Architecture, the practice of building design and its resulting products; customary usage refers only to those designs and structures that are culturally significant. Architecture is to building as literature is to the printed word. Vitruvius, a 1st-century BC Roman, wrote encyclopedically about architecture, and the English poet Sir Henry Wotton was quoting him in his charmingly phrased dictum: “Well building hath three conditions: Commoditie, Firmenes, and Delight.” More prosaically, one would say today that architecture must satisfy its intended uses, must be technically sound, and must convey aesthetic meaning. But the best buildings are often so well constructed that they outlast their original use. They then survive not only as beautiful objects, but as documents of the history of cultures, achievements in architecture that testify to the nature of the society that produced them. These achievements are never wholly the work of individuals. Architecture is a social art.
Architectural form is inevitably influenced by the technologies applied, but building technology is conservative and knowledge about it is cumulative. Precast concrete, for instance, has not rendered brick obsolete. Although design and construction have become highly sophisticated and are often computer directed, this complex apparatus rests on preindustrial traditions inherited from millennia during which most structures were lived in by the people who erected them. The technical demands on building remain the elemental ones-to exclude enemies, to circumvent gravity, and to avoid discomforts caused by an excess of heat or cold or by the intrusion of rain, wind, or vermin. This is no trivial assignment even with the best modern technology.
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The availability of suitable materials fostered the crafts to exploit them and influenced the shapes of buildings. Large areas of the world were once forested, and their inhabitants developed carpentry. Although it has become relatively scarce, timber remains an important building material.
Many kinds of stone lend themselves to building. Stone and marble were chosen for important monuments because they are incombustible and can be expected to endure. Stone is also a sculptural material; stone architecture was often integral with stone sculpture. The use of stone has declined, however, because a number of other materials are more amenable to industrial use and assembly.
Some regions lack both timber and stone; their peoples used the earth itself, tamping certain mixtures into walls or forming them into bricks to be dried in the sun. Later they baked these substances in kilns, producing a range of bricks and tiles with greater durability.
Thus, early cultures used substances occurring in their environment and invented the tools, skills, and technologies to exploit a variety of materials, creating a legacy that continues to inform more industrialized methods.
Building with stones or bricks is called masonry. The elements cohere through sheer gravity or the use of mortar, first composed of lime and sand. The Romans found a natural cement that, combined with inert substances, produced concrete. They usually faced this with materials that would give a better finish. In the early 19th century a truly waterproof cement was developed, the key ingredient of modern concrete.
In the 19th century also, steel suddenly became abundant; rolling mills turned out shapes that could make structural frames stronger than the traditional wooden frames. Moreover, steel rods could be positioned in wet concrete so as to greatly improve the versatility of that material, giving impetus early in the 20th century to new forms facilitated by reinforced concrete construction. The subsequent profusion of aluminum and its anodized coatings provided cladding (surfacing) material that was lightweight and virtually maintenance free. Glass was known in prehistory and is celebrated for its contributions to Gothic architecture. Its quality and availability have been enormously enhanced by industrial processing, which has revolutionized the exploitation of natural light and transparency.
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When masonry materials are stacked vertically, they are very stable; every part is undergoing compression. The real problem of construction, however, is spanning. Ways must be found to connect walls so as to provide a roof. The two basic approaches to spanning are post-and-lintel construction and arch, vault, and dome construction. In post-and-lintel construction, lintels, or beams, are laid horizontally across the tops of posts, or columns; additional horizontals span from beam to beam, forming decks that can become roofs or be occupied as floors. In arch, vault, and dome construction, the spanning element is curved rather than straight. In the flat plane of a wall, arches may be used in rows, supported by piers or columns to form an arcade; for roofs or ceilings, a sequence of arches, one behind the other, may be used to form a half-cylinder (or barrel) vault; to span large centralized spaces, an arch may be rotated from its peak to form a hemispherical dome (see Arch and Vault; Dome).
Post-and-lintel solutions can be executed in various materials, but gravity subjects the horizontal members to bending stress, in which parts of the member are in compression while others are in tension. Wood, steel, and reinforced concrete are efficient as beams, whereas masonry, because it lacks tensile components, requires much greater bulk and weight. Vaulting permits spanning without subjecting material to tension; thus, it can cover large areas with masonry or concrete. Its outward thrust, however, must be counteracted by abutment, or buttressing.
Trussing is an important structural device used to achieve spans with less weighty construction. Obviously, a frame composed of three end-connected members cannot change its shape, even if its joints could act as hinges. Fortunately, however, the principle of triangulation-attaching a horizontal tie beam to the bottom ends of two peaked rafters-can be extended indefinitely. Spanning systems of almost any shape can be subdivided into triangles, the sides of which can be made of any appropriate material-wood, rolled steel, or tubing-and assembled using suitable end connections. Each separate part is then subject only to either compressive or tensile stress. In the 18th century, mathematicians learned to apply their science to the behavior of structures, thus making it possible to determine the amounts of these stresses. This led to the development of space frames, which are simply trusses or other elements arrayed three-dimensionally.
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Advances in the art of analyzing structural behavior resulted from the demand in the 19th century for great civil engineering structures: dams, bridges, and tunnels. It is now possible to enclose space with suspension structures-the obverse of vaulting, in that materials are in tension-or pneumatic structures, the skins of which are held in place by air pressure. Sophisticated analysis is particularly necessary in very tall structures, because wind loads and stresses that could be induced by earthquakes then become more important than gravity.
Architecture must also take into account the internal functional equipment of modern buildings. In recent decades, elaborate systems for vertical transportation, the control of temperature and humidity, forced ventilation, artificial lighting, sanitation, control of fire, and the distribution of electricity and other services have been developed. This has added to the cost of construction and has increased expectations of comfort and convenience.
In modern architectural terminology the word program denotes the purposes for which buildings are constructed. Certain broad purposes have always been discernible. The noblest works-temples, churches, mosques-celebrate the mysteries of religion and provide assembly places where gods can be propitiated or where the multitudes can be instructed in interpretations of belief and can participate in symbolic rituals. Another important purpose has been to provide physical security: Many of the world’s most permanent structures were built with defense in mind.
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Related to defense is the desire to create buildings that serve as status symbols. Kings and emperors insisted on palaces proclaiming power and wealth. People of privilege have always been the best clients of designers, artists, and artisans, and in their projects the best work of a given period is often represented. Today large corporations, governments, and universities play the role of patron in a less personal way.
A proliferation of building types reflects the complexity of modern life. More people live in mass housing and go to work in large office buildings; they spend their incomes in large shopping centers, send their children to many different kinds of schools, and when sick go to specialized hospitals and clinics. They linger in airports on the way to distant hotels and resorts. Each class of facility has accumulated experiences that contribute to the expertise needed by its designers.
The attention of clients, architects, and users is more and more focused on the overall qualities manifested by aggregates of buildings and parts of cities as being more significant than individual structures. As the total building stock grows, conserving buildings and adapting them for changes in use becomes more important. See City Planning.
The aesthetic response to architecture is complex. It involves all the issues already discussed, as well as other, more abstract qualities. An experience of architectural space is personal and psychological; it differs from that of sculpture or painting because the observer is in it. It is affected by associations the observer may have with the materials used and the way they have been assembled, and by the lighting conditions.
Structural logic may or may not have been dramatized. Elements such as windows, and their scale and rhythm, affect the observer, as do the interplay of geometrical form and the way space is articulated. Movement through a sequence of spaces has narrative force; no single point of view is adequately descriptive. The recurrence of thematic forms, appearing in varied guises and contexts, contributes to unity and creates feelings-relaxation and protection or stimulation and awe. Perhaps the key element is proportion-the relation of various dimensions to one another and their relation to human scale.
