The history of architecture traces the changes in architecture through various traditions, regions, overarching stylistic trends, and dates. The branches of architecture are civil, sacred, naval, military, and landscape architecture.
Neolithic architecture is the architecture of the Neolithic period. In Southwest Asia, Neolithic cultures appear soon after 10,000 BC, initially in the Levant (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards. There are early Neolithic cultures in Southeast Anatolia, Syria and Iraq by 8000 BC, and food-producing societies first appear in southeast Europe by 7000 BC, and Central Europe by c. 5500 BC (of which the earliest cultural complexes include the Starčevo-Koros (Cris), Linearbandkeramic, and Vinča). With the exception of the Andes, the Isthmo-Columbian area and Western Mesoamerica (and a few copper hatchets and spear heads in the Great Lakes region), the people of the Americas and the Pacific remained at the Neolithic level of technology up until the time of Western contact.
The neolithic people in the Levant, Anatolia, Syria, northern Mesopotamia and Central Asia were great builders, utilizing mud-brick to construct houses and villages. At Çatalhöyük, houses were plastered and painted with elaborate scenes of humans and animals. The Mediterranean neolithic cultures of Malta worshiped in megalithic temples.
In Europe, long houses built from wattle and daub were constructed. Elaborate tombs for the dead were also built. These tombs are particularly numerous in Ireland, where there are many thousands still in existence. Neolithic people in the British Isles built long barrows and chamber tombs for their dead and causewayed camps, henges flint mines and cursus monuments.
Ancient Mesopotamia is most noted for its construction of mud brick buildings and the construction of Ziggurats, religious temples made for worship of the gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia. The word Ziggurat is an anglicized form of the Akkadian word ziqqurratum, the name given to the solid stepped towers of mud brick. It derives from the verb zaqaru, ‘to be high’. The buildings are described as being like mountains linking Earth and heaven. The ziggurat at Ur, excavated by Leonard Woolley, is 64 by 46 meters at base and originally some 12 meters in height with three stories. It was built under Ur-Nammu (c.2100 B.C.) and rebuilt under Nabonidus (555-539 B.C.) when it was increased in height to probably seven stories.
Ancient Egyptian architecture
In Ancient Egypt and other early societies, people believed in the omnipotence of gods, with many aspects of daily life carried out with respect to the idea of the divine or supernatural and the way it was manifest in the mortal cycles of generations, years, seasons, days and nights. Harvests for example were seen as the benevolence of fertility deities. Thus, the founding and ordering of the city and her most important buildings (the palace or temple) were often executed by priests or even the ruler himself and the construction was accompanied by rituals intended to enter human activity into continued divine benediction.
Ancient architecture is characterized by this tension between the divine and mortal world. Cities would mark a contained sacred space over the wilderness of nature outside, and the temple or palace continued this order by acting as a house for the gods. The architect, be he priest or king, was not the sole important figure; he was merely part of a continuing tradition.
The architecture and urbanism of the Greeks and Romans was very different from that of the Egyptians and Persians. Civic life gained importance for all members of the community. In the time of the ancients religious matters were only handled by the ruling class; by the time of the Greeks, religious mystery had skipped the confines of the temple-palace compounds and was the subject of the people or polis.
Greek civic life was sustained by new, open spaces called the agora which were surrounded by public buildings, stores and temples. The agora embodied the newfound respect for social justice received through open debate rather than imperial mandate. Though divine wisdom still presided over human affairs, the living rituals of ancient civilizations had become inscribed in space, in the paths that wound towards the acropolis for example. Each place had its own nature, set within a world refracted through myth, thus temples were sited atop mountains all the better to touch the heavens.
Greek architecture was typically post-and-beam (called “trabeated”) and made of stone. Most surviving buildings are temples, based on strict rules of proportion. These temples typically included a peristyle (outer area with (typically doric) columns), and three-sections in the middle, being 1. the pronaus (entrance), 2. the main cella or naos chamber (where a statue of the god or goddess and an altar was built), and 3. the opisthodomos behind the cella.
