Classical Design Elements In Architecture Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, Classical ideals of the ancient Greeks and Romans have been prevalent in all facets of art. In architecture this is especially true. A few of the Classical ideals employed in architecture are colonnaded porticoes, domed centers and symmetrical designs. Architects such as Andrea di Pietro, Christopher Wren and Thomas Jefferson used these Classical design elements in their respective works. These highly regarded individuals were architects of the Mannerist, Baroque and Neo-Classical Ages respectively. They each used Classical design elements in their architecture to portray a sense of simplicity and harmony in their work, as well as to reflect Classical ideals of order and mathematical proportion.
Andrea di Pietro, an architect of the Mannerist Age, employed the elements of Classical design in his works to achieve simplicity and harmony. “The preeminent architect of the Mannerist style was Andrea di Pietro, known as Palladio”(Matthews And Platt 340). The work that Palladio is most synonymous with is the Villa Capra, also known as the Villa Rotunda. The Villa Rotunda, based on the Classical design of a Roman farmhouse, was built for a wealthy Venetian (Matthews and Platt 340,341). The Villa highlights Classical principles of architecture in a number of ways. Palladio employed the use of colonnaded porticoes in the Villa, a covered porch supported by columns, which is typically located at the front of the building. The Villa Rotunda has four of these colonnaded porticoes. The porticoes provide a smooth transition between the entrance of the building and the surrounding grounds. In addition to the porticoes, Palladio used the domed center on the Villa, not only for aesthetics, but also to create a central point in the building. The symmetrical design of the Villa is visible from this central point. The symmetry of the Villa reflects the Classical ideals of order, as well as mathematical proportion. These elements of Classical design were used with great success in Palladio’s time and were also used by architects in later periods, such as the Baroque Age.
Christopher Wren, an architect of the Baroque Age, also used Classical design elements in his works as a reflection of Classical ideals. Wren is credited with the design of a number of buildings in England, but is best known for the churches he was commissioned to design and rebuild after the Great Fire of London in 1666 (Matthews and Platt 394). “His masterpiece is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London” (Matthews and Platt 394), which, to this day, is one of London’s most renowned churches. St. Paul’s colonnaded portico is a prime example of the Classical elements employed by Wren. The colonnaded portico of St Paul’s Cathedral is surmounted by another colonnaded portico, creating a number of clean, ordered lines that add to the symmetry and mathematical proportion of the church. Wren also used the dome on the cathedral as a display of Classical design elements. The dome creates a central point of focus for aesthetics and symmetry. The symmetry of St. Paul’s Cathedral is similar to the symmetry of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, and is also similar to designs seen in American Neo-Classical buildings.
The Neo-Classical Period evidenced Classical design elements that can be seen in buildings of the former British colonies in the United States. The Neo-Classical Period, synonymous with the Federal Period in the United States, was a time when the designs and ideas of architects such as Thomas Jefferson became widely used. Jefferson, “historically revered as a statesman and politician, was also a brilliant architect and urban planner” (Unknown 1). Jefferson’s Virginia home Monticello, meaning “little mountain” in Italian (Unknown 1), exemplifies his use of Classical design elements. The colonnaded portico of Monticello allowed a smooth transition between the home and the serene setting of the surrounding grounds in the same manner that Palladio used this element of design on the Villa Rotunda. In fact, the Villa Rotunda served as Jefferson’s model for Monticello during its design and construction. Furthermore, the domed center is used to create a central point of symmetry, similar to Christopher Wren’s use of the dome on St. Paul’s Cathedral. The symmetrical design of Monticello reinforces Jefferson’s “admiration for the orderly and simplistic ideals of the Roman republic” (Matthews and Platt 460). The design elements of Monticello employed by Jefferson created an apparently simple structure in harmony with its surroundings, in much the same way as Palladio and Wren.
Each of these architects made significant contributions to architecture, and their works remain widely recognized in the modern era. Palladio, Christopher Wren and Thomas Jefferson are considered by many to be the most influential architects of their respective times. Elements of Classical design such as colonnaded porticoes, domed centers and symmetrical designs have been used throughout history, and are still widely used today. These elements reflect Classical ideals, and are still used to portray a sense of simplicity and harmony, as well as to reflect the Classical ideals of order and mathematical proportion.
Matthews, Roy T. and F. Dewitt Platt. The Western Humanities 4th Ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 2001
Unknown. “Architectural side of Thomas Jefferson.” USA Today Magazine December 1993: 122. Academic Search Elite. EBSCOhost. 24 March 2001.