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During the mid-19th century, architecture became institutionalized as a profession requiring formal preparation and subject to codes of performance. During this period connoisseurship-full academic training in the history of architecture and its aesthetics-was the designer’s most important qualification. In every Western country the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris was accepted as the model for architectural education. Architecture was easily separated from engineering, which had pragmatic rather than aesthetic goals. Yet today the profession delivers not only aesthetic guidance but also a bewildering array of technical services requiring many specialized contributors. The architect strives to maintain the position of generalist, one who can take the long view while orchestrating the resolution of complex interrelated issues.
The Ancient World
For the convenience of Western readers, the architecture of the ancient world, of the Orient, and of the pre-Columbian Americas may be divided into two groups: indigenous architecture, or ways of building that appear to have developed independently in isolated, local cultural conditions; and classical architecture, the systems and building methods of Greece and Rome, which directly determined the course of Western architecture.
The oldest designed environments stable enough to have left traces date from the first development of cities.
This region, the greater part of modern Iraq, comprises the lower valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Assyrian city of Khorsabad, built of clay and brick in the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722-705 BC), was excavated as early as 1842, and much of its general plan is known. It became the basis for the study of Mesopotamian architecture, because the far older cities of Babylon and Ur were not discovered and excavated until the late 19th and 20th centuries. See Mesopotamian Art and Architecture.
Early Persian architecture-influenced by the Greeks, with whom the Persians were at war in the 5th century BC-left the great royal compound of Persepolis (518-460 BC), created by Darius the Great, and several nearby rock-cut tombs, all north of Shìraz in Iran. See Iranian Art and Architecture.
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The urban culture of Egypt also developed very early. Its political history was more stable, however, with strong continuity in the development and conservation of tradition. Also, granite, sandstone, and limestone were available in abundance. These circumstances, in a cultural system conferring enormous power on rulers and priests, made possible the erection, over a long period, of the most awesome of the world’s ancient monuments.
Each Egyptian ruler was obsessed with constructing a tomb for himself more impressive and longer lasting than that of his predecessors. Before the 4th Dynasty (begins c. 2680 BC) Egyptian royal burial took the form of the mastaba, an archetypal rectangular mass of masonry. This evolved into the stepped pyramid and finally into the fully refined pyramid, of which the largest and best preserved are those of Khufu (built c. 2570 BC) and Khafre (circa 2530 BC) at Giza near Cairo. These immense monuments testify to the pharaohs’ vast social control and also to the fascination of their architects with abstract, perfect geometrical forms, a concern that reappears frequently throughout history.
Egyptians built temples to dignify the ritual observances of those in power and to exclude others. Thus, they were built within walled enclosures, their great columned halls (hypostyles) turning inward, visible from a distance only as a sheer mass of masonry. A hierarchical linear sequence of spaces led to successively more privileged precincts. In this way was born the concept of the axis, which in the Egyptian temples was greatly extended by avenues of sphinxes in order to intensify the climactic experience of the approaching participants. The temples also introduce the monumental use of post-and-lintel construction in stone, in which massive columns are closely spaced and bear deep lintels.
The best-known Egyptian temples are in the mid-Nile area in the vicinity of the old capital, Thebes. Here are found the great temples of Luxor, Karnak, and Deir al Bahri (15th-12th century BC) and Idfu (3rd century BC).
See Egyptian Art and Architecture; Temple.
India and Southeast Asia
Hindu traditions are rich in visual symbols; the early stone architecture of India was elaborately carved, more like sculpture than building, especially as the designers did not emphasize structural systems and rarely faced the task of enclosing large spaces.
The Indian commemorative monument takes the form of large hemispherical mounds called stupas, like the one built from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD, during Buddhist ascendancy, at Sanchi, near Bhopal in central India.
In the early period of monastery and temple building, shrines were sculpted out of the solid rock of cliffs. At sites such as Ellora and Ajanta, northeast of Bombay, are great series of these artificial caves carved over many centuries. As the art of temple building developed, construction by subtraction gave way to the more conventional method of adding stones to form a structure, always, however, with more concern for sculptural mass than for enclosed volume.
Hindu temples are found throughout India, especially in the south and east, which were less dominated by the Mughal rulers. Jainism, still a very successful cult, has its own temple tradition and continues to build on it. See Indian Art and Architecture.
In Southeast Asia a Buddhist temple is called a wat. The most famous of these, and perhaps also the largest known, is Angkor Wat in central Cambodia, built in the early 12th century under the long-dominant Khmer dynasty. A richly sculptured stone complex, it rises 61 m (200 ft) and is approached by a ceremonial bridge 183 m (600 ft) long that spans the surrounding moat.
Buddhist architectural traditions, sometimes coming via China, are strongly evident in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Java, and Sri Lanka. The rich temples and shrines of the Royal Palace compound in Bangkok are less than 200 years old, testifying to that culture’s continuing vitality.
China and Japan
The cultures of China and Japan have shared many features, but each has used them according to its national temperament. The resultant architectures are quite different from each other in both form and purpose.
China has a traditional reverence toward ancestors; the stable and hierarchical life of the Chinese extended family is proverbial. It is reflected in the formality of the Chinese house, built in rectangular form, preferably at the northern end of a walled courtyard entered from the south, with auxiliary elements disposed in a symmetrical fashion on either side of the north-south axis. This pattern was the point of departure for more lavish programs for mansions, monasteries, palaces, and, eventually, whole cities.
The city of Beijing took form over a very long time, under various rulers. Two contiguous rectangles, the Inner City and the newer Outer City, each embrace several square kilometers. The Inner City contains the Imperial City, which in turn contains the Forbidden City, which sheltered the imperial court and the imperial family. The entire development adheres to symmetry along a strong north-south avenue-the apotheosis, on a grand urban scale, of the Chinese house.
Stone, brick, tile, and timber are available in both China and Japan. The most characteristic architectural forms in both countries are based on timber framing. In China, the wooden post carried on its top an openwork timber structure, a kind of inverted pyramid formed of layers of horizontal beams connected and supported by brackets and short posts to support the rafters and beams of a steep and heavy tile roof. The eaves extended well beyond column lines on cantilevers. The resulting archetype is rectangular in plan, usually one story high, with a prominent roof. See Chinese Art and Architecture.
The Japanese house developed differently. The Japanese express a deep poetic response to nature, and their houses are more concerned with achieving a satisfying relationship with earth, water, rocks, and trees than with establishing a social order. This approach is epitomized in the Katsura Detached Palace (1st half of the 17th century), designed and built by a master of the tea ceremony. Its constructions ramble in a seemingly casual way, but in reality constitute a carefully considered sequence always integrated with vistas to or from outdoor features.
Japan had already perfected timber prototypes early in its history. The Ise Shrine, on the coast southwest of Tokyo, dates from the 5th or 6th century; it is scrupulously rebuilt every 20 years. Its principal building, within a rectangular compound containing auxiliary structures, is a timber treasure house elevated on wooden posts buried in the ground and crowned by a massive roof of thatch. Lacking both bracketing and trussing, the ridge is supported by a beam or ridgepole held up by fat posts at the middle of each gabled end; the forked rafters, joining atop the ridgepole, exert no outward thrust. This tiny but beautifully proportioned and crafted monument is an excellent example of the understated subtlety of the art of Japan. See Japanese Art and Architecture.