The Romans conquered the Greek cities in Italy around three hundred years BCE and much of the Western world after that. The Roman problem of rulership involved the unity of disparity — from Spanish to Greek, Macedonian to Carthaginian — Roman rule had extended itself across the breadth of the known world and the myriad pacified cultures forming this ecumene presented a new challenge for justice.
One way to look at the unity of Roman architecture is through a new-found realization of theory derived from practice, and embodied spatially. Civically we find this happening in the Roman forum (sibling of the Greek agora), where public participation is increasingly removed from the concrete performance of rituals and represented in the decor of the architecture. Thus we finally see the beginnings of the contemporary public square in the Forum Iulium, begun by Julius Caesar, where the buildings present themselves through their facades as representations within the space.
As the Romans chose representations of sanctity over actual sacred spaces to participate in society, the communicative nature of space was opened to human manipulation. None of which would have been possible without the advances of Roman engineering and construction or the newly found marble quarries which were the spoils of war; inventions like the arch and concrete gave a whole new form to Roman architecture, fluidly enclosing space in taut domes and colonnades, clothing the grounds for imperial rulership and civic order. This was also a response to the changing social climate which demanded new buildings of increasing complexity — the colosseum, the residential block, bigger hospitals and academies. General civil construction such as roads and bridges began to be built.
The Romans widely employed, and further developed, the arch, vault and dome (see the Roman Architectural Revolution), all of which were little used before, particularly in Europe. Their innovative use of Roman concrete facilitated the building of the many public buildings of often unprecedented size throughout the empire. These include Roman temples, Roman baths, Roman bridges, Roman aqueducts, Roman harbours, triumphal arches, Roman amphitheatres, Roman circuses palaces, mausolea and in the late empire also churches.
Roman domes permitted construction of vaulted ceilings and enabled huge covered public spaces such as the public baths like Baths of Diocletian or the monumental Pantheon in the city of Rome.
The Byzantine Empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople and now called Istanbul). The empire endured for more than a millennium, dramatically influencing Medieval and Renaissance-era architecture in Europe and, following the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, leading directly to the architecture of the Ottoman Empire.
Early Byzantine architecture was built as a continuation of Roman architecture. Stylistic drift, technological advancement, and political and territorial changes meant that a distinct style gradually emerged which imbued certain influences from the Near East and used the Greek cross plan in church architecture. Buildings increased in geometric complexity, brick and plaster were used in addition to stone in the decoration of important public structures, classical orders were used more freely, mosaics replaced carved decoration, complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster to softly illuminate interiors. (see Hagia Sophia)
The pre-Islamic styles draw on 3-4 thousand years of architectural development from various civilizations of the Iranian plateau. The Islamic architecture of Iran in turn, draws ideas from its pre-Islamic predecessor, and has geometrical and repetitive forms, as well as surfaces that are richly decorated with glazed tiles, carved stucco, patterned brickwork, floral motifs, and calligraphy. Iran is recognized by UNESCO as being one of the cradles of civilization.
Each of the periods of Elamites, Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanids were creators of great architecture that over the ages has spread wide and far to other cultures being adopted. Although Iran has suffered its share of destruction, including Alexander The Great’s decision to burn Persepolis, there are sufficient remains to form a picture of its classical architecture.
The Achaemenids built on a grand scale. The artists and materials they used were brought in from practically all territories of what was then the largest state in the world. Pasargadae set the standard: its city was laid out in an extensive park with bridges, gardens, colonnaded palaces and open column pavilions. Pasargadae along with Susa and Persepolis expressed the authority of The King of Kings, the staircases of the latter recording in relief sculpture the vast extent of the imperial frontier.
