Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions


Complex Classical Buildings

Interactive - The Classical Temple

The Greek temple was essentially a simple structure, usually not much more than a single oblong room with a surround of colonnades.

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Liverpool, St George's Hall

Other architectural traditions, including the RomanGlossary Term and medieval, made much more use of arches or arcades, and various solutions were used to combine these with columns. Sometimes the arches spring directly from the columns, as in the GothicGlossary Term style. This was popular in the early Italian RenaissanceGlossary Term, and England has examples both of its early use and of later imitations of the early Italian models.

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St Martin-in-the-Fields

Later this came to be thought incorrect, and sections of entablatureGlossary Term tended to be fitted between capitalGlossary Term and archGlossary Term. The effect can be strangely top-heavy.

Besides being used structurally, to support upper walls, roofs or ceilings, the ordersGlossary Term can also be used to adorn buildings, either in the roundGlossary Term or in relief. The interactive building illustrates the difference from the system used on the ancient temple shown on the previous page.

Where the ordersGlossary Term are used in relief, a common solution is to frame round-archedGlossary Term openings between columns or pilasters, with straight entablatures across the top. Many triumphal arches, a direct imitation of a familiar RomanGlossary Term type, have this characteristic.

You will also see round-archedGlossary Term frameworks (applied arcades) used with square-headed openings.

A triple window or opening in which the centre is wider and has a round-archedGlossary Term top is called a Venetian windowGlossary Term or a PalladianGlossary Term window, from its popularity in sixteenth-century Italy.

Multi-storeyGlossary Term buildings presented different problems. Greek buildings rarely used more than one storey externally, but the more technically ambitious structures of the Romans were much more likely to be of several storeys.

The RomanGlossary Term convention was to use superimposed ordersGlossary Term, in ascending orderGlossary Term of richness: DoricGlossary Term, IonicGlossary Term, CorinthianGlossary Term, CompositeGlossary Term. This example, in the City of London, has CorinthianGlossary Term pilasters below CompositeGlossary Term ones.

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The Triumphal Arch, Wilton House
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The Bridge of Sighs, Hertford College
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London, Atlas Insurance, Cheapside
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Bath, General Wade's house

The RenaissanceGlossary Term brought other, more flexible solutions. In particular, the giant orderGlossary Term was used to embrace more than one storey. One common treatment is to raise up a giant orderGlossary Term over the ground storey, or basementGlossary Term. This suited buildings which had their grandest rooms on the first floor (called the piano nobileGlossary Term in Italian). It is particularly associated with the 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, whose works and publications were very influential in England. A storey or storeys above the main orderGlossary Term is called an atticGlossary Term. General Wade's house in the Abbey Yard in Bath uses all these features together, though a shopfront has replaced the original ground storey.

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Blenheim Palace

Another treatment developed in the RenaissanceGlossary Term is to use a smaller-scale orderGlossary Term or ordersGlossary Term in combination with a giant orderGlossary Term. At Blenheim Palace a giant CorinthianGlossary Term orderGlossary Term articulates the central block and a much lower DoricGlossary Term orderGlossary Term embraces the wings.


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