Art History Lab

Exploring the Rich Heritage of Classical Architecture

Architecture is an art form that has been used to express our creativity and tell our stories for thousands of years. Classical architecture, in particular, has been immortalized for its lasting beauty and contribution to the world of art.

Its history has been influenced by various cultures and styles, resulting in a rich and diverse heritage. In this article, we will delve into the world of Classical architecture, exploring its history, elements, and styles.

to Classical Architecture

Influence of Ancient Romans and Greeks

Classical architecture has been heavily influenced by ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. The Greeks introduced the world to the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, which serve as the basis of Classical architecture.

The Romans further developed these orders and introduced new concepts, such as the arch and the dome. The ancient Greeks were known for their balance and harmony in design, as well as their use of proportion and symmetry.

The Doric order is the simplest of the three orders, and is characterized by its sturdy columns and simple capitals. The Ionic order is more ornate, with slender columns and more decorative capitals.

The most ornate of the three orders is the Corinthian, known for its leaf-shaped capitals. The ancient Romans incorporated these orders into their architecture, but also developed new innovations such as the arch and the dome.

The arch is a curved structure that supports weight, while the dome is a rounded structure that can span large distances. These architectural innovations allowed the Romans to create grand public buildings such as the

Colosseum and the


Definition of Classical Architecture

Classical architecture is defined by a set of timeless principles and elements that have endured throughout history. Some of the key principles include symmetry, proportion, and balance.

The architecture is characterized by columns, pediments, and entablatures, which are used to create a sense of order and harmony. Other common elements include arches, domes, and vaults, which are used to create grand, spacious interiors.

The Classical style emphasizes the use of natural materials such as stone, marble, and wood. The designs are often adorned with intricate details such as carvings, sculptures, and frescoes.

The geometry of Classical architecture is based on simple geometric shapes, such as the circle, the square, and the triangle.

Brief History of the Classical Period

Development of Classical Architecture

The Classical period of architecture developed in Western Europe during the 5th century BC. It was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks, who were known for their innovation and creativity in design.

The ancient Greeks laid the foundations for Classical architecture, which was further refined by the Romans and other cultures. The Byzantine Empire, which was based in Constantinople, also played a crucial role in the development of Classical architecture.

Byzantine architects incorporated elements from classical Greek and Roman architecture, as well as from the early Christian church. This resulted in a unique blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles.

Table of the Ages of Classicism Architecture

The history of Classical architecture is divided into various periods, each with its own unique style and characteristics. The following table provides an overview of the Ages of Classicism architecture:

Age Characteristics

Ancient Greece 5th-4th century BC Known for the development of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders

Hellenistic Period 4th-1st century BC Influenced by the conquests of Alexander the Great, resulting in a blending of Eastern and Western design elements

Roman Empire 1st century BC-4th century AD Development of arches, domes, and vaults

Byzantine Period 5th-15th century AD Byzantine architects blended classical elements with early Christian influences

Romanesque Period 9th-12th century AD Known for its use of rounded arches and heavy stone walls

Gothic Period 12th-16th century AD Known for its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and elaborate decoration

Italian Renaissance 14th-16th century AD Revival of classical Greek and Roman elements, emphasis on symmetry and proportion

Baroque and Rococo periods 17th-18th century AD Known for their ornate decoration and dramatic use of light and space

Neoclassical Period 18th-19th century AD Revival of classical elements, emphasis on simplicity and order

Modern Era 20th century AD Emphasis on functionality, minimalism, and the use of new materials and technologies


In conclusion, Classical architecture is an art form that has a rich and diverse history. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, and it has been influenced by various cultures and styles throughout the ages.

The principles of Classical architecture, such as balance, proportion, and symmetry, have endured and continue to inspire us today. Whether we are admiring the grandeur of a classical cathedral or the simplicity of a modern museum, we are all united by our appreciation of this timeless art form.

Characteristics of Classical Architecture Elements

Proportion and Symmetry

Proportion and symmetry are fundamental elements of Classical architecture. Proportion refers to the relationship between different parts of a building, while symmetry refers to the balance and harmony of a building’s design.

Classical architects placed great emphasis on creating buildings that were visually pleasing and balanced, often using mathematical principles to ensure harmonious proportions. This attention to detail is evident in the precise measurements and ratios used in the design of Classical structures.