The nomadic North American tribes left little permanent building, but the Pueblos of Sonora, Mexico, and of Arizona and New Mexico did build in stone and adobe. These cultures were already in decline by AD 1300; a number of impressive cliff dwellings and other villages remain as significant monuments. See Native Americans.
The Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés encountered the Aztecs in 1519 and within two years had destroyed their capital city, Tenochtitlán, where Mexico City now stands. But he passed over the nearby center of the older Teotihuacán culture (100 BC-AD 700), which has now been extensively restored and excavated. Teotihuacán contains two immense pyramids-of the sun and of the moon-that recall those of Egypt. They are arranged, along with other monuments and plazas, on a north-south axis at least 3 km (2 mi) in length, and the complex is embedded in what was a vast city, laid out accurately in blocks. Monte Albán, near Oaxaca de Juárez, was the center of the Zapotec culture that flourished about the same time. Its imposing stone structures are set around a spacious plaza created by leveling the top of a mountain.
The Mayan civilization had existed for 2700 years when first confronted by the Spanish in the 17th century, but its greatest building periods fall within the 4th to the 11th century. The Maya occupied every part of the Yucatán Peninsula, the principal sites, in roughly the order of their development, being Copán (Honduras), Tikal (Guatemala), Palenque, Uxmal, Chichén Itzá, and Tulum (Mexico).
The important ceremonial monuments found in these centers are of stone; although the enclosure of space has more emphasis than in other pre-Columbian cultures, the Mayans never mastered the true vault. Nevertheless, they created impressive structures through extensive earth moving and bold architectural sculpture either integral with the stone or as added stucco ornamentation. The so-called Governors’ Palace at Uxmal, sited on a great artificial terrace, is a long, horizontal building, the proportions and ornamentation of which suggest the eye and hand of a master designer.
The Incas’ thriving empire was centered high in the Andes of east-central Peru at Cuzco, which flourished from about 1200 to 1533, with other cities at nearby Sacsahuaman and Machu Picchu. Inca architecture lacks the sculptural genius of the Maya, but the masonry craftsmanship is unexcelled; enormous pieces of stone were transported over mountain terrain and fitted together with precision, in what is called cyclopean masonry. See Pre.Columbian Art and Architecture.
The building systems and forms of ancient Greece and Rome are called classical architecture. Greek contributions in architecture, as in so much else, defy summarization. The architecture of the Roman Empire has pervaded Western architecture for more than two millennia.
The architecture that developed on mainland Greece (Helladic) and in the basin of the Aegean Sea (Minoan) belongs to the Greek cultures that preceded the arrival in about 1000 BC of the Ionians and the Dorians. The Minoan culture (3000-1200 BC) flourished on the island of Crete; its principal site is the multichambered Palace of Minos at Knossos, near present-day Iráklion. On the Pelopónnisos near Argos are the fortress-palaces of Mycenae and Tiryns, and in Asia Minor the city of Troy-all of them excavated by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the last quarter of the 19th century. Mycenae and Tiryns are believed to represent the Achaean culture, the subject of Homer’s epic Iliad and Odyssey. See Aegean Civilization.
The Greek temple emerged as the archetypal shrine of all time. Unlike the Egyptians, the Greeks put their walls inside to protect the cella and their columns on the outside, where they could articulate exterior space. Perhaps for the first time, the overriding concern is for the building seen as a beautiful object externally, while at the same time containing precious and sacred inner space. Greek architects have been praised for not crushing the viewer with overmonumentality; yet they found it appropriate to build temples on basically the same theme ranging in size from the tiny Temple of Nike Apteros (427-424 BC) of about 6 by 9 m (about 20 by 30 ft) on the Athens Acropolis to the gigantic Temple of Zeus (circa 500 BC) at Agrigento in Sicily, which covered more than 1 hectare (more than 2 acres).
The Greeks seldom arranged their monuments hierarchically along an axis, preferring to site their temples to be seen from several viewpoints in order to display the relation of ends to sides.
In successive efforts during many centuries the Greeks modified their earlier models. Concern for the profile of the building in space spurred designers toward perfection in the articulation of parts, and these parts became intellectualized as stylobate, base, shaft, capital, architrave, frieze, cornice, and pediment, each representing metaphorically its structural purpose.
The Greek Orders
Two orders developed more or less concurrently. The Doric order predominated on the mainland and in the western colonies. The acknowledged Doric masterpiece is the Parthenon (448-432 BC) crowning the Athens Acropolis (see Parthenon).
The Ionic order originated in the cities on the islands and coasts of Asia Minor, which were more exposed to Asian and Egyptian influences; it featured capitals with spiral volutes, a more slender shaft with quite different fluting, and an elaborate and curvilinear base. Most of the early examples are gone, but Ionic was used inside the Propylaea (begun 437 BC) and in the Erechtheum (begun 421 BC), both on the Athens Acropolis.
The Corinthian order, a later development, introduced Ionic capitals elaborated with acanthus leaves. It has the advantage of facing equally in four directions and is therefore more adaptable than Ionic for corners.
City planning was stimulated by the need to rebuild Dorian cities after the end (466 BC) of the Persian Wars and again by the challenge of new cities established (beginning 333 BC) by Alexander the Great. The plan of Miletus in Asia Minor is an early example of the gridiron block, and it provides a prototype for the disposition of the central public areas, with the significant municipal buildings related to the major civic open spaces. A typical Greek agora included a temple, a council house (bouleuterion), a theater, and gymnasiums, as well as porticoes giving shape to the edges of the open space. Greek domestic architecture transformed the Mycenaean megaron (hearthroom) into the house with rooms disposed about a small open court, or atrium, a theme later elaborated in Italy, Spain, and North Africa. See Greek Art and Architecture; House.
Roman architecture continued the development now referred to as classical, but with quite different results. Unlike the tenuously allied Greek city-states, Rome became a powerful, well-organized empire that planted its constructions throughout the Mediterranean world, northward into Britain, and eastward into Asia Minor. Romans built great engineering works-roads, canals, bridges, and aqueducts. Their masonry was more varied; they used bricks and concrete freely, as well as stone, marble, and mosaic.
Use of the arch and vault introduced curved forms; curved walls produced a semicircular space, or apse, for terminating an axis. Cylindrical and spherical spaces became elements of design, well suited to the grandiose rooms appropriate to the Roman imperial scale.
Barrel or tunnel vaults are inherently limited in span, and they exert lateral thrust. Two Roman inventions of enormous importance overcame this. First was the dome, inherently more stable than the barrel vault because it is doubly curved, but also limited because it thrusts outward circumferentially. It was possible for Hadrian to rebuild (AD 118-28) the Pantheon in Rome with a dome 43 m (142 ft) above the floor, but only by encircling it with a massive hollow ring wall 6 m (20 ft) thick that encloses eight segments of curved units. Thus, a dome provides for a one-room building but cannot easily be combined with other domes to make a larger space.
The Groin Vault
The second important invention was the groin vault, formed by the intersection of two identical barrel vaults over a square plan. They intersect along ellipses that go diagonally to the corners of the square. Because the curvature is in more than one direction, each barrel tends to reinforce the other. The great advantage of the groin vault is that it can be placed on four piers (built to receive 45° thrust), leaving the sides of the square for windows or for continuity with adjoining spaces.
In the great Roman thermae (baths) and basilicas (law courts and markets), rows of square groin-vaulted bays (or units) provided vast rooms lighted by clerestory windows high on the long sides under the vaults.
