The city of Rome can be considered one of the powerhouses of architecture. It was one of the revolutions of its kind which has had great influences on present-day architecture, adapted and followed in many parts of the world. The capital cities, forums, the basilicas and the metalled roads and pavements are still prevalent in the hearts of people. The Romans have left behind architectural landmarks with their unique style and concepts.
Roman Architecture is originally a legacy continued from the Greek style of Architecture. However, with the innovations and creative designs by the fusion of new construction materials and techniques, the Romans managed to produce a set of unique architectural structures described previously. One such example is the successful erection of large roof structures with minimal usage of pillars in the interiors to improve the efficiency of the interior spaces. Many of these structures were possible with the discovery of concrete- a versatile material enabling the creation of flexible forms in architecture. Pantheon in Rome is well-renowned for its largest unsupported dome representing the Roman innovations in materials and technology in ancient times.
The article describes some of the important architectural Roman structures along with the typical planning of Roman cities.
Bridges & Aqueducts: Aqueducts are structures used to carry water to the urban centres from water sources many miles away from the cities. These huge structures usually have single, double or triple stone tiers of arches constructed on a flat wooden superstructure.
Basilicas: Basilicas were used as common gathering spaces, usually as law courts. The hall and roof were supported by columns on every side, forming colonnades flanking the central nave of the basilica. Typically a basilica has an apse attached to one or both ends of the central nave and a gallery running along the structural envelope in the interiors on the first floor.
Roman Baths: Baths are huge complexes which are built with arches, vaults, domes, and buttresses, creating spectacular interior spaces. The spaces are organized along a symmetrical axis and include pools, libraries, fountains, and hot and cold rooms. On the other hand, the exterior of the baths involved the opulent usage of marble, statues, columns and mosaics.
Theatres and Amphitheatres: The Roman theatres were completely made out of stone with a stage having semicircular orchestral arrangements and highly decorated with columns, projections, pediments and statues. The Colosseum is one of the finest examples of a Roman Amphitheatre with a spectacular ornamented exterior with a network of barrel vaults supporting the spectator seats. In addition to this, it also has a series of underground rooms used to hide animals and props which were brought into the central arena only for events.
Temples: Typically, the temples have a cella at the rear end of the building, raised on a platform which has a stepped entrance and a columned porch. This sanctum is the focal point of the building.
Triumphal arches: These arches were used to commemorate significant events such as military victories. The Arch of Constantine is one of the best surviving examples of a triumphal arch in Rome.
Residences: The Roman residences followed symmetry to a great extent and consisted of atriums, gardens, and fountains. The interiors were adorned with frescos and stucco work flaunting its elegance. On the other hand, the city had large apartment blocks for its less-affluent residents known as ‘insula’, constructed with materials such as brick, concrete, and wood. These blocks usually housed commercial spaces on the ground floor on the street front with residences on the floors above.
Walls: These walls were either walls of defence or monumental walls. The width of the Roman walls varied between 18cm to 6m in thickness and was usually built out of ashlar blocks, concrete and sun-dried bricks. They also recite a story of ancient Rome describing the multiple stages of Roman society and the economy from the patterns in which the bricks and stones of the walls were laid. There are around five patterns of this kind, namely ‘opus incertum’, ‘opus reticulated’, ‘opus mixtum’, ‘opus testaceum’, and ‘opus vittatum’. Regardless of the different patterns created by the bricks and stones in the walls, most of the walls are plastered both in the interior and exterior with stucco protecting them against extreme weather conditions.
The focal point of the cities in the forum is a large open public piazza (plaza), surrounded by significant religious, civic, and economic buildings. This included major temples, shrines, basilicas, and other official meeting places. In addition to this, it also houses the meat and vegetable markets of the city occasionally. Further, decorative structures like colonnades, porticoes, arches, and fountains surrounded the city’s forum and lined the streets.
Undoubtedly, the architectural structures and planning concepts shaped by the Romans have become symbolic and have great influences on the present-day architectural style. Experimenting with an incredible fusion of building materials has resulted in flexible bold forms turning architecture into an art form, producing world-renowned architectural masterpieces.
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