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In our last post, we continued our “All About” series where we take a look at different styles of architecture. In this series, we aim to explore the characteristics of these styles, how they evolved, where they were most prevalent, and some of the best examples of the styles. Our goal with this series is to educate and inspire anyone out there who is interested in architecture! The last architectural style we highlighted was Pueblo Revival, which was inspired by both Spanish Colonial and Pueblo Indian architecture. If you are interested in learning more about Pueblo Revival architecture, we encourage you to check out our last post!
Today, we’ll be sticking to our “All About” series by discussing Neoclassical architecture. This architectural style was born out of the Neoclassical movement from the mid-18th century in Italy and France. Neoclassical architecture was essentially a revival of Classical architecture, which was the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. It went on to become one of the most prominent styles of architecture in the Western world. If you are interested in learning more about Neoclassical architecture, you’re in the right place! Let’s get right into it.
Neoclassical Architecture Beginning
To understand Neoclassical architecture, let’s first take a look at its predecessor: Classical architecture. A common architectural style of ancient Greece and Rome, Classical architecture emphasized the column and pediment, which is the triangular upper part of the front of a building. The pediment typically surmounts the columns. Some of the other key features of Classical architecture are symmetry, rectangular windows, and the use of marble. This style of architecture lasted from the 5th century BCE in Greece to the 3rd century CE in Rome.
Buildings constructed in the Neoclassical style came about during the revival of Classical Greek and Roman architecture around 1750, and this style flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. It emerged as a reaction to the Rococo style that was popular in Europe around 1730, which made use of asymmetry, curves, and heavy ornamentation. Additionally, the discovery of the ruins of Pompeii in 1748 captivated the world and inspired architects to resurrect the building style of ancient Greece and Rome in a way that was modified to suit the present day. Neoclassical architecture flourished most notably in Europe, Britain, and the United States, as well as Latin America.
Characteristics of NeoClassical Architecture
One of the most defining characteristics of Neoclassical architecture is grandeur of scale– These buildings are often large with dramatic use of columns. Additionally, Neoclassical architecture makes use of simple geometric forms and has a preference for blank walls. The roofs may be domed or flat, depending on the style. Many of the buildings constructed in this style feature Doric Greek or Roman detailing.
Generally, there are three main variations of Neoclassical style: Temple-style, Palladian, and classical block buildings. Let’s take a closer look at each of these variations.
- Temple-style: Buildings constructed in this style are based on the design of ancient temples. This style flourished during the Neoclassical period thanks to the discovery of and familiarity with classical ruins.
- Palladian: Named after Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, Palladian-style buildings incorporate ancient Greek and Roman design, just as Palladio did when he built his famous villas.
- Classical block: These buildings are square or rectangular with flat roofs and exteriors that are rich in classical detail. The exterior usually displays multiple columns or arches that form a block-like appearance.
Although Neoclassical architecture was eventually surpassed in popularity by Modernism in the early to mid-20th century, there are still many great examples of the style that can be seen today. A few of them might even surprise you!
Yes, the official residence of the president located in the capital of the United States was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture! Designed by James Hoban, an Irish-American architect, construction of the White House began in 1792. The design of the White House incorporates ideas from the Roman architect Vitruvius and Italian architect Andrea Palladio, meaning it falls more into the variant of Palladian buildings within Neoclassical architecture. The White House features triangular and segmented pediments, columns, and simple grandeur. Hoban’s original design consisted of three stories and nine bays, but President Washington wasn’t completely fond of the idea, so it was amended to two stories and 11 bays.
Located in London, Buckingham Palace has been the royal residence of the United Kingdom’s monarchs since its opening in 1705. The exterior was heavily inspired by the French Neoclassical style. The building embodies the definition of grandeur– It consists of 775 rooms and is among the top architectural marvels in the world. When King George IV ascended to the throne in 1820, he hired Neoclassical architect John Nash to remodel and enlarge the building into much of the magnificence it is known for today.
Since we have the pleasure of having Neoclassical architecture right in our backyard, we had to include this one. The Charleston County Courthouse was built between 1790 and 1792 by James Hoban, the same architect who designed the White House. It was modeled after Leinster House, the seat of Irish Parliament in Dublin, which was also part of the inspiration for the White House. The building features three large columns and archways on the facade, with a triangular pediment on the top, in true Neoclassical fashion. The Charleston County Courthouse was likely used as a model for Hoban’s design of the White House!
Located in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol Building is one of the finest examples of Neoclassical architecture in the world. Designed by William Thornton and constructed around 1793, Thornton was inspired by the Louvre Colonnade and Paris Pantheon for the center portion of the design. The U.S. Capitol Building combines function with aesthetics, featuring designs derived from ancient Greece and Rome. It has five levels and the exterior is adorned with large, dramatic columns. It is said that Thomas Jefferson wanted Congress housed in a building that resembled an ancient Roman temple. The U.S. Capitol Building is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in the world, spanning over 175,170 square feet and containing approximately 540 rooms with 658 windows.
These are just a few of the many wonderful examples of Neoclassical architecture. The Neoclassical style incorporates ancient Greek and Roman design into functional, modern buildings. Although the style flourished long ago, many great examples still stand today, ranging from government buildings to banks and courthouses, and even townhouses. Did any of the examples surprise you? Let us know! Perhaps something might spark inspiration for your next project! For more information on architectural design and building, keep up-to-date with the Architecture Plus blog. If you’re ready to sit down with an experienced team of designers and hash out the elements of your next project, reach out to us using our contact form!