History of World Architecture & Building Civilizations
Periods of architecture are marked by changes to building styles and design throughout history. There are sub-periods of architecture that note new innovations or new design features. Sometimes, new periods of architecture are launched by historical changes that cause new ideas to ripple through design, building, and construction. Whether through changes in culture, construction practices, or popular opinion about aesthetics, world architecture is a literal historical catalog of building styles and designs.
Most Prominent Periods in World Architecture
Architecture is bigger than one period of time or a single region. One of the first things that mankind did was seek shelter. As a part of a civilization, our architecture often marks shifts in the way people think, live, work, and thrive. World architecture shows the movement and growth of communities. These shifts represent a change in the decor, design, and construction of buildings throughout history. It is critical to note that each period of architecture slowly melts into the next. There is not a hard break that separates one period from another.
- Time Period: 2.5 million years ago to 1,200 BC (including the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age)
- Standout Example: Stonehenge
Important Ancient Architecture Periods:
Notable Features: The prehistoric period for architecture is marked by buildings or spaces constructed by stacking stones, bones, and earth features without using mortar or binders. These construction materials might use joints or grooves to keeping building features in place.
Time: 11,600 BC – 3,500 BC
Notable Features: The Etruscan architectural period is marked by a movement toward stone, wood, and earthworks. Statues. pottery, and outside decor show a transitional flair that will influence Roman and Greek architecture.
Time: 900 BC – 27 BC
Notable Features: The Babylonian and Mesopotamian periods combine to show off the meeting of masonry and art. Brick made of mud and fired to harden combine with beautiful design. Colors added to the tiles and bricks allowed this society to enhance its architecture and decorate to match their beliefs.
Time: c.4000 –1250 BC
Notable Features: Egyptian architecture includes construction materials used the most are limestone, sand, gravel, and mud-baked bricks due to the lack of available wood. The Egyptian period of architecture is is a collection of styles and designs that range from the pyramids (most recognizable) to ornate columns.
Time: 3,050 BC – 900 BC
Learn more about the Ancient Architecture style.
Pre-Colombian (Meso-American) Architecture
- Time Period: 1000 BC – 1000 CE
- Notable Features: The Pre-Colombian period is marked by incredible stone carvings and rock ornaments. Creating religious buildings, pyramids, entertainment, and government structures from stone and rock was a specialization of Meso-American architecture.
- Standout Example:
Important Pre-Colombian Architecture Periods:
Notable Features: The most notable feature of Inca architecture is the use of square or rectangle stones to create roads, buildings, and walls. The buildings were constructed by stacking cut stone or mud-bricks in square/rectangle shapes.
Time: 1400 – 1533 CE
Notable Features: The Mayans constructed large-scale buildings with intricate stone carvings, steps, and stucco features with paintings. The best example of Mayan architecture is the pyramid and surrounding complex at Chichen Itza.
Time: 250 – 900 CE
Learn more about the Pre-Colombian Architecture style.
- Time Period: 850 BC – 476 CE
- Notable Features: It is important to note that Western Architecture covers years of styles, designs, and materials. This is the timeframe when building styles took a turn toward the industrial revolution and the mass-produced construction materials. Great advances were made on the inside and outside of the building design, shape, and decoration. During this time, arches, stained glass windows, buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and domes became popular.
- Standout Example:
Important Western Architecture Periods:
Notable Features: The most notable features of Greek Architecture are columns. Whether statues or painted, the Greek columns stand in at least the four corners of the structure. There might be many columns throughout the open space or stone carved statues in the front/back of the structure used for decoration instead of support.
Time: 700 – 323 BC
Notable Features: Roman architecture takes Greek design to the next level with arches. Originally, Roman arches were used to support domed ceilings and as decoration between the traditional columns. With popularity, the Roman arch became a marked feature in building architecture and design due to its uniqueness and ability to disperse weight.
Time: 44 BC – 476 CE
Notable Features: The Byzantine style of architecture incorporates domes into the building with arches. With a large dome center and halls with rooms that stem away in different directions, the windows and doors show the influence of the Roman arches.
Time: 527 – 565 CE
Notable Features: Romanesque architecture started in medieval Europe and consists of half-circular rooms with cone-shaped roofs. The semi-circular arches over the doors allowed for the round design of the rooms and windows that traditionally note the Romanesque period.
Time: 800 – 1200 CE
Notable Features: Wedged between the Romanesque and Renaissance architecture style, the influences of both styles of architecture are visible in this transitional period. The large, cavernous rooms with flying buttresses and semi-circle arches are recognizable; however, the main difference is the impressive stained glass windows and rib vaults supporting those incredible rooms.
Time: 1100 – 1450 CE
Notable Features: The important features of the Renaissance period of architecture might look familiar because of the revival nature of ancient Greek and Roman buildings. These styles mixed together with classical domes, columns, and arches that reflect their past origins.
