Taking a page from the Roman Architecture Guidebook
Roman architecture refers to the architectural style that was prevalent in ancient Rome and its territories from the 3rd century BCE to the 5th century CE. It was characterised by a combination of practicality, grandeur, and engineering innovation. The early influencers of Roman architecture were the Etruscans, who lived in the area that is now Tuscany in Italy. They were skilled architects and builders who influenced the Romans in arch building and urban planning. The Greeks were also influential in shaping Roman architecture, particularly in the areas of decorative elements and proportion. Roman architecture is known for its monumental structures, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and aqueducts, which were feats of engineering and construction. These buildings were characterised by their use of arches, domes, and concrete, which allowed for the creation of large and durable structures. It was also known for its practicality, as buildings were designed with a focus on functionality rather than just aesthetics. Additionally, the Romans were skilled in urban planning, and grid-like layouts, public spaces, and impressive public buildings characterised their cities.
One of the most significant ways that Roman architecture has influenced modern architecture is through the use of classical elements such as columns, arches, and domes. These features were commonly used in Roman buildings, and their use continues today, particularly in government buildings, museums, and other public buildings.
Palace of the Argentine National Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Completed in 1906, this neoclassical building features a central dome and two flanking wings with numerous columns and arches. The building’s symmetrical design is reminiscent of ancient Roman temples.
Federal Hall, New York City
Federal Hall in New York City was designed in the Neoclassical style, which drew heavily on the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. The front of the building is characterised by a large, pedimented portico with six columns modelled after the Doric order of ancient Greece. The interior features a grand rotunda with a domed ceiling supported by a series of columns.
Courthouse, Delaware County
It was constructed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, which gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and primarily drew inspiration from classical aspects, notably those of ancient Rome. It is situated in Media, Pennsylvania. A typical characteristic of Roman architecture, the Courthouse has a large, pedimented portico supported by six Corinthian columns. The central dome, a characteristic of Beaux-Arts style and evocative of the domes seen in early Roman structures like the Pantheon, may be seen from many blocks away.
The Roman architect Vitruvius and the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio were both influential on the Neoclassical style of the White House. Moreover, features from Dublin’s Leinster House, which subsequently served as the location of the Irish parliament, are incorporated into the architecture of the top floors (Oireachtas).  The Irish architecture served as the inspiration for the top windows with their alternate triangular and segmented pediments.
Union Station, Washington D.C., USA
Union Station, which is modelled after structures from ancient Rome, is decorated with intricate sculptures, ionic columns, gold leaf, and expansive marble corridors in a fusion of neoclassical and Beaux-Arts styles. Six enormous sculptures by Louis St. Gaudens are arranged in a row near the entry, rising over a line of Ionic columns. The “The Development of Railroading” statues feature mythological deities selected to symbolise uplifting railroad-related themes.
Roman cities were known for their well-planned grids of streets, public spaces, and buildings. Their approach to urban planning has continued to influence modern cities, particularly in Europe and North America, where city planners have adopted Roman design principles to create efficient and attractive urban space. Pompeii is the best-preserved example of Roman urban design employing the gridiron system. The Ancient Romans also used the grid layout, or “Hippodamian pattern,” for their fortified military encampments, or castra, many of which developed into towns and cities.
Washington D.C., USA – The capital of the United States was designed with a grid-like layout and public spaces, which was influenced by Roman urban planning. The city’s most famous public space, the National Mall, is reminiscent of a Roman forum, with its long, open space flanked by important government buildings.
Barcelona, Spain – The Eixample district of Barcelona is characterised by its grid-like layout inspired by Roman urban planning. The district features a series of city blocks that are arranged in a regular pattern, with wide avenues and green spaces.
New York City, USA: The layout of New York City’s streets, particularly in Manhattan, is inspired by Roman urban planning. The city’s grid-like layout allows for easy navigation and has been emulated in cities worldwide.
Forums and plazas, which functioned as hubs for civic life and neighbourhood activity, are examples of the types of public areas that the Romans were famous for. Following this lead, several contemporary cities have developed public areas that act as gathering spots for residents and foster a feeling of community and civic involvement. Examples are Central Park in New York City and Barcelona’s La Rambla, a well-liked meeting spot and pedestrian street.
- White Hall (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House
- Commissioners’ Plan of 1811(2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commissioners%27_Plan_of_1811#:~:text=Their%20chief%20surveyor%20was%20John,been%20far%2Dreaching%20and%20visionary.
- Jackie Craven. The Architecture of Washington, DC. ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/diverse-architecture-of-washington-dc-4065271
- How roman architecture influenced modern architecture. Medium.Com. Available at: https://medium.com/@BBcompetitions/how-roman-architecture-influenced-modern-architecture-fba4908edd7c