The Romans introduced the commemorative or triumphal arch and the colosseum or stadium. They further developed the Greek theater and the Greek house; many excellent examples of houses were unearthed in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, towns that were buried in the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
The Roman genius for grandiose urban design is seen in the plan of Rome, where each emperor left a new forum, complete with basilica, temple, and other features. Their plans are axially organized, but with greater complexity than heretofore seen. The most remarkable among the great complexes is Hadrian’s Villa (AD 125-32) near Tivoli, which abounds in richly inventive plan forms.
The Greek orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) were widely adopted and further elaborated. But the Romans ultimately trivialized them by applying them indiscriminately, usually in the form of engaged columns or pilasters with accompanying cornices, to both interior and exterior walls as a form of ornamentation. They lost in the process the orders’ capacity to evoke a sense of the loads being sustained in post-and-lintel construction. See Roman Art and Architecture.
The Medieval World
Two major architectural developments were initiated by historic religious events. The first occurred in 312, when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great conferred recognition on Christianity, which led to the development of Christian architecture. The second, the promulgation of Islam in about 610 by the Prophet Muhammad, spawned Islamic architecture.
The Architecture of Christianity
Constantine the Great’s removal in 330 of the imperial capital to Byzantium, which became Constantinople (modern Istanbul), separated the Christian church into East and West and set in motion two divergent architectural developments-Early Christian and Byzantine-each taking as its point of departure a different Roman prototype.
Early Christian Architecture
The term Early Christian is given to the basilican architecture of the church prior to the reintroduction of vaulting about the year 1000. The surviving churches in Rome that most clearly evoke the Early Christian character are San Clemente (with its 4th-century choir furnishings), Sant’ Agnese Fuori le Mura (rebuilt 630 and later), and Santa Sabina (422-32).
While Byzantine architecture developed on the concept called the central church, assembled around a central dome like the Pantheon, the Western or Roman church-more concerned with congregational participation in the Mass-preferred the Roman basilica. Early models resembled large barns, with stone walls and timber roofs. The central part (nave) of this rectangular structure was supported on columns opening toward single or double flanking aisles of lower height. The difference in roof height permitted high windows, called clerestory windows, in the nave walls; at the end of the nave, opposite the entrance, was placed the altar, backed by a large apse (also borrowed from Rome), in which the officiating clergy were seated.
The Eastern emperor Justinian I was in control of Ravenna during his reign (527-65).
Some of the constructions there can be considered Byzantine, as they featured mosaic mural compositions in Byzantine style. Two of Ravenna’s great churches, however-Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo (circa 520) and Sant’ Apollinare in Classe (circa 530-49)-are basilican in plan. See Early Christian Art and Architecture.
Byzantine architecture has its early prototypes in San Vitale (526-47) in Ravenna and in Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus (527) in Constantinople, both domed churches on an octagonal plan with surrounding aisles. But it was Justinian’s great church at Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, or the Church of the Holy Wisdom (532-37), that demonstrated how to place a vast dome over a square plan. The solution was to place the dome on pendentives, or spherical triangles, that make a circle out of the square by rounding its corners.
The pendentive can be understood by visualizing its geometry. A square drawn on the ground has two circles, one circumscribed around it, the other inscribed within it. A hemisphere set on the larger circle is intersected by vertical planes rising from the sides of the square, forming four arches. A horizontal plane is then passed through the hemisphere at the tops of these arches, providing a ring on which is built the dome, which has a diameter equal to the circle inscribed within the square. The pendentives are spherical triangles, the remaining portions of the first, or outer, hemisphere.
At Hagia Sophia, two opposing arches on the central square open into semidomes, each pierced by three smaller radial semidomes, forming an oblong volume 31 m (100 ft) wide by 80 m (260 ft) long. The central dome rises out of this series of smaller spherical surfaces. An abundance of small windows, including a circle of them at the rim of the dome, provides a diffused light.
Byzantine figurative art developed a characteristic style; its architectural application took the form of mosaics, great mural compositions executed in tiny pieces (tesserae) of colored marble and gilded glass, a technique presumed to have been borrowed from Persia.
Byzantine churches, each with a central dome opening into surrounding semidomes and other vault forms, and accompanied by the characteristic iconography, proliferated throughout the Byzantine Empire-Greece, the Balkans, Asia Minor, and parts of North Africa and Italy-and also influenced the design of churches in Western Christendom. Later churches are often miniaturizations of the original grandiose concept; their proportions emphasize vertical space, and the domes themselves become smaller. When Moscow became Christian, Europe was already into the Renaissance, but Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral (1500-60) shows how Byzantine domes finally became onion-shaped tops of towers, no longer relevant to interior space making. See Byzantine Art and Architecture.
A plan drawn on parchment of a now-vanished monastery in Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, shows that by the time of Charlemagne (742-814) the Benedictine monastic order had become a big departmentalized institution, but not until almost 1000 did church building come to life throughout the West. At first, the architects were all monks, for the monasteries supplied not only the material wealth but also the aggregated learning that made the new initiative possible.
The basilican plan used in earlier times needed elaboration to accommodate a new liturgy. The essential symbol of the cross was incorporated in the form of transepts, a cross axis (perhaps borrowed from Byzantium) that served to identify the choir (for the monks), as distinct from the nave (for the public).
Beyond the choir, in a semicircular apse girded by the ambulatory (a semicircular extension of the aisles), stood the main altar, the focal point of the building. Subaltars, needed for the daily Mass required of many monks, were placed in the transepts and in the ambulatory. At the nave entrance were placed narthexes, vestibules and reception areas for pilgrims. Although many French churches-Saint Savin sur Gartempe (nave 1095-1115), Saint Sernin in Toulouse (circa 1080-1120), and Sainte Foy in Conques (begun 1050)-had barrel-vaulted naves, Saint Philibert in Tournus (950-1120) used transverse arches to support a series of barrel vaults, with windows high in the vertical plane at the ends of the vaults. Ultimately, the groin vault became the preferred solution, because it offered high windows together with a continuous longitudinal crown, as in Sainte Madeleine in Vézelay (1104) and Worms Cathedral (11th century) in Germany. The semicircular arches of the groin vault form a square in plan; thus, the nave consisted of a long series of square bays or segments. The smaller and lower vaults of the aisles were often doubled up, two to each nave bay, to conform to this configuration.
The greatest monastic Romanesque church, Cluny III (1088-1121), did not survive the French Revolution but has been reconstructed in drawings; it was an immense double-aisled church almost 137 m (almost 450 ft) long, with 15 small chapels in transepts and ambulatory. Its design influenced Romanesque and Gothic churches in Bourgogne and beyond. Another important stimulus to French Romanesque was the pilgrimage cult; a convergence of routes led over the western Pyrenees into Spain and thus to Santiago de Compostela, where the pilgrim could venerate the presumed relics of St. James. Along the routes to Spain, certain points were sanctified as pilgrimage stops, which led to the erection of splendid Romanesque churches at Autun (1120-32), Paray-le-Monial (circa 1100), Périgueux (1120), Conques (1050), Moissac (circa 1120), Clermont-Ferrand (1262), Saint Guilhem le Désert (1076), and others. See Romanesque Art and Architecture.