With the emergence of the Parthians and Sassanids there was an appearance of new forms. Parthian innovations fully flowered during the Sassanid period with massive barrel-vaulted chambers, solid masonry domes, and tall columns. This influence was to remain for years to come. The roundness of the city of Baghdad in the Abbasid era for example, points to its Persian precedents such as Firouzabad in Fars. The two designers who were hired by al-Mansur to plan the city’s design were Naubakht, a former Persian Zoroastrian who also determined that the date of the foundation of the city would be astrologically auspicious, and Mashallah, a former Jew from Khorasan. The ruins of Persepolis, Ctesiphon, Jiroft, Sialk, Pasargadae, Firouzabad, Arg-é Bam, and thousands of other ruins may give us merely a distant glimpse of what contribution Persians made to the art of building.
The fall of the Sassanid Empire to invading Islamic forces ironically led to the creation of remarkable religious buildings in Iran. Arts such as calligraphy, stucco work, mirror work, and mosaic work, became closely tied with architecture in Iran in the new era. Archaeological excavations have provided sufficient documents in support of the impacts of Sasanian architecture on the architecture of the Islamic world. Many experts believe the period of Persian architecture from the 15th through 17th Centuries to be the most brilliant of the post-Islamic era. Various structures such as mosques, mausoleums, bazaars, bridges, and different palaces have mainly survived from this period.
Islamic architecture has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious architecture styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures within the sphere of Islamic culture. Some distinctive structures in Islamic architecture are mosques, tombs, palaces and forts, although Islamic architects have of course also applied their distinctive design precepts to domestic architecture.
The wide spread and long history of Islam has given rise to many local architectural styles, including Abbasid, Persian, Moorish, Timurid, Ottoman, Fatimid, Mamluk, Mughal, Indo-Islamic, Sino-Islamic and Afro-Islamic architecture. Notable Islamic architectural types include the early Abbasid buildings, T-type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia.- Also, Islamic architecture also discourages illustrations of anything living, such as animals and humans.
Ethiopian architecture (including modern-day Eritrea) expanded from the Aksumite style and incorporated new traditions with the expansion of the Ethiopian state. Styles incorporated more wood and rounder structures in commoner’s architecture in the center of the country and the south, and these stylistic influences were manifested in the construction of churches and monasteries. Throughout the medieval period, Aksumite architecture and influences and its monolithic tradition persisted, with its influence strongest in the early medieval (Late Aksumite) and Zagwe periods (when the churches of Lalibela were carved). Throughout the medieval period, and especially from the 10th to 12th centuries, churches were hewn out of rock throughout Ethiopia, especially during the northernmost region of Tigray, which was the heart of the Aksumite Empire. However, rock-hewn churches have been found as far south as Adadi Maryam (15th century), about 100 km south of Addis Abeba. The most famous example of Ethiopian rock-hewn architecture are the 11 monolithic churches of Lalibela, carved out of the red volcanic tuff found around the town. Though later medieval hagiographies attribute all 11 structures to the eponymous King Lalibela (the town was called Roha and Adefa before his reign), new evidence indicates that they may have been built separately over a period of a few centuries, with only a few of the more recent churches having been built under his reign. Archaeologist and Ethiopisant David Phillipson postulates, for instance, that Bete Gebriel-Rufa’el was actually built in the very early medieval period, some time between 600 and 800 A.D., originally as a fortress but was later turned into a church.
