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A Deep Dive into the History of Architecture | 12 Major Architectural Styles

History of Architecture begins in the Neolithic period, roughly 10,000 years ago or at the time when people stopped living in cages and began constructing homes. Architecture is the desire to construct an architectural artefact fuelled by the desire to create more than just beauty but comfort and elegance. The Architecture is derived from the Latin ‘architectura’ or from the Greek ‘arkhitekton’;  where Arkhi meaning ‘chief’ and tekton meaning ‘builder.’

Architecture also means the physical structure of buildings; the study, science, and art of designing buildings and also the method of designing and constructing buildings. The oldest surviving written work on architecture from the 1st century AD, by Marcus Virtruvius Pollio, a Roman architect in his ‘De Architectura’ (English: On Architecture) defines a good building as having ‘firmitas’ or the durability and robustness; ‘utilitas’ the purpose it is built for; and ‘venustas’ or beauty, meaning the building must be beautiful.

Different Architectural Styles

Prehistoric Architecture

The earliest human structures like Göbekli Tepe and Stonehenge were in the form of earthen mounds, stone circles or megaliths in geometric forms which puzzle the modern-day archaeologists. 

History of Architecture
Prehistoric Building Typology

Ancient Egyptian Architecture (3500 BCE to 900 AD)

Egyptian architecture ranges from 3,050 B.C. to 900 B.C. when the most impressive structures like the pyramids were created without the use of mortar. Flooding of the river Nile and time has destroyed the ancient homes but what remains are temples and tombs, made with granite and limestone and decorated with hieroglyphics, carvings, and brightly colored frescoes.

History of Architecture
Djehouty, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Egyptian Pyramids

Classical Architecture (850 AD TO 476 AD)

The most important architectural feature of Classical architecture is the column placed on the façade of buildings in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The features to identify classical style are symmetry and proportion. The Doric column was developed in Greece and was used for temples and buildings like Parthenon in Athens.  The Romans borrowed the Corinthian and composite style columns with decorative brackets from the earlier Greek and Hellenistic styles but making their buildings more ornamented. The invention of concrete allowed the Romans to build arches, vaults, and domes examples of Roman architecture include the Roman Colosseum and the Pantheon in Rome.

History of Architecture

Early Christian Architecture (373 AD TO 500 AD)

The term early Christian architecture refers to the architecture of the early Christian churches in Rome and Constantinople. Here, the ruins of older roman buildings were quarried to construct and decorate the new Basilican churches of the Christians. Christianity was accepted as a state religion in Rome and architecture responded to create a worship place for the religion.  The requirements included a path for clergy’s processional entry and exit; an altar area to celebrate mass; space for the segregation of the clergy from the congregation during procession and communion and also a burial space.

History of Architecture

Romanesque Architecture (500 AD TO 1200 AD)

Romanesque architecture presents the influence of Gothic, Carolingian, Byzantine and Islamic architecture. The overall appearance is of simplicity with clearly defined forms; regular and symmetrical plan to create massive structures with thick walls, round arches, decorative arcading, sturdy piers and large towers. Romanesque architecture has been identified across Europe, sporting characteristics which differ due to regions and use of different materials.

History of Architecture
History of Architecture

Byzantine Architecture (A.D. 527 and 565)

Early Byzantine architecture was influenced by Roman architecture; characterized by massive domes with square bases and rounded arches, spires and extensive use of glass mosaics. A

distinct style gradually emerged –the Greek cross plan in church architecture. Buildings with geometric complexity, use of brick and plaster in addition to stone to decorate public structures, mosaics replaced GREEK CROSS to LATIN CROSS, complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through to illuminate the interiors.

History of Architecture
History of Architecture
Photo: Angelo Hornak/Getty

Gothic Architecture (1100 AD TO 1450 AD)

Gothic architecture began in France and originally known as ‘French Style’; where architects were inspired by Romanesque and the pointed arches of Spanish Moorish architecture. These were huge buildings with arches, ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses, elaborate sculptures (like gargoyles) and stained glass windows.

What is Gothic Architecture?
Image Credit: Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Baroque Architecture (1600 AD TO 1830 AD)

The Baroque style reflects in opulent and dramatic churches with irregular shapes and extravagant ornamentation to be found throughout Europe. Russian aristocrats impressed by Versailles in France, incorporated Baroque ideas in St. Petersburg. Builders constructed white buildings with sweeping curves during the last phase of Baroque period

History of Architecture

Rococo Architecture (1650 AD TO 1790 AD)

Rococo art and architecture reflects the decadent indolence and degeneracy of the French Royal Court and High Society by showcasing elegant decorative designs with scrolls, vines, shell-shapes, and delicate geometric patterns.  Rococo was concerned with interior design because the rich patrons in France preferred to remodel their interiors rather rebuild houses and chateaux. And the style was far too whimsical and light-hearted and not meant for the exteriors of religious and civic buildings to become more popular with Catholics than Protestants. It became popular in England, Spain and even in Italy.  This style went out of favor by the

French Revolution and by the sterner Neoclassicism which caused a return to Classical values and styles.

History of Architecture
St. Peter Catherine Palace near Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Basilica

American Colonial (1600 AD TO 1780 AD)

Colonial architecture offers a symmetrical front and rectangular shape in two stories. A saltbox roof (basically where the roof in the back extends almost all the way down to the ground).

History of Architecture

Art Nouveau (1890 AD TO 1940 AD)

Also known as the New Style in France, Art Nouveau was first expressed in fabrics and graphic design.  In 1890s as a revolt against industrialization this style spread to architecture and furniture. Art Nouveau buildings have asymmetrical shapes, arches, and decorative Japanese-like surfaces with curved, plant-like designs and mosaics.

History of Architecture

Neo-Gothic (1905 AD TO 1930 AD )

Gothic cathedrals and other medieval architecture inspired the Neo-Gothic architectural style applied to modern buildings and skyscrapers. These skyscrapers have strong vertical lines and a sense of great height; arched and pointed windows with decorative tracery; gargoyles and other medieval carvings; and pinnacles.

Written by Team TDJI

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