At the beginning of the 12th century, Romanesque was transformed into Gothic. Although the change was a response to a growing rationalism in Christian theology, it was also the result of technical developments in vaulting. To build a vault requires first a temporary carpentry structure, called centering, which supports the masonry until the shell has been completed and the mortar has set. Centering for the ordinary groin vault must be for an entire structural unit, or bay, with a resultant heavy structure resting on the floor. About 1100, the builders of Durham Cathedral in England invented a new method. They built two intersecting diagonal arches across the bay, on lighter centering perhaps supported high on the nave walls, and then found ways to fill out the shell resting on secondary centering. This gave a new geometric articulation-the ribbed vault. Ribs did not modify the structural characteristics of the groin vault, but they offered constructional advantage and emphatically changed the vault’s appearance.
Another development was the pointed arch and vault. The main advantage was geometrical. Vaults of various proportions could cover a rectangular or even a trapezoidal bay, so that nave bays could correspond with the narrower aisle bays, and vaulting could proceed around the curved apse without interruption. Also, the nave walls containing clerestory windows could be pushed just as high as the crown of the vault. Soon this clerestory became all window, filled with tracery and stained glass that conferred a new luminosity on the interior.
With these advances, the master builders were encouraged to construct more elegant, higher, and apparently lighter structures. But the vaults had to be kept from spreading outward by restraint imposed near the base of the vaults, now high above the aisle roofs. The solution was another innovation, the flying buttress, a half arch leaning against the vault from the outside, with its base firmly set in a massive pier of its own.
This new style received its most intensive development in the Île-de-France. The abbey church of Saint Denis (1140-44), the royal mausoleum near Paris, became the first grandiose model. Bishops in prosperous northern cities were then drawn into competition for designers and artisans to outdo other cathedrals. The beginning dates of the major French examples are Laon, 1160; Paris, 1163; Chartres, 1194; Bourges, 1195; Reims, 1210; Amiens, 1220; and Beauvais, 1225. The beginning dates of English Gothic cathedrals are Canterbury, 1174; Lincoln, 1192; York Minster, 1261; and Exeter, 1280. The collapse of the Beauvais choir in 1284, however, indicated that structural limits had been reached. The transverse span of the nave vaults of these cathedrals was in the range of 9 to 15 m (30 to 50 ft), but the rebuilt Beauvais choir attained a height of 47 m (154 ft).
Although the finest medieval architecture was ecclesiastical, secular builders also constructed great buildings in the years 1000 to 1400. The medieval castle is a romantic symbol of feudalism; one of the most impressive and best-preserved examples is the Krak des Chevaliers (1131) in Jordan, built by the Knights Hospitalers at the time of the Crusades.
Military architecture was a defensive response to advances in the technology of warfare; the ability to withstand siege remained important. Fortifications sometimes embraced whole towns; important examples include Ávila in Spain, Aigues-Mortes and Carcassonne in France, Chester in England, and Visby in Sweden.
Urbanization increased on a large scale, brought about by the needs and desires of many groups, including the church and its monasteries, the nobles and kings, the craft guilds, and the merchants and bankers. The planning patterns that developed are quite different from the arbitrary geometry of Roman cities or of Renaissance theorists. Throughout northern Europe, where hardwood remained available until the Industrial Revolution, timber frame construction flourished. In half-timber construction, a quickly erected wood frame was infilled with wattle and daub (twigs and plaster) or brickwork. Monastic barns and municipal covered markets necessitated large braced wooden frames. The descendants of Vikings built the curiously beautiful stave churches in Norwegian valleys. In the Alps whole towns were built of horizontally interlocked wood timbers of square cross section. Brick architecture also flourished in many regions, notably Lombardy, northern Germany, Holland, and Denmark. See Gothic Art and Architecture.
The Architecture of Islam
The Islamic concept of a mosque as a place for ablutions and prayer differs from the idea of a Christian church, and the desert climates in which Islam first became established required protection from sun, wind, and sand. The initial prototype was a simple walled-in rectangle containing a fountain and surrounded with porticoes. A qibla, or wall toward Mecca, had in its center an apse, or mihrab, with a nearby pulpit, or minbar; the shelter at this end consisted of multiple arcades of transverse and lateral rows of columns. Structural elements were the arch and the dome; roofs were flat unless forced upward by vaults, and there were no high windows. The mosque had at least one tower, or minaret, from which the call to prayer was issued five times daily. The same basic plan is followed to this day.
Western and Middle Eastern Islamic Architecture
The Great Mosque at Al Qayrawan in Tunisia was built in AD 670, but its well-preserved state today reflects construction of the period 817-902.
The oldest mosque in Iraq is at Samarra (847-52).
It is now a brick ruin, but its curious cone-shaped minaret with outside spiral ramp survives. The Great Mosque at Córdoba in Spain covers 2.4 hectares (6 acres) and was built in several stages from 786 to 965. It was converted to a Christian cathedral in 1236. Also in Spain is the Alhambra (1354-91) at Granada, one of the most dazzling examples of Islamic palace architecture; its courts and fountains have delighted visitors ever since its construction.
Over the centuries Islamic architecture borrowed extensively from other cultures. Beginning in 1453, the Ottoman Turks ruled from Constantinople. Sultan Suleiman I (the Magnificent) was a patron of arts and architecture. His architect, Sinan, knew the Byzantine traditions, and in his mosques he refined and elaborated on the great 6th-century prototype, Hagia Sophia. Sinan’s masterpieces are the Suleimaniye (begun 1550) in Istanbul and the Selimiye (begun 1569) in Edirne.
Iran is renowned for brick masonry vaulting and for glazed ceramic veneers. The finest examples of Islamic architecture in Iran are found in Esfahan (Isfahan), the former capital. The enormous imperial mosque, the Masjid-i-Jami, represents several construction periods, beginning in the 15th century. Even more richly ornamented is the sumptuous Masjid-i-Shah (1585-1616), built to be part of the royal civic compound of Shah Abbas I.
Islamic Architecture in India
The Mughal peoples, who had embraced Islam, made incursions into India and established an empire there. Mughal architecture was based on Persian traditions, but developed in northwestern India in ways peculiar to that region. The earliest remaining mosque, the Qutb, near Delhi, was begun in 1195. It is impossible to separate Mughal religious architecture from that erected to glorify the Mughal Empire.
The great builders were the emperors of the 16th and 17th centuries. Their most impressive monuments are a succession of imperial tombs. Notable are the superbly architectonic tomb (1564-73) of Humayun in Delhi, the jewel-like Itimad-ud-Daulah (1622-28) in Agra, and the beautifully proportioned and decorated Taj Mahal (1632-48), also in Agra. A typical tomb was a high central dome surrounded by smaller chambers arranged about two intersecting axes so that all four sides of the structure are alike. It is built on a raised platform overlooking a large formal garden, surrounded by a wall, with pavilions at the axial points.
Each of the 16th- and 17th-century Mughal emperors elaborated the huge forts at Lahore, Delhi, and Agra. These forts included living quarters, mosque, baths, public and private audience halls, and the harem. One compound, that of Fatehpur Sikri, was begun in 1571 and abandoned in 1585. See Indian Art and Architecture.
Islam forbade the representation of persons and animals; yet craftsmen created highly ornamented buildings. The motifs are geometrical designs, floral arabesques, and Arabic calligraphy. The materials are glazed tile, wood joinery and marquetry, marble, mosaic, sandstone, stucco carving, and white marble inlaid with dark marbles and gemstones. See Islamic Art and Architecture.
The New Age
The cultural revolution in Western civilization now called the Renaissance brought about an entirely new age, not only in philosophy and literature but in the visual arts as well. In architecture, the principles and styles of ancient Greece and Rome were revived and reinterpreted, to remain dominant until the 20th century.