During the early modern period, the absorption of new diverse influences such as Baroque, Arab, Turkish and Gujarati Indian style began with the arrival of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. Portuguese soldiers had initially come in the mid-16th century as allies to aid Ethiopia in its fight against Adal, and later Jesuits came hoping to convert the country. Some Turkish influence may have entered the country during the late 16th century during its war with the Ottoman Empire (see Habesh), which resulted in an increased building of fortresses and castles. Ethiopia, naturally easily defensible because of its numerous ambas or flat-topped mountains and rugged terrain, yielded little tactical use from the structures in contrast to their advantages in the flat terrain of Europe and other areas, and so had until this point little developed the tradition. Castles were built especially beginning with the reign of Sarsa Dengel around the Lake Tana region, and subsequent Emperors maintained the tradition, eventually resulting in the creation of the Fasil Ghebbi (royal enclosure of castles) in the newly founded capital (1635), Gondar. Emperor Susenyos (r.1606-1632) converted to Catholicism in 1622 and attempted to make it the state religion, declaring it as such from 1624 until his abdication; during this time, he employed Arab, Gujarati (brought by the Jesuits), and Jesuit masons and their styles, as well as local masons, some of whom were Beta Israel. With the reign of his son Fasilides, most of these foreigners were expelled, although some of their architectural styles were absorbed into the prevailing Ethiopian architectural style. This style of the Gondarine dynasty would persist throughout the 17th and 18th centuries especially and also influenced modern 19th-century and later styles.
Great Zimbabwe is the largest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa. By the late nineteenth century, most buildings reflected the fashionable European eclecticism and pastisched Mediterranean, or even Northern European, styles.
In the Western Sahel region, Islamic influence was a major contributing factor to architectural development from the later ages of the Kingdom of Ghana. At Kumbi Saleh, locals lived in domed-shaped dwellings in the king’s section of the city, surrounded by a great enclosure. Traders lived in stone houses in a section which possessed 12 beautiful mosques, as described by al-bakri, with one centered on Friday prayer. The king is said to have owned several mansions, one of which was sixty-six feet long, forty-two feet wide, contained seven rooms, was two stories high, and had a staircase; with the walls and chambers filled with sculpture and painting.
Indian architecture encompasses a wide variety of geographically and historically spread structures, and was transformed by the history of the Indian subcontinent. The result is an evolving range of architectural production that, although it is difficult to identify a single representative style, nonetheless retains a certain amount of continuity across history. The diversity of Indian culture is represented in its architecture. It is a blend of ancient and varied native traditions, with building types, forms and technologies from West and Central Asia, as well as Europe. Architectural styles range from Hindu temple architecture to Islamic architecture to western classical architecture to modern and post-modern architecture.
India’s Urban Civilization is traceable originally to Mohenjodaro and Harappa, now in Pakistan. From then on, Indian architecture and civil engineering continued to develop, manifesting in temples, palaces and forts across the Indian subcontinent and neighbouring regions. Architecture and civil engineering was known as sthapatya-kala, literally “the art of constructing”.
The temples of Aihole and Pattadakal are the earliest known examples of Hindu temples. There are numerous Hindu as well as Buddhist temples that are known as excellent examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. According to J.J. O’Connor and E. F. Robertson, the Sulbasutras were appendices to the Vedas giving rules for constructing altars. “They contained quite an amount of geometrical knowledge, but the mathematics was being developed, not for its own sake, but purely for practical religious purposes.”
During the Kushan Empire and Mauryan Empire, Indian architecture and civil engineering reached regions like Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Statues of Buddha were cut out, covering entire mountain cliffs, like in Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan. Over a period of time, the ancient Indian art of construction blended with Greek styles and spread to Central Asia. It includes the architecture of various dynasties, such as Hoysala architecture, Vijayanagara architecture and Western Chalukya architecture.
Cambodian (Khmer) Architecture
The main evidence of Khmer architecture and ultimately for Khmer civilization, however, remains the religious buildings, considerable in number and extremely varied in size. They were destined for immortal gods and as they were built of durable materials of brick, laterite and sandstone, many have survived to the present day. They were usually surrounded by enclosures to protect them from evil powers but confusion has often arisen as to which is a temple enclosure and which is that of the town of which the temple was a part.
Angkor Wat temple is a great example of Khmer architectural masterpiece, was built by king Suryavarman II in 12th century. Despite the fact that it is over 800 years old, it has still maintained its top rank to be the world’s largest religious structure.
