Architecture for the Public -1
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Architecture for the Public -1

Recognizing the architectural style of a specific building increases the enjoyment of people and let them extend their dreams and imaginations beyond the immediate physical appearance of the building to the time when the building was built.

It has always been my concern of how can anyone easily recognize a specific architectural style from past periods. This is really a very important matter for the people who like to travel and visit many places in the world and usually they are attracted by many wonders of the architecture of these places. This article and the following one intend to define few common features that characterize each of the western styles throughout history from Greek to neo-classical architecture. I believe that recognizing the architectural style of a specific building increases the enjoyment of people and let them extend their dreams and imaginations beyond the immediate physical appearance of the building to the time when the building was built.

In many cases , people from outside the discipline of art and architecture and those who did not get the opportunity to read about architectural styles, would find it very difficult to differentiate, for example, between Romanesque and Gothic architecture or between Greek and Roman structures. All past architectural styles have many different features and specific ornamental details that characterize their buildings, but I will mention only two or three essential features that would help the viewer to define the style of the building.

Greek architecture (1000 B.C.–1 A.D)

Greek architecture is characterized by its outstanding monumental-scale buildings, which attract the attention of its viewers. Important characteristics include:

1. The main construction system was usually the post and lintel structural system. It is a horizontal beam placed on top of two columns.

                    Image credit: Parthenon, Athens, Greece

2. The Greek invented three types of columns; the Doric, the Ionic and the Corinthian, but the most common used one was the Doric.

                                     Image credit: Greek Columns

3. The common plan of Greek temples was a rectangular surrounded by a colonnaded portico of columns on all four sides.

                     Image credit: Greek common temple plan

Roman Architecture (330 AD.)

Roman architecture can be considered as a combination between the Greek architectural style and Etruscan (people of ancient Italy) architectural elements, such as the arch and the dome. The most essential features that characterize Roman architecture include:

1. Roman buildings were usually placed on high podium with, wide front steps and a porch formed by number of common use freestanding Corinthian columns.

                                  Image credit: Roman temple

2. Unlike Greek’s structural system (post and lintel), the Romans used big pillars supporting arches and domes in their public building, bridges and aqueducts.

                          Image credit: Coliseum, Rome.

3. The use of hemispherical dome with more than 40 meter in diameter and height.

                         Image credit: Pantheon, Rome.

Byzantine Architecture (4th – 10th century)

Byzantine architecture represents the integration between the method of construction of the West (Roman) and the fine decoration of the East (Iran). Byzantine architecture can be recognized by:

1. A large central dome covering one vast area.

2. Number of half-domes surrounding the large dome.

                                Image credit: Hagia Sofia

Romanesque Architecture (Mid- 10th – 12th century)

Romanesque architecture refers to the similarity of the style to Roman Architecture in both forms and materials. However, the primary characteristics of Romanesque architecture were, in fact, Roman in origin. But there are new elements that were introduced for the first time and characterize Romanesque buildings such as:

1. Round-headed arches for doors and small windows.

2. Heavy square-plan towers.

3. Rounded window.

Image credit: Facade of Angoulême Cathedral, France

Gothic Architecture (12th – 15th century)

The first appearance of Gothic was at the church of Saint-Denis near Paris in the 12th century. Unlike the heavy masses of Romanesque architecture, Gothic buildings are characterized by very thin skeletal stone structures.

Essential Characteristics of Gothic architecture:

1. Pointed arches

2. Unique system of flying buttresses.

3. Sharply pointed spires

                      Image credit: Notre-Dame de Paris

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Comments (25)

Great lesson. I started out as an architecture major, but realized that what I appreciate most is not the design, but the culture behind the design. But knowing these various physical features has proved invaluable as an anthropologist.

Thank you James for your thoughtful comment and it is really very obvious from your valuable comments that you are very sensitive and appreciative to the architectural wok.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Excellent work. I was thinking of writing something like this but you've beaten me to it. Insightful discussion as always.

Thank you very much Michael for your kind words. much appreciated

As always, i am impressed by your articles and the pictures and what I have learned as a result of both,,thank You

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Exceptional writing indeed Sir, thank you very much for this and the upcoming ones because it will be very useful for me writing medieval structures like cathedrals and religious sites. These will be of great help to expanding my basic know-how of architecture.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Just returning with my vote.

Thanks Michael.appreciate

Thank you Ron for your kind comment and I am reall pleased that you liked this article. In fact I tried to limit the characteristics of each style to the minimum so that everyone find it easy and enjoyable. Thanks Sir

I'm amazed by your knowledge of buildings and architecture as usual. voted up!

Thanks for the architectural lessons. Very well-detailed information with appropriate graphics...

Enjoyed this! I usually get my Doric's and Ionic's all mixed up.... at least I'm clear about the terms now!

Thank you Pearl, P.Guims and Ann for your supportive means a lot to me

Thanks 4 sharing

I too am very impressed by your work as well

I always love reading your work.

Thank you Martin for support Appreciate

Excellent job on this article and on the knowledge of architecture. Well done. Voted up.

Thanks Caryn for your appreciated comment

Another gem Abdel-moniem. As you say, I enjoy these things, without knowing which is which - most of the time. This explains it very easily and well.

Thanks Jill for your very kind comment and for the continious support.appreciate

Voted up. Excellent work.

Thanks Lucia for your appreciated comment

Great information!

Excellent article. Very impressive.