The Renaissance, literally meaning “rebirth,” brought into being some of the most significant and admired works ever built. Beginning in Italy about 1400, it spread to the rest of Europe during the next 150 years.
Italian Renaissance Architecture
The families who governed rival cities in northern Italy in the 15th century-de Medici, Sforza, da Montefeltro, and others-had become wealthy enough through commerce to become patrons of the arts. People of leisure began to take serious scholarly interest in the neglected Latin culture-its literature, its art, and its architecture, whose ruins lay about them.
Early in the 15th century the city of Florence was in the process of completing its cathedral. Piers had already been erected to support a dome almost as large as that of the Pantheon in Rome. A proposal for its completion was submitted by Filippo Brunelleschi, who had studied Roman structural solutions. His constructed dome (1420-36) is derived from Rome but is different; it is of masonry, is octagonal, has inner and outer shells connected by ribs, is pointed and rises higher, and is crowned with a lantern. Its drum with circular windows stands alone without buttressing, for the base contains a tension ring-huge stone blocks held together with iron clamps and topped with heavy iron chains. Two additional tension rings are contained within the dome’s double shells. Brunelleschi stood at the threshold between Gothic and Renaissance. His Pazzi Chapel (begun c. 1441), also in Florence, is a clear statement of new principles of proportion and design.
A new type of urban building evolved at this time-the palazzo, or city residence of a prominent family. The palazzi were several stories high; rooms were grouped around a cortile, or courtyard; the outer walls of the palazzo were on the lot lines.
The Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti, in his design for the Palazzo Rucellai (1446-51), employed in its facade three superposed classic orders, much as in the Roman Colosseum, except that he used pilasters instead of engaged columns. They seem to have been engraved in the wall plane; the resulting compartmentalization of the facade provides a logical setting for the windows. Alberti also published in 1485 the first book on architectural theory since Vitruvius, which became a major influence in promoting classicism.
In the 16th century, Rome became the leading center for the new architecture. The Milanese architect Donato Bramante practiced in Rome beginning in 1499. His Tempietto (1502), an elegantly proportioned circular temple in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio, was one of the earliest Renaissance structures in Rome.
The erection of a new basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City was the most important of many 16th-century projects. In drawing the first plan (1503-06) Bramante rejected the Western basilica concept in favor of a Greek cross of equal arms with a central dome. Popes who came after Julius II, however, appointed other architects-notably Michelangelo and Carlo Maderno-and, when the church was completed in 1612, the Latin cross form had been imposed with a lengthened nave. Michelangelo’s dome, ribbed and with a lantern, is a logical development from Brunelleschi’s in Florence. It rises in a high oval and is the prototype not only for later churches but for many state capitol buildings in the U.S.
Toward the middle of the 16th century such leading architects as Michelangelo, Baldassare Peruzzi, Giulio Romano, and Giacomo da Vignola began to use the classical Roman elements in ways that did not conform to the rules that governed designs in the early Renaissance. Arches, columns, and entablatures came to be used as devices to introduce drama through depth recession, asymmetry, and unexpected proportions and scales. This tendency, called Mannerism, is exemplified by Giulio’s sophisticated Palazzo del Tè (1526-34) at Mantua.
The architect Andrea Palladio practiced in the environs of Vicenza and Venice. Although he visited Rome, he did not wholly adopt the Mannerist approach. He specialized in villas for gentleman farmers. These villas explore all the variations on the classical norms: governing axis defined in the approach, single major entrance, single major interior space surrounded by smaller rooms, secondary functions extended in symmetrical arms, and careful attention to proportion. They were immortalized by Palladio’s publication The Four Books of Architecture (1570; trans. 1738), in which drawings for them appear, with the dimensions written into the plans to emphasize Palladio’s harmonic series of dimensions that govern the major proportions. These books later enabled Inigo Jones in England and Thomas Jefferson in Virginia to propagate Palladian principles among the gentleman farmers of their times. In two large Venetian churches, San Giorgio Maggiore (1565) and II Redentore (1577), Palladio made important contributions toward the adaptation of classic ideas to the liturgical and formal traditions of Roman Catholicism.
Northern Renaissance Architecture
Renaissance ideas had spread rapidly to France by 1494. French royal policy was to attract Italian artists (beginning with Leonardo da Vinci in 1506) while at the same time encouraging and developing native talent. It is believed that the Italian architect Domenico da Cortona designed the extraordinary Château de Chambord that Francis I built (1519-47) in the Loire Valley, which retains outward characteristics of a medieval castle. The French architects Jacques Androuet du Cerceau the Elder and Philibert Delorme worked at Fontainebleau, and Delorme was architect for the Château d’Anet, where Benvenuto Cellini was employed as sculptor. In Paris, work on the Louvre was undertaken by Pierre Lescot in 1546.
Philip II of Spain engaged Juan de Herrera and Juan Bautista de Toledo as architects for his colossal Escorial (1563-84) near Madrid-half palace, half monastery. England was somewhat slower to change. Inigo Jones, its principal early Renaissance architect, visited Italy and emulated Palladio in such works as the Banqueting House (1619-22) in Whitehall, London. See Renaissance Art and Architecture.
Baroque and Rococo Architecture
In early Renaissance and even Mannerist architecture, elements were combined in rather static compositions; classic design implies a serene balance among the several components, and spaces locked into the geometry of perspective. Unsatisfied with this, the baroque architects of the 17th century deployed classic elements in more complex ways, so that the identity of these elements was masked, and space became more ambiguous and more activated. Baroque movement is understood as that of the observer experiencing the work, and of the observer’s eyes scanning an interior space or probing a long vista. Some of the later rococo works contain a richness of ornament, color, and imagery that, combined with a highly sophisticated handling of light, overwhelms the observer.
Italian Baroque Architecture
Italians were the pioneers of baroque; the best known was the architect-sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, designer of the great oval plaza (begun 1656) in front of St. Peter’s. Francesco Borromini produced two masterpieces, both on an intimate scale, in Rome. San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (1638-41; facade completed 1667) distorts the dome on pendentives into a coffered ellipse to stretch the space into a longitudinal axis; its facade undulates, entablature and all. The plan of Sant’Ivo della Sapienza (begun 1642) is based on two intersecting equilateral triangles that produce six niches of alternating shapes; these shapes, defined by pilasters and ribs, rise through what would ordinarily be a dome, continuing the hexagonal concept from floor to lantern.
Guarino Guarini designed a church in Turin, San Lorenzo (1668-87), with eight intersecting ribs that offer interstices for letting in daylight. His even more astonishing Cappella della Santa Sindone (Chapel of the Holy Shroud, 1667-94), also in Turin, has a cone-shaped hexagonal dome created by six segmental arches rising in eight staggered tiers.
French Baroque Architecture
Seventeenth-century French architects also designed baroque churches, one of their greatest being part of Les Invalides, Paris (1676-1706), by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The best French talent, however, was absorbed in the secular service of Louis XIV and his government. The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (1657-61) is a grandiose ensemble representing the collaboration of the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Lebrun, and the landscape architect André Le Nôtre. The Sun King was so impressed that he engaged these designers to rebuild the Château de Versailles on a truly regal scale. The Palace of Versailles became the center of government and was continuously enlarged between 1667 and 1710. Bernini submitted designs for enlarging the Louvre in Paris, but Claude Perrault was finally awarded that commission (executed 1667-79).
French architecture of le grand siècle lacks the exuberance of Italian baroque, but its designers achieved the epitome of elegance.