The architecture of Indonesia reflects both the cultural diversity of the region and its rich historical inheritance. The geographic position of Indonesia means a transition between the culture of Asian Hindu-Buddhism architecture and animistic architecture of Oceania. Indonesian wide range of vernacular styles is the legacy of an Austronesian architectural tradition characterized by wooden pile dwellings, high pitched roofs and extended roof ridges. The temples of Java, on the other hand, share an Indian Hindu-Buddhist ancestry, typical of Southeast Asia; though indigenous influences have led to the creation of a distinctly Indonesian style of monumental architecture. Gradual spread of Islam through the region from the 12th century onwards creates an Islamic architecture which betray a mixture of local and exotic elements. Arrival of the European merchant, especially the Dutch, shows incorporation of many Indonesian features into the architecture of the native Netherlands to produce an eclectic synthesis of Eastern and Western forms apparent in the early 18th-century Indies Style and modern New Indies Style. The years that followed independence saw the adoption of Modernist agenda on the part of Indonesian architects apparent in the architecture of the 1970s and 1980s.
Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries.especially Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Ryukyu. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
From the Neolithic era Longshan Culture and Bronze Age era Erlitou culture, the earliest rammed earth fortifications exist, with evidence of timber architecture. The subterranean ruins of the palace at Yinxu dates back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC–1046 BC). In historic China, architectural emphasis was laid upon the horizontal axis, in particular the construction of a heavy platform and a large roof that floats over this base, with the vertical walls not as well emphasized. This contrasts Western architecture, which tends to grow in height and depth. Chinese architecture stresses the visual impact of the width of the buildings. The deviation from this standard is the tower architecture of the Chinese tradition, which began as a native tradition and was eventually influenced by the Buddhist building for housing religious sutras — the stupa — which came from Nepal. Ancient Chinese tomb model representations of multiple story residential towers and watchtowers date to the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). However, the earliest extant Buddhist Chinese pagoda is the Songyue Pagoda, a 40 m (131 ft) tall circular-based brick tower built in Henan province in the year 523 AD. From the 6th century onwards, stone-based structures become more common, while the earliest are from stone and brick arches found in Han Dynasty tombs. The Zhaozhou Bridge built from 595 to 605 AD is China’s oldest extant stone bridge, as well as the world’s oldest fully stone open-spandrel segmental arch bridge.
The vocational trade of architect, craftsman, and engineer was not as highly respected in premodern Chinese society as the scholar-bureaucrats who were drafted into the government by the civil service examination system. Much of the knowledge about early Chinese architecture was passed on from one tradesman to his son or associative apprentice. However, there were several early treatises on architecture in China, with encyclopedic information on architecture dating back to the Han Dynasty. The height of the classical Chinese architectural tradition in writing and illustration can be found in the Yingzao Fashi, a building manual written by 1100 and published by Lie Jie (1065–1110) in 1103. In it there are numerous and meticulous illustrations and diagrams showing the assembly of halls and building components, as well as classifying structure types and building components.
There were certain architectural features that were reserved solely for buildings built for the Emperor of China. One example is the use of yellow roof tiles; yellow having been the Imperial color, yellow roof tiles still adorn most of the buildings within the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven, however, uses blue roof tiles to symbolize the sky. The roofs are almost invariably supported by brackets, a feature shared only with the largest of religious buildings. The wooden columns of the buildings, as well as the surface of the walls, tend to be red in colour.
Many current Chinese architectural designs follow post-modern and western styles.
The basic construction form is more or less similar to Eastern Asian building system. From a technical point of view, buildings are structured vertically and horizontally. A construction usually rises from a stone subfoundation to a curved roof covered with tiles, held by a console structure and supported on posts; walls are made of earth (adobe) or are sometimes totally composed of movable wooden doors. Architecture is built according to the k’an unit, the distance between two posts (about 3.7 meters), and is designed so that there is always a transitional space between the “inside” and the “outside.”