Time: 1400 – 1600 CE
Notable Features: "Baroque architecture is a highly opulent style of building, design, and art that originated in Italy during the 17th century and spread to the rest of Europe, and eventually, the U.S. It's characterized by extremely detailed forms, marble, large-scale decoration, and bright colors. The baroque style was meant to represent the glory of the Roman Catholic Church." (source)
Time: 1600 – 1830 CE
Notable Features: "Neoclassical architecture is characterized by grandeur of scale, simplicity of geometric forms, Greek—especially Doric — or Roman detail, dramatic use of columns, and a preference for blank walls. The new taste for antique simplicity represented a general reaction to the excesses of the Rococo style." (source)
Time: 1730 – 1925 CE
Notable Features: "The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles. The name represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it followed Georgian architecture and later Regency architecture, and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture." (source)
Time: 1837 – 1901 CE
Notable Features: "Art Nouveau was an international style in architecture and design that emerged in the late 19th century. Characterized by “sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms,” it flourished mostly between 1890-1910 in Europe and the United States." (source)
Time: 1890 – 1914 CE
Notable Features: "Art Deco architecture represents a style of building that is sleek, but not minimal. The architects of the time were inventive in their approach to design. They sought to create structures that were fresh, modern, and unlike previous revivalist styles. Art Deco buildings are unmistakable and represent an era that was at the center of the Machine Age." (source)
Time: 1925 – 1937 CE
Notable Features: "Modern architecture, or modernist architecture, was an architectural movement or architectural style based upon new and innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete; the idea that form should follow function (functionalism); an embrace of minimalism; and a rejection of ornament." (source)
Time: 1900 CE — Present
Learn more about the Western Architecture style.
African & the Middle-Eastern Architecture
- Standout Example:
Important African & Middle-Eastern Architecture Periods:
Notable Features: "African architecture uses a wide range of materials, including thatch, stick/wood, mud, mudbrick, rammed earth, and stone. These material preferences vary by region: North Africa for stone and rammed earth, the Horn of Africa for stone and mortar, West Africa for mud/adobe, Central Africa for thatch/wood and more perishable materials, Southeast and Southern Africa for stone and thatch/wood." (source)
Notable Features: "Aksumite architecture flourished in the region from the 4th century BC onward. It persisted even after the transition from the Aksumite dynasty to the Zagwe dynasty in the 12th century, as attested by the numerous Aksumite influences in and around the medieval churches of Lalibela." (source)
Notable Features: "Iranian architecture makes use of abundant symbolic geometry, using pure forms such as the circle and square, and plans are based on often symmetrical layouts featuring rectangular courtyards and halls. Sassanid architecture is decorated with carved stone or stucco reliefs and makes use of colorful stone mosaics." (source)
Notable Features: "Some characteristics of Islamic architecture were inherited from the pre-Islamic architecture of that region while some characteristics like minarets, muqarnas, arabesque, Islamic geometric pattern, pointed arch, multifoil arch, onion dome, and pointed dome developed later." (source)
- Standout Example:
Important Asian Architecture Periods:
Notable Features: "Islamic architecture comprises the architectural styles of buildings associated with Islam. It encompasses both secular and religious styles from the early history of Islam to the present day. Islamic architecture developed to fulfill Islamic religious ideals, for example, the Minar was designed to assist the Muezzin in making his voice heard to throughout a specific area." (source)
Notable Features: "The architecture of India is rooted in its history, culture, and religion. Among a number of architectural styles and traditions, the contrasting Hindu temple architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture are the best-known historical styles. Both of these, but especially the former, have a number of regional styles within them. An early example of town planning was the Harappan architecture of the Indus Valley Civilization. People lived in cities with baked brick houses, streets in a grid layout, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, granaries, citadels, and clusters of large non-residential buildings. Much other early Indian architecture was in wood, which has not survived. During the British colonial period, European styles including neoclassical, gothic revival, and baroque became prevalent across India. The amalgamation of Indo-Islamic and European styles led to a new style, known as the Indo-Saracenic style. After independence, modernist ideas spread among Indian architects as a way of progressing from the colonial culture. Le Corbusier, who designed the city of Chandigarh influenced a generation of architects towards modernism in the 20th century." (source)
Notable Features: "Chinese architecture is typified by various features; such as, bilateral symmetry, use of enclosed open spaces, the incorporation of ideas related to Feng Shui such as directional hierarchies, a horizontal emphasis, and allusion to various cosmological, mythological, or other symbolism." (source)
Notable Features: "The earliest Japanese architecture was seen in prehistoric times in simple pit-houses and stores adapted to the needs of a hunter-gatherer population. Influence from Han Dynasty China via Korea saw the introduction of more complex grain stores and ceremonial burial chambers. Japanese architecture (日本建築, Nihon kenchiku) has been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Sliding doors (fusuma) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized for different occasions. People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 20th century. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design, and is today a leader in cutting-edge architectural design and technology." (source)
Learn more about the Asian Architecture styles.
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