English Baroque Architecture
In England the rebuilding of London after the 1666 fire brought to prominence the many-talented Sir Christopher Wren, whose masterpiece is Saint Paul’s Cathedral (1675-1710).
He also designed or influenced the design of many other English churches. Among other innovations, Wren introduced the single square tower belfry with tall spire that became the hallmark of church architecture in England and the United States.
Baroque Urban Design
Baroque thinking powerfully addressed the area of urban design. Michelangelo’s Campidoglio (Capitol, 1538-64) in Rome had already provided a model for the public square, and villas such as Vignola’s Villa Farnese (begun 1539) in Caprarola showed how these important buildings could extend axial ties into the townscape. Baroque church facades frequently had more to do with their accompanying piazzas than with the church interiors. Often, whole new towns were built on formal principles. Early in the 18th century Peter the Great brought Italian and French baroque architects to Russia to create Saint Petersburg. In the New World were built such large urban centers as Mexico City; Santiago, Chile; Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala; Philadelphia; Savannah, Georgia; and Washington, D.C. See Baroque Art and Architecture.
When Louis XIV died (1715), changes in the artistic climate led to the exuberant rococo style. Once again the work of Italians-notably Guarini and Filippo Juvarra-provided the basis for a new thrust. The expression of royal grandeur has survived in Paris’s Place de la Concorde (begun 1753) by Jacques Ange Gabriel and the great axis and plazas (1751-59) by Héré de Corny at Nancy. A more intimate and personal expression appears in Gabriel’s Petit Trianon (1762-64) at Versailles. Rococo came to full flower, however, in Bavaria and Austria. The Austrian Benedictine Abbey (1748-54) at Ottobeuren by Johann Michael Fischer is only one of a brilliant series of spectacular churches, monasteries, and palaces that includes Balthasar Neumann’s opulent Vierzehnheiligen (Church of the Fourteen Saints, 1743-72) near Bamberg, Germany, and the Amalienburg Pavilion (1734-39) by the Flemish-born Bavarian architect François de Cuvilliés in the park at Nymphenburg near Munich.
The many elaborate colonial churches found throughout Central and South America attest to the power and influence of the Roman Catholic church during baroque and rococo times. They include cathedrals in Mexico City, Guanajuato, and Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico; Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala; Quito, Ecuador; Ouro Prêto, Brazil; and Cuzco, Peru; as well as such northern missions as Sant’ Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona, and the chain of missions on the California coast. The Spanish architect José Churriguera developed an extremely elaborate decorative style that, transferred to Latin America and somewhat debased, was given the name Churrigueresque. See Latin American Art and Architecture.
In many countries of northern Europe the elegance and dignity attainable through adherence to classic rules of composition retained appeal, while in central and southern Europe and Scandinavia, baroque and rococo ran their course. In England, the duke of Marlborough’s great Blenheim Palace, designed (1705) by Sir John Vanbrugh, emulated in rougher and reduced form the grandeur of Versailles.
A renewed interest in Palladio and his follower Inigo Jones emerged. Development of the resort city of Bath gave opportunities to John Wood and his son to apply Palladian classicism to the design of Queen’s Square (1728), the Circus (1754-70), and finally the great Royal Crescent (1767-75), in all of which the individual houses were made to conform to an encompassing classic order. Robert Adam popularized classicism, expressing it notably through delicate stucco ornamentation. Historical scholarship became more precise, and true Greek architecture-including such pure examples of Doric as the Parthenon-became known to architects through the 1762 publication by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett of Antiquities of Athens. These developments reinforced the grip of neoclassicism in England, and the resulting type of architecture became popularly known as the Georgian style.
In what was to become the northeastern United States, Peter Harrison and Samuel McIntire took their cues from English architects in their own version of Georgian architecture, which was called Federal after the United States won independence. In the Southeast, with an aristocracy predominantly rural, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Latrobe, and others derived their building style more directly from Palladio. Jefferson, whose early virtuosity had been demonstrated in Monticello (1770-84), was also moved by ancient Rome, and placed a version (1817-26) of the Pantheon at the head of his magnificent Lawn at the University of Virginia. See Neoclassical Art and Architecture.
The Industrial Age
The Industrial Revolution, which began in England about 1760, led to radical changes at every level of civilization throughout the world. The growth of heavy industry brought a flood of new building materials-such as cast iron, steel, and glass-with which architects and engineers devised structures hitherto undreamed of in function, size, and form.
Disenchantment with baroque, with rococo, and even with neo-Palladianism turned late 18th-century designers and patrons toward the original Greek and Roman prototypes. Selective borrowing from another time and place became fashionable. Its Greek aspect was particularly strong in the young United States from the early years of the 19th century until about 1850. New settlements were given Greek names-Syracuse, Ithaca, Troy-and Doric and Ionic columns, entablatures, and pediments, mostly transmuted into white-painted wood, were applied to public buildings and important town houses in the style called Greek Revival.
In France, the imperial cult of Napoleon steered architecture in a more Roman direction, as seen in the Church of the Madeleine (1807-42), a huge Roman temple in Paris. French architectural thought had been jolted at the turn of the century by the highly imaginative published projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicholas Ledoux. These men were inspired by the massive aspects of Egyptian and Roman work, but their monumental (and often impractical) compositions were innovative, and they are admired today as visionary architects.
The most original architect in England at the time was Sir John Soane; the museum he built as his own London house (1812-13) still excites astonishment for its inventive romantic virtuosity. Late English neoclassicism came to be seen as elitist; thus, for the new Houses of Parliament the authorities insisted on Gothic or Tudor Revival. The appointed architect, Sir Charles Barry, was not a Gothic expert, but he called into consultation an architect who was-A. W. N. Pugin, who became responsible for the details of this vast monument (begun 1836).
Pugin, in a short and contentious career, made a moral issue out of a return to the Gothic style. Other architects, however, felt free to select whatever elements from past cultures best fitted their programs-Gothic for Protestant churches, baroque for Roman Catholic churches, early Greek for banks, Palladian for institutions, early Renaissance for libraries, and Egyptian for cemeteries.
In the second half of the 19th century dislocations brought about by the Industrial Revolution became overwhelming. Many were shocked by the hideous new urban districts of factories and workers’ housing and by the deterioration of public taste among the newly rich. For the new modes of transportation, canals, tunnels, bridges, and railroad stations, architects were employed only to provide a cultural veneer.
The Crystal Palace (1850-51; reconstructed 1852-54) in London, a vast but ephemeral exhibition hall, was the work of Sir Joseph Paxton, a man who had learned how to put iron and glass together in the design of large greenhouses. It demonstrated a hitherto undreamed-of kind of spatial beauty, and in its carefully planned building process, which included prefabricated standard parts, it foreshadowed industrialized building and the widespread use of cast iron and steel. See Crystal Palace.
Also important in its innovative use of metal was the great tower (1887-89) of Gustave Alexandre Eiffel in Paris. In general, however, the most gifted architects of the time sought escape from their increasingly industrialized environment by further development of traditional themes and eclectic styles. Two contrasting but equally brilliantly conceived examples are Charles Garnier’s sumptuous Paris Opéra (1861-75) and Henry Hobson Richardson’s grandiose Trinity Church (1872-77) in Boston.
At the turn of the century, designers appeared who refused to work in borrowed styles. Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain, was the most original; his sinuous Casa Milá (1905-7) and the unfinished Iglesia di Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family, 1883-1926) exhibit a search for new organic structural forms. His work has some affinity with the movement called art nouveau, which had been inaugurated contemporaneously in Brussel and Paris. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose masterpiece is the Glasgow School of Art (1898-99), espoused a more austere version of art nouveau.
The Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, in his Wainwright Building (1890-91) in St. Louis, Missouri, his Guaranty Building (1895) in Buffalo, New York, and his Carson Pirie Scott Department Store (1899-1904) in Chicago, gave new expressive form to urban commercial buildings. His career converges with the so-called Chicago School of architects, whose challenge was to invent the skyscraper or high-rise building, facilitated by the introduction of the electric elevator and the sudden abundance of steel. They made a successful transition from the masonry bearing wall to the steel frame, which assumed all the load-bearing functions. The building’s skeleton could be erected quickly and the remaining components hung on it to complete it, an immense advantage for high-rise buildings on busy city streets. Sullivan is memorable not only for his own work but for having provided the apprenticeship of Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest native architect, whose career extended 50 years beyond that of Sullivan. See American Art and Architecture.
In France attention centered on reinforced concrete. Auguste Perret’s apartment building (1902-3) in the Rue Franklin and his Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (1911-12), both in Paris, were early successes. Tony Garnier had, during his studies in Rome, created a detailed design for an imaginary city with many buildings, all in concrete; its plans were published in 1917 as La cité industrielle. Vienna was the scene of work by Otto Wagner and by Adolf Loos, who worked in severe linear forms and proclaimed that “ornament is a crime.” Peter Behrens, a founding member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Craft Alliance), is revered as a German precursor of modern architecture. See Modern Art and Architecture.
When the Bauhaus opened, the modern movement in architecture began to coalesce. The Bauhaus school (Weimar, 1919-25; Dessau, 1926-33) brought together architects, painters, and designers from several countries, all determined to formulate goals for the visual arts in the modern age. Its first director was Walter Gropius, who designed the innovative buildings for the move to Dessau; its second was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The new architecture demonstrated its virtues in new Siedlungen (low-cost housing) in Berlin and Frankfurt. An exhibition of housing types, the Weissenhof Siedlung (1927) in Stuttgart, brought together works by Mies, Gropius, the Dutch J. J. P. Oud, and the Swiss-French Le Corbusier; this milestone identified the movement with a better life for the common man. The chastely elegant German Pavilion (1929) by Mies for the Barcelona Exhibition, executed in such lavish materials as travertine, marble, onyx, and chrome-plated steel, asserted a strong, formal argument independent of any social goals. Gropius, his disciple Marcel Breuer, and Mies eventually established themselves in the U.S., where they enjoyed productive and influential decades-extending through the 1970s for Breuer-as architects and teachers.
Le Corbusier, over a long career, exerted immense influence. His early publications championed a machine aesthetic and urged the replacement of traditional cities in favor of life and work in skyscrapers arranged regimentally in vast parks. His Villa Savoie (1929-30) in the French countryside downplays a sense of structure and materials in order to dramatize complexity of spacial organization and allow a subtle ambiguity between interior and exterior space. In the 1950s, with Jawaharlal Nehru as client, he laid out the new capital city of the Punjab, Chandìgarh, and designed for it three monumental concrete government edifices standing in a vast plaza. In France he produced two unique religious buildings, the pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp (1950-55) and the Dominican monastery of La Tourette (1957-61), both in concrete. Having abandoned the extreme rationalism of his early career, he manipulated form and light in these extraordinary structures for emotional response and dramatic effect.
Such structural engineers as the Swiss Robert Maillart, the French Eugène Freyssinet, and the Italian Pier Luigi Nervi produced works in reinforced concrete that combined imagination with rationality to achieve aesthetic impact. Among architects the Danish Jørn Utzon, in Australia’s Sydney Opera House (1957-73), and the Finnish-American Eero Saarinen, in Dulles Airport (1960-62) near Washington, D.C., employed unusual structural solutions. From his base in Helsinki, the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto extended his oeuvre through more than four decades, refusing to celebrate the industrialized repetition of steel, concrete, glass, and aluminum, but molding spaces with utmost sophistication, great care in the distribution of light, and the use of materials-stone, wood, and copper-with familiar and sympathetic tactile qualities. The American Louis I. Kahn infused his designs with a transcendent monumentality recalling Roman classicism, as in the transformation of tunnel vaults into light-modulating girders in his Kimbell Art Museum (1972), located in Fort Worth, Texas.
The International Style
Despite such noteworthy exceptions-including such later works of Wright as New York City’s Guggenheim Museum (completed 1959)-the style initiated by the Bauhaus architects and termed the International Style gradually prevailed after the 1930s. The theory and practice of the new style was introduced in the United States largely through the efforts of Philip C. Johnson, one of Gropius’s students at Harvard University. In the hands of its most gifted exponents, such as Mies, the International Style was particularly well suited to large metropolitan apartment and office towers. The chaste elegance and subtle proportions of Mies’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1951) in Chicago and (with Philip C. Johnson) his Seagram Building (1958) in New York City represent modernism at its finest. Many of his imitators, however, seized on its commercial potential; it proved extremely efficient for large-scale construction, in which the same module could be repeated indefinitely. Inner spaces became standardized, predictable, and profitable, and exteriors reflected the monotony of the interiors; the blank glass box became ubiquitous.
Assessing modernism after a half century in which it was dominant, commentators pointed out that even though it was embraced by big business and big government, the lay public never grew fond of it. At most an austere classicism was conceded to it, but this was achieved in a coldly impersonal and often overwhelming way. Modernism had cut off architecture’s roots in the past by about 1930. Suddenly it became incorrect for a new building to show any resemblance to old ones; and for a period of time the study of historical styles almost disappeared from professional schools.
Between about 1965 and 1980 architects and critics began to espouse tendencies for which there is as yet no better designation than postmodern. Although postmodernism is not a cohesive movement based on a distinct set of principles, as was modernism, in general it can be said that the postmodernists value individuality, intimacy, complexity, and occasionally even humor.
Postmodern tendencies were given early expression in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966; revised ed. 1977) by the American architect Robert Venturi. In this provocative work he defended vernacular architecture-for example, gas stations and fast-food restaurants-and attacked the modernist establishment with such satiric comments as “Less is a bore” (a play on Mies’s well-known dictum “Less is more”).
By the early 1980s, postmodernism had become the dominant trend in American architecture and an important phenomenon in Europe as well. Its success in the U.S. owed much to the influence of Philip C. Johnson, who had performed the same service for modernism 50 years earlier. His AT&T Building (1984) in New York City, with its Renaissance allusions and its pediment evoking Chippendale furniture, immediately became a landmark of postmodern design.
Other postmodern office towers built during the 1980s aspired to a similar high stylistic profile, recalling the great Art Deco skyscrapers of the 1920s and ’30s or striving for an eccentric flamboyance of their own. Vivid color and other decorative elements were effectively used by Michael Graves in several notable buildings, while Richard Meier developed a more austere version of postmodernism, influenced by Le Corbusier, in his designs for museums and private houses. Outstanding American practitioners of postmodernism, in addition to Venturi, Johnson, Graves, and Meier, are Helmut Jahn, Charles Gwathmey, Charles Willard Moore, and Robert A. M. Stern.
Closely related to the postmodernist interest in historical styles was the historic preservation movement, which during the 1970s and ’80s led to the renovation of many landmark older buildings and to a tendency to resist new architecture that seemed to threaten the scale or stylistic integrity of existing structures. The stark, confrontational approach of modernism has been replaced by a more inclusive sense of the architectural heritage that acknowledges and seeks to preserve the very finest achievements of every period.