The history of architecture – From pre-historic to modernism.

Man is a social animal and, food, shelter, and clothing are his basic needs. Even before tracing the roots of the history of architecture as a coined term, the nomadic man aided shelter construction and design. These ideas and techniques evolved in obscure locations with time forming the architectural terminology.

The history of architecture: The Pre-Historic Era

The nomadic man fused geometry and architecture. He constructed earthen mounds, stone circles, megaliths, and enormous structures that muse contemporary architects. He stacked earth and stones to create geometric forms and mimic the celestial bodies. Though many of his temporary dwellings have vanished with time, modernists marvel at his crude monuments, hinting at the history of architecture. Thus, these monuments like the Stonehenge reveal the history of architecture.

The history of architecture: Pre-historic era.
The Stonehenge, a marvel of pre-historic architecture (© Google Images )

Also, Read Ancient Civilizations – The factors that shaped our pristine cities.

Happenings in Egypt ( 3050 BCE – 900 BCE )

Influential rulers constructed pyramids and shrines in granite and limestone to preserve their legacy. These mortar-free stone joineries used chiselled stones to stay in shape. The Egyptians used hieroglyphics, carvings, and bright frescoes on the rocks to create a statement in the history of architecture. Additionally, they preferred the use of bright columns that personified papyrus to support the bulky masses above. Though the sun-baked structures wrecked under the Nile, the discovery of King tut’s tomb in the 1900s triggered a revolution. Consequently, it molded the Egyptian artifacts and thus shaped the Art-Deco movement.

The history of architecture: Egyptian pyramids
The Pyramids of Giza (© Google Images )

The history of architecture: Classicism ( 850 BCE – 476 CE )

This style and design, branched in three phases, rose in Greece and Rome to shape western colonization. 

  • 700 – 323 BCE ( Greece ): Greater temples like Parthenon refined and used the Doric column that evolved in this era. Hence, elementary, iconic columns structured the small temples and interiors.
  • 323 – 146 BCE ( Hellenistic ): During this period, Corinthian columns developed especially by the Greek empire for temples and secular buildings, arose in Europe and Asia.
  • 44 BCE – 476 CE ( Roman ): In addition to arches, vaults, and domes, were constructed using highly adorned Corinthian and composite-styled columns.
The Doric Columns of Parthenon, Athens (© Google Images )

Byzantine ( 527 – 565 CE ): 

Progressively, Roman architecture evolved into an intermediary and transformational era, advancing in the Middle East. Furthermore, this style was elegant and blended brick classics with rich mosaics in the history of architecture.

Romanesque ( 800 – 1200 CE ):

Thick walls with heavy piers and chunky masses with round arches characterized this style in the history of architecture. After the decline, the Roman Empire settled on the fringe areas of Europe. Thus, transitional architecture like the Basilica of St. Sernin rose during this period.

The Basilica of St.Sernin (© Google Images )

The history of architecture: Gothic ( 1100 – 1450 CE )

This style is a balletic fusion of towering architectural components with elegance. Apart from flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and elaborate stained glasses, aesthetic replacements for non-structural walls sought attention.

While builders were setting up Gothic Cathedrals, Italian sculptors crossed the rigid grid and paved the way to Renaissance.

The history of architecture: Gothic architecture
The Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (© Google Images )

History of architecture: Renaissance ( 1400 – 1600 CE )

Architects and builders stirred a movement for classical architecture. They were guided by the proportions of ancient Greece under Andrea Palladio, while setting examples for beautifully symmetrical villas like Rotonda.

The Villa Rotonda, Venice, Italy (© Google Images )

This period did not follow classicism blindly but fused traditional design patterns with the history of architecture. Though this style has many descendant designs, they are termed Neoclassical in the United States.

Also Read: Pioneer of Modern Architecture: Corbusier

Baroque ( 1600 – 1830 CE ):

The architecture of the Baroque period reflects the form complexity in the history of architecture. Consequently, the dramatic churches of Italy merged heavy ornamentation and contrasting paintings to intrigue the viewer. In France, Baroque was limited to classical restraints, whereas, in Russia, Baroque foot marked many structures like St. Peters-burg.

