Architecture: A History

Building and structures past to present have chronologically gone through multiple changes reflecting religion, practicality, aesthetic, ideas and innovation.

Arranged by styles and periods, a type of architecture can be identified by key elements including:

  • Form
  • Construction methods
  • Material
  • Aesthetic

Classical architecture has dominated and been adapted throughout history,  originating within ancient Greece and Rome. Every section of a Classical structure is mathematically related, using the golden ratio, which is why aesthetically the style is known for it’s proportion and harmony. Look for elements of repetition and conventionality, the use of columns.capture13

The Romanesque style was strongly influenced by Classical architecture, with elements of Byzantine and Islamic art. During the late Medieval era , rising buildings distinguished a grandiosity of scale, expressing the stability of the era. Key features are round arches and vaults, bulky walls and carved geometry.


Église Notre-Dame la Grande Church (Poitiers, France)


Gothic Architecture produced solutions, creating more scope and potential than what was achievable in the Medieval period. Originating around 12th Century France, it created light, bright and majestic spaces, becoming practical as well as beautiful.

Common features of this style such as the flying buttress, made it possible to produce (for it’s time), sky-scraping, grand designs; spreading the weight of taller walls. Hence why the buildings could reach towards Heaven, ideal for Churches and Cathedrals. 

Every element, corner and finishes were elaborately lavished in Gothic design, giving it a grandeur. Other key features included pointed arches, vaulted ceilings , which was used to again produce this idea of reaching, also it helped to spread weight and force from the floor above.


Photograph of Reims Cathedral, 1914 (Author Unknown)


The Renaissance was a pivotal moment in architecture, standing for the ‘rebirth’ and revival of the ancient Greek and Roman material culture. Architects of the time rejected the intricate and monumental Gothic style for the clean, balanced proportions of classicism, combining this with principles of humanism, creating ideal measurements for a building to match those of the ideal human body.


Florence Cathedral (Florence, Italy)

Baroque Architecture followed, taking the Roman Renaissance language and giving it a theatrical and lavish characterization. It was seen as the act of bringing heaven down to Earth itself. Known for being sensual and exploring light, form and intensity.

The late Baroque style is referred to as Rococo which was light, airy and graceful compared to it’s early form. It was also very elaborate and colourful, you could say turning Baroque ‘feminine’.


Rococo Style

Neo-Classical once again revived classical architecture and Roman and Greek antiquity during the 18th and 19th centuries, as a reaction against the ostentatious Baroque and Rococo styles which were associated with the Monarchy and the Church. Unlike the revivalism it is characterized by the structural order of elements rather than decorative, and this revived style is still used today but referred to as New Classical. The style uses the original classics of columns, domes, round arches and simple forms.

The Victorian era was identified by the multiple revivals and interpretations of historic styles, looking to the past for inspiration. The Great Exhibition in 1951 showcased Britain’s efforts, the building’s geometric design can be seen as a nod to the symmetry of the classics.

Moving into Modernism, where architecture began to incorporate new technologies and processes, rejecting the constantly revived classics for new materials such as glass, steel and reinforced concrete. The style opened up to structural innovation showing commonfeatures such as cubic or cylindrical shapes, flat roofs and the absence of ornaments with open plan settings, unlike various styles before the era.


Seagram Building (Built 1958)