Architecture’s history is roughly as long as human history, with the same complexities. Its exact origins can be traced back to the Neolithic period ( around 10 000 BC) when people started to handle how they want their residences to look and feel.
A fascinating aspect of architecture is its capability to reflect time. The parallelism of human history to architectural history is supported by its strong material presence, serving as the most significant physical evidence of changes in society.
The Ziggurat and the Pyramid
In chronological order, architectural history typically starts from the ziggurat, one of the most symbolic structures from the past. The massive Mesopotamian terraced structures were built for ritual purposes and are considered the typological predecessors of the “true” pyramids. The ziggurat was often seen as a link between the sky and earth. It was due to its stepped and gradually receding toward the sky structure. However, the ziggurat’s design was ideal for escape rising water levels and protection.
Greek and Roman Civilization
On the contrary, Hellenic people had built temples differently. The society of ancient Greece preceded the concept of the public space with the arrival of the agora. Ancient Greek architecture emphasized civic life and was dedicated to the people. The temples were a part of the agora, and the Greeks used canopies and columns instead of massive stone walls to secure them.
After conquering Greek territories, the Romans essentially took over and heavily impacted most Western architecture over the following centuries. The Romans introduced several immense innovations: concrete and the arch, an essential architectural element introduced by the Etruscans but mastered by the Romans.
The architectural evolution continued as Roman architecture was the origin point for Byzantine architecture. One of its principal contributions is the further evolution of the dome using pendentives (three-dimensional triangular surfaces) to raise it on piers. However, despite its significant influence on European architecture, the Byzantine architectural style is best known for its evolution into Ottoman Empire architecture once the Turks defeated the Byzantine territories. In turn, the building style began to reflect Islamic sensibility, starting a new type of architecture.
In the Middle Ages, the Pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture medieval styles successively appeared, all of which had European roots. The Romanesque style became the first pan-European style following Roman architecture, succeeded by the Gothic style, a crossover between the dark era and the Renaissance. Also, during the Gothic architecture period, the potential of the vault and arch was mastered in technological and aesthetic terms.
In Italy in the 15th century, the Renaissance introduced new means of viewing reality. It was the period of perspective acknowledgment. It was studied and recognized as an innovative way of achieving infinity. Perspective was mainly practiced in painting, but it was also registered in architectural structures. Hence, an emphasis on proportion and symmetry was placed and how they shape perception and affect human vision.
Ultimately, the Renaissance meant the association of math with aesthetics and reassessment of classical antiquity, enhancing the discipline and put together what was needed to reinstate architecture as an all-around profession. So, besides leaving behind a huge quantity of remarkable buildings, the Renaissance gave stimulus to the theoretical advancements in the following decades and centuries.
After the Renaissance’s firm establishment in Italy and spread in Europe, the Baroque slowly followed it in the early 17th century. While the Renaissance was identified by pilasters and pillars that stuck to the interior spatial organization, symmetrical facades and plans, and general involvement with mathematical logic and order, the Baroque style developed a freer, more diversified approach to architectural design. It was characterized by plans that weren’t significantly symmetrical, a general absence of correspondence between the building’s interior and the exterior, and the incomplete ornamental elements.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, it seemed that the world of art was on hiatus or even went back to its previous stages. A conscious attempt was made to revert to classism, resulting in the rise of neo-classical architecture and a chain of revivals: Romanesque, Gothic, and some type of American Neo-Classicism, usually known as the Federal Style Architecture. This regression wasn’t overcome until the late 19th century when a new total style called Art Nouveau emerged and eventually opened a gap to break the tradition.
A lot of vital things happened on the edge of the 19th century for architecture and the arts. Art Nouveau became the first step toward modernism, making it clear that classical architecture was finished. This is because of several reasons, but is adequately represented by a single sentence signed by Louis Sullivan: Form follows function. Modernist architecture turned the entire architectural design concept upside-down, introducing functionalism and refined architectural form to the most drastic extremes. As a result, modernism became one of the most crucial shifts in architectural expression and design, inspiring today’s architects.