idea about the meaning of life.”

Architectural history is as long as the history of humanity in general.  The parallelism of the history of architecture to human history is justified by the social, functional, and technical aspects of buildings that serve the best physical evidence of societal change. In the history of architecture, it’s fascinating to understand the movements and order of styles that have emerged over time adapting themselves to different climates, landscapes, and cultural needs. Periods and styles flow together, each architectural movement grew from ideas and construction techniques sometimes inventing new and sometimes merging with each other, illustrating artistic trends throughout the world.  As architecture is the realm of visual arts, just looking at buildings made in different places in different centuries, reflecting varied architectural styles, helps understand the evolution of architecture. Here we present the 10 most influential Architectural styles and movements in history that have been applied to famous structures around the world.  

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timeline of architectural styles from past to present_©Jahanavi Malhotra

1. Classic Architecture- 7th to 4th century BC | Architectural Styles

Classic architecture refers to the style that was predominately used in ancient Greece and Rome, between the 7th century and 4th century BC. Great buildings were constructed during this period, the most remarkable one to have ever been built in the Parthenon– a Greek temple constructed for Athena. Classic Architecture is known for its symmetry, order, proportion, and perspective surrounded by three classical orders Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian.  The use of materials and interior details such as marble, concrete, classic design motifs, decorative door surrounds, and broken pediments were considered extremely desirable during this period. This style of architecture is perhaps the most referenced of all and continues to influence building design in modern times. 

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The Parthenon, Athens, Greece_©www.flickr.com/
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The Parthenon, Athens, Greece_©www.flickr.com/
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The Colosseum, Rome_©images.pexels.com/

2. Romanesque Architecture- 1050 AD to 1170 AD

It is an architectural style of Medieval Europe, characterized by thick, heavy piers, narrow windows, stained glass, semi-circular arches, and towers.  Several churches and Castles of the early Medieval Period were constructed during this period as the driving force behind this style of architecture was Christianity. This style of architecture is significant for its unprecedented massive scale and the introduction of vaulted roofs designed to replace fire-prone wood roofs. Some of the notable examples of Romanesque Architecture are Santiago De Compostela Cathedral in Spain,  St. Michael’s Church, Hildesheim, and Basilica of St. Sernin in Toulouse, France. 

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Basilica of St. Sernin in Toulouse, France._©files.structurae.net/
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Inside Santiago De Compostela Cathedral _©ive.staticflickr.com

3. Gothic Architecture-1100 AD to 1450 AD

Gothic Architecture was formerly named  Opus Francigenum, or “French work,” as it was discovered in the Late Middle Ages in France, between the years 900 and 1300. The style was influenced by Romanesque and was distinguished by its flying buttresses and pointed arches that allowed for the high vaulted ceilings that Gothic Architecture is known for. The interiors of the building were lighted up with stained glass windows, gables, colorful tapestries, trestle tables, all these decorative elements lead to more graceful architecture. One of the most outstanding examples of French Gothic architecture is the Notre Dame in Paris, France, a UNESCO world heritage site. Other prominent examples are  Chartres Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral in England, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, etc.

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Notre-Dame in Paris, France,_©cdn.britannica.com/
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Salisbury Cathedral in England_©www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/

4. Renaissance Architecture- 1400 AD to 1600 AD

Renaissance emerged in the early 15th century in Italy, France, & England taking the inspirations from Greek and Roman ideals. This style is characterized for its perfection, focusing on symmetry, geometry, proportion, orderly arrangement of columns, formal landscaped gardens, use of arched openings,  hemispherical domes, vaulted ceilings, and stone flooring. The architect known to be the father of the Renaissance is Filippo Brunelleschi with the astonishing  Florence Cathedral. Renaissance Architecture has adopted various elements from previous architectural styles, this combination created a beautifully proportioned architecture that continues to inspire western Architects, even after the era ended.  