Front Porch with a Pediment

Another hallmark of Classical architecture is the use of a front porch, often decorated with a pediment. Pediments are triangular shapes that sit atop the entrance of a building, and are often adorned with sculpture or relief work.

The front porch serves as a transition space between the outside world and the interior of the building, and provides a dramatic entrance to the structure.

Long-Lasting Building Materials

Classical architecture often utilized long-lasting building materials such as marble and stone. These materials not only had an aesthetic appeal but also were able to withstand the test of time.

The durability of these materials ensured that Classical structures remained standing long after their construction, contributing to their enduring legacy.

Design Motifs

Classical architecture is often characterized by its use of design motifs such as medium pitched roofs and boxed eaves. These motifs serve to create a unified look to the building, and the use of these common patterns allow the observer to recognize the building as a Classical structure.

Rectangular-Shaped Windows

Another common element of Classical architecture is the use of rectangular-shaped windows, most commonly double-hung windows. These windows provide a sense of order and balance to the building’s faade, and allow natural light to enter the interior of the building.


Columns are integral to Classical architecture and symbolize strength and stability. The types of columns used in Classical architecture include the Doric order, Ionic order, Composite order, Corinthian order, and Tuscan order.

The Doric order is the simplest and most robust column, while the Ionic order is more decorative and slender. The Composite order is a blend of the Ionic and Corinthian orders, while the Corinthian order is the most ornate and has leaf-shaped capitals.

The Tuscan order is similar to the Doric order but has a slimmer profile.

Famous Examples of Classical Architecture

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, Greece, is one of the best examples of Classical architecture. Constructed in the 5th century BC, it features the Doric order and is notable for its perfectly proportioned design and intricate friezes.


Another famous example of Classical architecture is the

Parthenon, also located in Athens, Greece. Constructed in the 5th century BC, it is a symbol of ancient Greek civilization and is known for its beautiful sculptural compositions and use of the Doric order.



Erechtheion is another example of Classical architecture located in Athens, Greece. Constructed in the 5th century BC, it features Ionic architectural elements such as columns and friezes.

Temple of Apollo


Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, Italy, is a well-preserved example of Classical architecture from the Roman period. Constructed in the 2nd century BC, it features the Corinthian order and is characterized by its use of rounded columns.

Maison Carre


Maison Carre in Nmes, France, is a Roman temple constructed in the 1st century AD. It is a prime example of Vitruvian architecture, characterized by its use of proportion, symmetry, and the Corinthian order.



Colosseum in Rome, Italy, is perhaps the most well-known example of Classical architecture. This amphitheater, constructed in the 1st century AD, is characterized by its use of arches and vaults and is a testament to the Roman Empire’s engineering prowess.

Library of Celsus


Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey, was built in the 2nd century AD during the Roman Empire and was designed in the Ionic order. The faade was decorated with statues and sculptures, and the building was renowned for its impressive collection of books.



Pantheon in Rome, Italy, is a masterpiece of Classical architecture. Constructed in the 2nd century AD, it features a massive dome and is known for its use of proportion and symmetry.

The rotunda and dome are adorned with intricate relief work and decorative niches.

Arch of Septimius Severus


Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, Italy, is a triumphal arch constructed in the 3rd century AD. It is constructed in the Corinthian order and features ornate relief work, including depictions of the emperor and his family.

In conclusion, Classical architecture is a fascinating art form that has endured for centuries. The principles of proportion, symmetry, and balance continue to inspire architects and artists today.

From the ancient Greeks to the Romans and beyond, Classical architecture has left a lasting legacy that still captivates and inspires us today. The examples of this form of architecture, such as the Temple of Hephaestus,


Colosseum, and

Pantheon, continue to awe and impress visitors with their grandeur and elegance.

In conclusion, Classical architecture is a timeless art form that has shaped our built environment for centuries. From the influence of ancient Greeks and Romans to the development of different periods and styles, Classical architecture has left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and captivate us.

The importance of proportion, symmetry, and balance, as well as the use of elements such as columns, pediments, and long-lasting materials, have defined this architectural style. The famous examples of Classical architecture, such as the


Colosseum, and

Pantheon, showcase the grandeur and beauty that can be achieved through these principles.

Overall, Classical architecture serves as a reminder of our rich cultural heritage and the enduring power of human creativity in shaping our physical surroundings.

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