The console, or bracket structure, is a specific architectonic element that has been designed in various ways through time. If the simple bracket system was already in use under the Goguryeo kingdom (37 BCE–668 CE)—in palaces in Pyongyang, for instance—a curved version, with brackets placed only on the column heads of the building, was elaborated during the early Koryo dynasty (918–1392). The Amita Hall of the Pusok temple in Antong is a good example. Later on (from the mid-Koryo period to the early Choson dynasty), a multiple-bracket system, or an inter-columnar-bracket set system, was developed under the influence of Mongol’s Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). In this system, the consoles were also placed on the transverse horizontal beams. Seoul’s Namtaemun Gate Namdaemun, Korea’s foremost national treasure, is perhaps the most symbolic example of this type of structure. In the mid-Choson period, the winglike bracket form appeared (one example is the Yongnyongjon Hall of Jongmyo, Seoul), which is interpreted by many scholars as an example of heavy Confucian influence in Joseon Korea, which emphasized simplicity and modesty in such shrine buildings. Only in buildings of importance like palaces or sometimes temples (Tongdosa, for instance) were the multicluster brackets still used. Confucianism also led to more sober and simple solutions.
Japanese architecture has as long a history as any other aspect of Japanese culture. it also shows a number of important differences and aspects which are uniquely Japanese.
Two new forms of architecture were developed in medieval Japan in response to the militaristic climate of the times: the castle, a defensive structure built to house a feudal lord and his soldiers in times of trouble; and the shoin, a reception hall and private study area designed to reflect the relationships of lord and vassal within a feudal society.
Because of the need to rebuild Japan after World War II, major Japanese cities contain numerous examples of modern architecture. Japan played some role in modern skyscraper design, because of its long familiarity with the cantilever principle to support the weight of heavy tiled temple roofs. New city planning ideas based on the principle of layering or cocooning around an inner space (oku), a Japanese spatial concept that was adapted to urban needs, were adapted during reconstruction. Modernism became increasingly popular in architecture in Japan starting in the 1950s.
Mesoamerican architecture is the set of architectural traditions produced by pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica, (such as the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec) traditions which are best known in the form of public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures. The distinctive features of Mesoamerican architecture encompass a number of different regional and historical styles, which however are significantly interrelated. These styles developed throughout the different phases of Mesoamerican history as a result of the intensive cultural exchange between the different cultures of the Mesoamerican culture area through thousands of years. Mesoamerican architecture is mostly noted for its pyramids which are the largest such structures outside of Ancient Egypt.
Incan architecture consists of the major construction achievements developed by the Incas. The Incas developed an extensive road system spanning most of the western length of the continent. Inca rope bridges could be considered the world’s first suspension bridges. Because the Incas used no wheels (It would have been impractical for the terrain) or horses, they built their roads and bridges for foot and pack-llama traffic. Much of present-day architecture at the former Inca capital Cuzco shows both Incan and Spanish influences. The famous lost city Machu Picchu is the best surviving example of Incan architecture. Another significant site is Ollantaytambo. The Inca were sophisticated stone cutters whose masonry used no mortar.
Ancient architecture of North America
Inside what is the present-day United States, the Mississippians and the Pueblo created substantial public architecture. The Mississippian culture was among the mound-building peoples, noted for construction of large earthen platform mounds.
Impermanent buildings, which were often architecturally unique from region to region, continue to influence American architecture today. In his summary, “The World of Textiles”, North Carolina State’s Tushar Ghosh provides one example: the Denver International Airport’s roof is a fabric structure that was influenced by and/or resembles the tipis of local cultures. In writing about Evergreen State College, Lloyd Vaughn lists an example of very different native architecture that also influenced contemporary building: the Native American Studies program is housed in a modern-day longhouse derived from pre-Columbian Pacific Northwest architecture.
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