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Villa Rotonda (Villa Almerico-Capra), near Venice_©i.pinimg.com/
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Florence Cathedral _©mymodernmet.com/

5. Baroque Architecture- 1600 AD to 1755 AD | Architectural Styles

Baroque Architecture took a more dramatic approach to Renaissance Architecture, driven by playfulness rather than rationalism. This style of architecture portrays irregular shapes, exaggerated ornamentation, opulent paintings, and bold contrasts.  The style features elements like domes, central towers, colonnades, portico, and highly decorated interior details that leave a lasting effect on the viewer Some remarkable examples of the Baroque style are the Palace of Versailles in France, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

Palace of Versailles in France_©cdn.britannica.com/
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St. Paul’s Cathedral in London _©www.lonelyplanet.com

6. NeoClassical Architecture- 1750 AD to 1920 AD

Neoclassical Architecture is the rediscovery of Classical Greek and Roman Architecture that flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also, known as Classical Revival and Beaux

Arts Classicism, this style incorporates grandiose symmetrical composition drawing influence from Palladian style of Architecture. Symmetry, elegant lines, uncluttered appearance, triangular pediments, free-standing columns, balustraded balconies, pronounced cornices, and grand-scale building distinguished this unique style of architecture. Neoclassical is widespread as an influential style in the United States, Great Britain, and parts of Europe. The White House in Washington, and Belvedere Palace, Vienna are some of the well-known examples of Neoclassical architecture. 

The White House in Washington _©www.veranda.com/
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Belvedere Palace, Vienna_©www.hisour.com/

7. Art-Deco Style- 1925

Art-deco style is a part of the Art-deco movement that emerged in the 1920s and 30’s promoting the industrial arts, which spread quickly throughout Europe and U.S. 

The movement represents social and technological progress combined with the use of luxurious materials, patterns, handcrafted elements, and icons with modern technology and design. Art-Deco buildings utilize opulent materials like stucco, decorative glass, steel, terracotta, aluminum, and ceramics. Notable features of this style include stepped gables, sculptured panels, ornate detailings such as the pyramid, zigzag, cubic forms, chevron, and other geometric shapes. This revolutionary era created some marvelous structures like Champs-Elysees by Auguste Perret, the first Art-Deco building, and other iconic skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building also came up in this era.

Champs-Elysees by Auguste Perret_©files.structurae.ne
Empire State Building _©www.history.com/

8. Modernism- 1917 to 1965

Modern architecture emerged in the first half of the 20th century which brought a dramatic change both for art and architecture. Modernism encompasses various different styles that emphasize functionalism, purified architectural form, clean structure, lack of ornamentation, and use of new-age materials steel, glass, and concrete. Modernism is viewed as an important shift in terms of architectural design and expression. The term ‘Form follows Function’ redefined a new world of architecture that signifies and sustains to motivate architects today. The great architects that flourished during this era include Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies Van De Rohe, and Le Corbusier with their iconic structures like Falling Water, Villa Savoye, Crown Hall, Chicago, etc.

Villa Savoye _©archeyes.com/
Crown Hall Chicago_©www.architecture.org/

9. PostModernism- 1950 to 2007

Postmodernism was a reaction against the modern approach giving rise to a new era that reinvents historical details, extravagant forms, and familiar motifs. PostModernism incorporates artistic ornamentation, asymmetry, humor, creativity, complexity, and decorative elements as opposed to clean purified architectural form by modernist style.  Robert Venturi was the well-known architect of this era, who challenged Modernism in his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Guggenheim Museum, Spain,  Portland Building in Portland, SIS Building, Thompson Centre, etc are some of the exceptional examples of Post-Modernism Architecture. 

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James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, USAl _©www.architecture.org/
GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM BILBAO _©cms.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/

10. Parametricism- 1997-Present | Architectural Styles

‘Parametricism’ was coined by theorist and principal architect of Zaha Hadid Architects, Patrik Schumacher. Parametric design is the latest technological innovation in architecture, developed on algorithmic equations to figure out all the possible designs with the help of modern tools like CAD, BIM (building information modeling), and Fusion 360s. These powerful computational tools build apparently impossible forms and ingenious structures that have never been done before. The style goes much beyond aesthetics and theories is defined by fluidity, blending complexity and variety drawing inspiration from nature Renowned Architects like Frei Otto and Antoni Gaudi with their research and theories laid the foundational stones on which the style is being built today. Guangzhou Opera House, Galaxy SOHO by Zaha Hadid, BMW Welt by COOP HIMMELB, Beijing National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron, etc are few phenomenal examples of Parametric Architecture.

Timeline of prominent architectural styles - Sheet21Guangzhou Opera House_©Hufton + Crow

BMW Welt_©www.erco.com/


Jahanavi Arora is an Architect by profession with a passion for writing, design & decor. She believes that writing and architecture are quite similar as they both are forms of art and beyond every building, there is a story to tell which she loves to explore. In her spare time, she would be found in the corner of her room reading, playing around with her 3-year-old boy, or grooving on her favorite music.