The history of architecture: Baroque architecture
Santa Susanna, Baroque architecture of Italy (© Google Images )

Rococo ( 1650 – 1790 CE ):

In the last phase of the Baroque period, builders experimented with not only elegant but white curvilinear buildings. This movement lit the Rococo trend. Moreover, decorative designs with scrolls, vines, shell-shapes, and geometry with lighter masses gained momentum.

Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, Rococo architecture (© Google Images )

Neo-Classicism ( 1730 – 1925 CE ):

Neo-classicism as an orderly movement mirrored the social awakening between the European sects. This conventional yet new, historic, yet modern, and conservative style reflected the ideas of classicism in the history of architecture. This style propagated not only minimalist walls, but also column structures, geometry, and impressive scales beyond vision.

The Pantheon, Neoclassicism (© Google Images )

The history of architecture: Art Nouveau ( 1890 – 1914 CE )

 Curvilinear plant motifs decorated the arches and uneven shapes of Art Nouveau. Even though first illustrated in graphics, it advanced to furniture and architecture during the industrial revolution.

Also Read: Antoni Gaudi-Catalan Eccentric or a Creative Genius

Beaux Arts ( 1895 – 1925 CE ):

Grand public buildings and mansions of Beaux-Arts portray not only an orderly sense of symmetry, but of formality, ornamentation, and shake hands with grandeur.

Neo-Gothic ( 1905 – 1930 CE ):

Neo-Gothic revived ideals of Gothic architecture and flushed them to modern sky-scrapers. In addition to firm and secure vertical lines with gigantic heights, they have arched and pointed windows, and primitive apex carvings.

The Chicago Tribune tower (© Google Images )

Art-Deco ( 1925 – 1937 CE ):

The style adopts the machine age to create not only vertically slender forms, but also zig-zag patterns, and ziggurat designs. Art-Deco boasts lines and perspectives, bolt-like designs, rectangular massing, cubic forms, and terraced shapes in ascending orders.

By the 1930s, Art-Deco modified simpler curvilinear forms without colorful designs to evolve into another style known as the Art-Moderne.

The Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (© Google Images )

Modernism ( 1900 – Present ):

Modernism is not just another style but revolves around designing for the needs and functions of man. Modernist structures have little to no ornamentation and prefer prefabricated parts for quick assemblies. They work with the ideals of Expressionism and Structuralism to construct buildings of glass, metal, and concrete. Prominent architects of this period include masters like Le Corbusier, Rem Koolhas, I.M.Pei, Philip Johnson, and Mies Van der Rohe.

Also Read: Sanctuary for Modern Architecture – Villa Savoye, France

Villa Savoye by Le-Corbusier (© Google Images )

The history of architecture: Post Modernism ( 1972 – Present )

As an opposite reaction to contemporary ideas that shaped modernism, postmodernism combines present-day ideas with traditionalism to coin “Ethnicity”; These elements conjure startle, surprise, and amusement in the minds of the end-user. Routined homely shapes and structural details used in out-of-the-box ways create style statements for Post-modernism. Prominent architects of this period include Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Michael Graves, etc.

Parametricism ( 1997 – Present ):

With the advent of computer technology and digital animations, curving, non-rectilinear buildings peeked from city skylines in the last decade in the history of architecture. In addition to complexity, they were able to handle fluidity, and seamless curvatures to evocate natural systems. Parametricism proved to be a crucial factor for BIM ( Building Information Modelling ) to relate designs with the elements. Prominent architects practicing parametric architecture include Sanjay Puri architects, Rat lab, Ant studio and Formforge.

AAMI Park Stadium (© Google Images )

Also Read: Zaha Hadid & her Architecture philosophies

Architecture as a stream of design has evolved to shred its crudeness of the pre-historic age to modern minimalism. Additionally, with advances in computers and technology, experiments with 3D printing as a technique for additive manufacturing are now possible. Architects and researchers are rapidly moving towards sustainability and, “Best from the waste” is now a positive public response. Energy efficiency, net-zero buildings, green structures, modularity drive today’s design and will guide the future of architecture towards the light.

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